Extreme Makeover's Ty Pennington (inset) and the Thomas family.
When he's not screaming into a bullhorn, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
host Ty Pennington
actually has a lot more to say than "Let's dooooo
it!" In fact, he happily babbled on about more than just ABC's acclaimed home- (and thus life-) improvement show when TVGuide.com asked him about this week's two-hour 9/11-themed episode, airing at an earlier time, 7 pm/ET. Turns out, when Ty's not saving America one house at a time, he's taking on the publishing world, building one-of-a-kind pieces for his store, and shining light on other people who are changing their own neighborhoods. Pennington's plans sound exhausting, but luckily he really is
as energetic as he seems on camera, and his hard work not only helps others but keeps him happy.
TVGuide.com: Tell me about this Sunday's 9/11 Extreme Makeover: Home Edition episode.
Pennington: My god... I went back to Ground Zero and met the guys who were buried underneath it all and owe [their lives] to guys like Jason Thomas, who didn't ask to be recognized and didn't even call the media, but just put on his uniform and drove down there and did what most of us didn't do. Most of us were trying to get the hell out of there, and he was driving right into it. He moved to get away from the memories and images of what he saw that day and ended up buying this house. [The house] was just horrible, the stairs weren't even attached to the runner, and his kids' safety was in jeopardy. We all owe him for being a guy who literally dug and dug and dug and dug until he heard the sounds of people screaming. Those people wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for him, and it's awesome to pay tribute to a hero. I actually did his room, and I used stars and stripes as a theme in a subtle way. Everybody was affected by 9/11, but [one of] the two guys who I talked to in New York who came out alive said, "Most people get sad when they look at the grounds of 9/11, but what I saw that week was people coming together to help one another, which you usually don't see every day. You guys are helping Jason, Jason helped us. It comes full circle. That's what America is to me." America lost a lot of people that day, and just to find one story of hope and truly what a hero is... it's one of the greatest [episodes] you'll ever see on our show.
TVGuide.com: Is Jason's house still in the New York area
Pennington: No, he moved to Ohio and we found him there. He had disappeared, nobody could even find him, that's why in the movie [World Trade Center] he's played by a white guy (Lost's William Mapother). Nobody even knew who he was.
TVGuide.com: I was going to ask what the best part of the whole experience is for you, but I think you just summed it up: the people.
Pennington: It really is. It affects me, it really does. How could it not? And for me, all I really am is just an artist lucky enough to have an outlet. When Jason saw what I did in his room — inside this little chest I put all his Marine uniforms and things that he's proud of — he was like, "You understand what's important to me." For me, that's what my reward is, and that's why I have the greatest job in the world, because I get to use my creativity to either honor somebody who really deserves it or make someone's life a little better.
TVGuide.com: I think that's the best part of the show — the effort you guys put into finding out who these people really are.
Pennington: Exactly. The only drawback is that we have to put cameras all over them and put them through the experience. But in the end, it's so worth it, and we finally get to shed light on people. There are hundreds of stories out there. We're going through 50 different states to find one amazing family, when there are tons of stories of people who do wonders every day.
TVGuide.com: So aside from the show, is life crazy for you?
Pennington: It is crazy. I just have so much going on, but I love it, I'm just one of those people. I do the show, I'm writing a book, I'm opening a store, I'm starting a magazine [Ty Pennington Style, on newsstands in May], and that's a cool thing. I do so much already with the show and use my creativity to help many lives, and it's great to be able to do that. I've always wanted to do a magazine, and of course I've always wanted to have a store where you can actually come in and see one-of-a-kind pieces. So it just happens to be the time where I am trying to do all of that. There are so many people who live on your street — housewives, moms — who tutor kids, help build homes, volunteer or even do something for their own family. Bayer [Aspirin] and I are teaming up and [calling it] the Wonders of the Heart Campaign, and we're actually going to expose some of those people [in the magazine]. So not only will they win $25,000, but they'll also have a feature story in the first issue.
TVGuide.com: That will keep it personal. People will really want to read those stories.
Pennington: Yeah, and it's happening every single day. I think we're having an effect on how people look at their neighbors, and that really makes you feel better about who you are as a person and as an American.
TVGuide.com: Now, will there be a lot of you in the magazine?
Pennington: Oh, yeah. A lot of people think I'm just the host guy who's got other people doing his thing, but it's not true, I'm very much hands-on. I love all those teen magazines, like Cosmo, where there are these questionnaires like, "Are you in the right relationship?" I would love to have a column like that with more of a male perspective, because I'm the ultimate metro[sexual]. There will be some interesting yins and yangs going on there.
TVGuide.com: And your new store is called ADHD?
Pennington: Right — Art Design Home Decor. It's in Venice [Beach, California]. Roughly around the same time in May, we'll be launching the store, showcasing my [furniture] designs that are all one-of-a-kind pieces, one-of-a-kind pottery, interesting lamps, entertainment centers, and some textiles and prints, but also stuff that I find around the world. A lot of stuff is going to be created by local Venice artists, too. I'm using it as a creative outlet for not only the rooms I do, but as a place where I can push the envelope and expose other people who are talented. People have asked me forever, "Where can I go to your shop?" And the truth of it is, it's a shop, with sawdust on the floor. But now they can actually really walk into one.
TVGuide.com: Do you think you will eventually expand to other locations?
Pennington: I hope so. But it's something that I've always wanted to do, so it'll be a labor of love. It's just another project and if you know me, you know that I really dig projects. I came up with the logo and the name [ADHD], which I just think is kind of hilarious, because there are so many artists who can't focus on one thing.
TVGuide.com: And you also have a book coming out in the spring.
Pennington: I do. God, remind me not to do that again! It's about the rooms I've done and the inspirations behind them, the detail I put into it, how complicated it was. It's about what [EM:HO] has been like for me and getting to meet the people that I help and why I do it. You'll see some of the letters from people we've helped out.
TVGuide.com: What's the title?
Pennington: I really wish I could tell you exactly what it is, but it'll have something to do with my secret rooms. It's definitely going to have the word "rooms" in it.
TVGuide.com: You are everywhere, man!
Ty Pennington: Yes. I. Am.
TVGuide.com: I don't know how you balance everything. Do you ever get a break?
Pennington: It's funny — I'm in constant motion, but when I sit down and work on the computer on my rooms or work on what's going to be in the store or in the magazine, there's this calm. My friend said, "You're the strangest person, because you're happiest when you're working." But I think that's [true] with anybody. If you're in the process of creating or finishing or exploring, that's when you're happiest.
TVGuide.com: If nothing else, I am about to go buy myself a Sears gift card, because you just keep popping up on my TV and telling me to use one.
Pennington: [Laughs] I know, my friends keep saying, "I'm sitting there on the couch and all of a sudden it's like, 'Hey, dude, get off the couch,' and I'm like, 'Wait, he's talking to me. I know him, this is weird.'"
TVGuide.com: Well, you have endless enthusiasm and it's very inspiring. I think you need to send me my own megaphone, because it's probably the most effective way to get people to listen.
Pennington: [Laughs] Yeah, we'll make mini-megs and send 'em out.
For more on this very special Extreme Makeover, see John Littlefield's TVGuide.com blog.
Send your comments on this Q&A to firstname.lastname@example.org.