Starting tonight at 9 pm and for the next few Tuesdays, pit-bull detective Veronica Mars will cede her CW time slot to some Pussycat Dolls, namely The Search for the Next Doll, a reality competition in which a gaggle of gals vie for a coveted slot in the group that has purred such pop ditties as "Don't Cha," "Buttonz" and "Wait a Minute." TVGuide.com spoke with Robin Antin, the Dolls' founder and choreographer and an exec producer on the series, about this Pussycat hunt.
TVGuide.com: The Pussycat Dolls have come a long way. I mean, for a while there they were purely a novelty act, or at least perceived that way.
Robin Antin: It was perceived that way, but to me it was definitely much more. I worked so hard to create the Pussycat Dolls 12 years ago. It started in an underground nightclub, at the Viper Room, and for me it was something I was doing because I absolutely loved it, being a dancer-choreographer. But it was in the novelty-act sort of realm....
TVGuide.com: Yeah, you'd read in a gossip column, "Pam Anderson jumped on stage with the Pussycat Dolls Saturday night...."
Antin: Yeah, exactly. We had a lot of guest celebrities — Christina Applegate, Carmen Electra, Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera, Paris Hilton.... There are only a few left that I haven't gotten. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Having spied the occasional Pussycat Dolls video at the gym, I have to ask: The girls who aren't [lead singer] Nicole Scherzinger, are they OK with her getting so much screen time and being the "face" of the group?
Antin: They're smart girls, but of course everybody wants to have their time and their moments.... First of all, they're so supportive, because they all truly like each other and care about each other, so it's not like there are a bunch of insane catfights over this. They know that Nicole's got what it takes to be what she is. She's got that incredible voice, she's an incredible dancer, she's beautiful.... Not that the other girls aren't, but it just sort of worked out that Nicole was "the voice," and it's always kind of been like that. I created that. The other girls have their faces and their names, and it does take them a bit longer to be known and all that, but we've been working on it and they all bring something incredible to the Pussycat Dolls individually, because they're all talented in different ways.
TVGuide.com: I feel like the latest video, for "Wait a Minute," is starting to open it up, give a couple of the other girls more camera time, solo bits....
Antin: Yeah. I always looked at the Pussycat Dolls as, "There are the singers, and there are the built-in dancers," because there are girls in the group who really have mostly dance experience, and now they're part of this worldwide phenomenon.
TVGuide.com: Turning to your CW reality series: Did any of these contestants ever audition for American Idol? A few of them have pretty super voices.
Antin: Out of the nine [finalists], no, not that I know of. But I know that there were girls who auditioned [for Idol and] for us, but didn't end up [in the final nine].
TVGuide.com: At one point, one of the girls describes herself as a "singer/nondancer," and I'm like, "Um, do you know what group you're trying out for...?"
Antin: [Laughs] Here's the thing: I was looking at different types of girls, and there is a girl who's part of the show who is a really good singer and is pretty much a nondancer. But when you see how hard she works and how much she actually learns and grows.... She literally evolves into a dancer.
TVGuide.com: In the first episode, an airborne virus incapacitates, like, a third of the cast. You couldn't have ordered better drama.
Antin: I'm telling you, it was something so incredibly unexpected. I know what they went through because I got it, and it was awful. I was literally up all night [sick].
TVGuide.com: I understand that because of it, you and [executive producer] Ken Mok (America's Next Top Model) almost shut down production?
Antin: We almost did, yeah. A lot of the crew got [the virus], too, so everybody knew what everybody was going through, but the girls were like, "No, we're good, we can do this." You see them lying on the floor and [one hooked up to] the IV [just offstage], but they wanted to do it. Everybody just kind of looked at each other and said, "OK, let's keep moving."
TVGuide.com: There's been some debate about the editing decision to show exactly how sick these girls got....
Antin: Look at those girls! They were so sick, and you have to tell the story. It's not like the show is all about that, but that was a big part of our experience. Everybody felt OK about it.
TVGuide.com: Of course, Anastacia has a fantastic presence, but I think Chelsea is one of my early favorites....
Antin: It's interesting to hear about all the different favorites. All the girls are unique in different ways, and that's how I've always picked the Pussycat Dolls, based on their unique qualities. It's not about "the most beautiful" or "the best voice" or "the best dancer," it's about a whole entire package of confidence, and being able to grow and learn. That's really what this show is about, teaching women to find their inner Doll and understanding what it means to own your confidence and sexuality.
TVGuide.com: In the first episode, you split the contestants into three groups, each of which performs one of the Dolls' biggest hits. Where do you go from there?
Antin: We take it into a lot of different genres of music. It's about the Pussycat Dolls' music, yes, but also when you see their [concerts] there are other songs we bring into the show. We do some covers, we do some old-school stuff.... So basically we have a "rock" episode, we have the disco episode, we do some Toni Braxton-type ballads, that are more contemporary.... I like to bring in all this music that I've been very inspired by.
TVGuide.com: And, of course, the girls are schooled in how to wear the sort of outfits that the Pussycat Dolls wear.
Antin: [Laughs] I actually say to the girls [prior to them meeting the real Pussycat Dolls], "All right, girls, meet me downstairs in 30 minutes — and dress sexy! Look hot!" If you want to be involved in this and you want to be a rock star, you better always put on your best outfit and you better always look hot, because you never know who's going to see you or when you're going to get noticed. It's all part of being a Pussycat Doll.
TVGuide.com: I believe that in auditioning to make the final nine, Mariela wore about 50 percent less clothing than any Pussycat Doll has ever worn.
Antin: Well, she is a dancer's dancer, and all she knows is dance clothes, so she's always in her sweats or her little shorts. And she's got that sexy Miami flair about her. Hey, she looks hot, right?
TVGuide.com: Just so we're clear, you're not out to replace Nicole, or anyone else in the group, but rather to expand it to seven girls, right?
Antin: Yes. I always look at the Pussycat Dolls as a platform for these girls. Nicole's doing her solo album, but she is staying in the Pussycat Dolls. Other girls may end up doing their own solo thing, and the number could change at any time. This is a platform for girls to come in, really work it and become rock stars, and then to move on. I hope to continue the Pussycat Dolls for a very long time and in doing so, yes, bring in other girls.
TVGuide.com: What's in the immediate future for the Pussycat Dolls?
Antin: Obviously we have Nicole doing her solo stuff, so that will be coming out before the next Pussycat Dolls album. And we're owning Vegas right now, and have a lot going on there. But we're also working on a Broadway show that will hopefully turn into a film — the real history of the Pussycat Dolls — and we're very excited about that.
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