Last year, she watched on as the fledgling show pulled off something remarkable, breaking into the Emmys with a nod for Outstanding Competition Program. And while that category is typically dominated by long-running shows, Nailed It! is back in the running this season, with an additional nod for Byers as host.
Debuting in March of 2018, the bake-off competition series is a celebration of imperfection within the culinary world. Each episode follows amateur bakers with questionable track records, as they attempt to recreate daunting cakes and confections, to hilarious ends—with $10,000 and the coveted “Nailed It” trophy on the line.
A comedian, actress, writer and podcaster, Byer’s recognition by the TV Academy makes her the first Black woman to be nominated in her category. Below, the Nailed It! host explains what the historic nod means to her, also discussing the art of reality hosting, her learning curve on the show, and her recently-released self-help book, #VERYFAT #VERYBRAVE.
DEADLINE: Last month, you earned your first Emmy nomination. How did that feel?
NICOLE BYER: It feels good, but it also feels wild. I’m really excited. I know it’s cliché to say, but I am truly just honored to be nominated because everybody in the category is really outstanding and cool.
DEADLINE: Nailed It! has resonated with viewers and TV Academy voters from the start. Why do you think that is?
BYER: On social media, you’re just kind of bombarded with people’s perfect lives—people doing this, and vacationing and whatnot—but on our show, it’s like you don’t have to be the best to win. You just have to be slightly better than somebody else, and I think people can really relate. I think everyone in their life has made something really ugly and been like, “I worked really hard, and I made that for someone,” and then a loved one eats it, and they’re like, “Mmm, that’s good.” [Laughs] You know? So, I think people see a lot of themselves in a lot of the contestants.
DEADLINE: How do you approach the job of reality hosting? Was there a learning curve when you first started on Nailed It!?
BYER: Well, the first season, I was very upfront. I was like, “I’ve hosted after-shows. Like, I did this after-show for MTV, and I honestly think that’s the only thing I’ve really hosted. I don’t really know what I’m doing, so whatever pointers you can give me.” And they were like, “Yeah, yeah. Of course.”
Then, maybe a week before we started shooting, they were still constructing the sets. Wes [Bahr] was there, because Wes is the assistant director. A lot of people think he’s a PA, but he’s not. He’s the one who screams at me when I’m running late. [Laughs] He’s technically the one in charge of everything. But he was like, “Okay, Nicole, nice to meet you. You’re going to stand here, and then you’ll walk over here at this part. The prompter is going to be here. All right.” And I was like, “Wait, everything is moving…What?“
Then, when we started filming, I’d be like, “Uhh, this!” And they’d go, “Here, say that line again.” I’d be like, okay, “What’s the note?” And they’re like, “No notes. Just say it again.” In acting, you get feedback, and on this, it was truly just reality. It’s whatever I want it to be. So it was a learning curve. It was confusing and hard, but now I kind of know what they want and what they’re going for, and when to be silly and when to not be.
DEADLINE: Having completed more than four seasons of the show at this point, what do you find to be the most consistently challenging part of your job?
BYER: I think the challenges are, for me, I don’t want anything to ever get stale or feel like paint-by-numbers. So like this season, they let me roll off a table. I had been asking all season. I was like, “Can I roll off the table?” and they were like, “Sure, sure.” I think they thought I was kidding, because we had a couple of days left of filming, and I was like, “So when am I going to roll off this table?” And they were like, “Oh. In two days!” Then we had a crash pad and whatnot, and I think it might’ve been the last thing we shot. I don’t remember. I thought it was going to be funny, and then watching it, I was like, “Yeah, this is literally insane. This was so dumb. It’s so silly.”
DEADLINE: Have you learned a lot about cooking in your time on the show?
BYER: I want to say no, but I know if [co-host] Jacques [Torres] were here, he would ask me questions, and I would be able to answer them. I know that to get a light, fluffy buttercream, you have to whip it so there’s emulsion happening, and emulsion is when air goes into the folding of the buttercream, to make it light and airy. I know that you put parchment paper or PAM spray, so your sponges don’t just stick to the pan. So, I know little tricks here and there. I can make a cake if someone wanted me to.
DEADLINE: Were there particular highlights for you in Season 4?
BYER: This man Larry made a sloth cake that was honestly maybe my favorite thing in the world. He was just this adorable, jolly man. He was so kind, and had a twinkle in his eyes, and he made this insane-looking sloth cake. They didn’t show how much I laughed at it, but I laughed so hard that I cried a little bit. I said to him, “I’m not laughing at you. This is just maybe the most fun thing I’ve ever laid eyes on.”
DEADLINE: It must be fun to have great comedic talents like Matt Walsh and Fortune Feimster stop by as guests.
BYER: It’s so much fun when we have comedians on the show because it’s just easy. You don’t have to do the heavy lifting. Not to be rude, but with the banter at the desk, sometimes it’s hard to get a rhythm going with someone who’s not a comedian. That being said, we’ve had some fabulous people from the culinary world who do banter back and forth and are super fun, but I have more fun with the comedians.
DEADLINE: Is there anything you can share about future seasons of the show, and how the Nailed It! team is weathering the pandemic?
BYER: I don’t know if I can say if the show’s coming back or not, but I do know that every show that’s filming has incredibly high standards for what we’re allowed to be doing. So, yeah. I don’t really know how it’s going to go down.
DEADLINE: In June, you released your first book, #VERYFAT #VERYBRAVE: The Fat Girl’s Guide to Being #Brave and Not a Dejected, Melancholy, Down-in-the-Dumps Weeping Fat Girl in a Bikini. What did you enjoy about writing that? What has it been like to see people engaging with it?
BYER: It’s one of those things where stand-up isn’t tangible, you just do it, but writing a book is fully tangible. You write it in the computer, you send it off, and then they ship you a literal f**king book and it’s crazy. I never thought I’d write a book. And I mean, to be fair, I didn’t write a book. It’s got very little words in it. It’s more of a [self-help] guide/picture book.
But I wrote it on planes, I wrote it in hotels, I wrote it in between shows. It was truly a labor of love. Then, the photo shoots, I did with Kim Newmoney, who was incredible. So, it was a lot of work. It was taxing, but just really cool to open a book and be like, “I did this.”
The response has been so nice and so kind. Lots of people have been like, “I didn’t feel good about myself in a bathing suit.” In the book, I’m like, “You have to wear a bikini, otherwise you’re not brave,” but I don’t actually mean that. Like, wear whatever you feel comfortable in. But they’re like, “I never really felt comfortable in any sort of swimwear, but then I went to the beach the other day, wore a bathing suit, and the world didn’t end, and I feel so good.” So that makes me happy, that I’ve affected even just a couple of people.
DEADLINE: What’s next for you?
BYER: I’ve got my podcast, and I was cast in my dear friend Phil Jackson’s pilot, Grand Crew. I’m so excited for that because Phil and I came up in New York together, so to have known someone for over a decade and then get to make a television show with them is maybe one of the most special things that I can’t really describe to anybody. Allegedly, we’re shooting it in the fall. I hope that happens. The script is so good.
DEADLINE: As a comedian, I imagine you’re also anxious to get back on stage.
BYER: Yes. I just wish people would wear masks. It’s almost like people don’t understand science. They’re like, “You said no masks. Now you’re saying masks.” I’m like, have you ever heard of an experiment? You get a hypothesis; you test it again. Like, what is wrong with you people? Just wear a mask. It’s not going to kill you. And if it does, you might have a respiratory infection, which means you might have corona. So, go get a test!
Yeah, I miss the stage. I was saying to my friend the other day, “I would literally kill to have someone heckle me right now.”
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