Nickelodeon is introducing a new generation of fans to the lovable dog Blue in Blue's Clues & You, and those fans will also meet a brand new host in Joshua Dela Cruz. Cruz will follow hosts Steve and Joe in hosting the popular series, and as fans learned they are still around in Blue's world, though the show will focus on Joshua and Blue. ComicBook.com recently had the chance to speak to Cruz all about getting the expectations that come with such a big show, how he got the part, and the new things Blue's Clues and You is bringing to the table, and we started the conversation talking about the surrealness that comes with hosting a show like Blue's Clues.
"Everyday is super surreal," Cruz said. "I do laugh to myself every day and I do catch myself singing to myself every day just because of how ridiculous it is that I get to do this job. I grew up in theater, or rather I went to school for theater and it wasn't until later in my career that I really wanted to pursue acting in television and I was fortunate enough to be able to work on Aladdin on Broadway, and now I get to do this as a job. It's a little bit ridiculous that I get to play dress up for a living and just be like maximum silly as my job. So I'm happier than I've ever been."
"The weird and surreal part is just that every night, now that the show is out, it is getting strange now that people are seeing our show that we worked on and that has been ours for so many months and now we're getting to share it," Cruz said. "But it's also super exciting because now kids are finally able to see this thing that we've been working on. So I'm super, super pumped. I have friends calling and texting me saying that their kids are going crazy, and so I couldn't be happier. But it definitely is a little strange. Every once in a while I'll get people asking me if I'm the guy, the Blues Clues guy, which I don't think I'll ever get used to. But everyone's really nice so lucky for that."
Blue's Clues is a beloved property amongst fans, so there will be some high expectations that come along with such a high profile role. Thankfully some of that pressure has been mitigated by the team around Cruz, along with the knowledge that the show and its characters still resonate with today's audience.
"I think especially because the team is so good, I guess the initial hesitation would be, oh man, how am I going to live up to what the show was and how are we going to like catch lightning in a bottle again? But in regards to Blues Clues, the formula is still so relevant today as far as talking to kids and empowering kids and giving them a voice," Cruz said. "So that we have that and the nostalgia factor is only working in our favor because now we have parents who grew up watching the show, they can watch with their kids actively, and relive that nostalgia and share something that they grew up with with their child who's going to love it."
"And specifically with Blues Clues, the creative team and Steve Burns, the original host and Donovan Patton, we are a part of a very, very unique family and they have been so supportive in making sure that I know they hired me because of they want me to be me, not Steve or Joe," Cruz said. "They want me to be my own unique person, and that has been really empowering for myself as well as a person of color coming into a role and it really not having to do anything with being Asian. It's really, really cool, so I'm excited. I don't think there is any sort of fear in my mind of will we live up to the past success of the show because as long as we keep being as honest and make sure that we are working so that we can leave kids better than when we found them and empower them, I think the show will always win. And Blue's just so darn cute. Especially now that she's 3D and super, super furry. So we have that going for it."
Speaking of Blue, the adorable pup is back and better than ever, as she is fully CGI now, which allows her to be even more animated than before. Working with a completely computer-generated partner does take a little getting used to though.
"It definitely takes some getting used to because Blue is a huge diva," Cruz said. "She's never on set when I'm on set. She's always filming her scenes after I'm done (laughs). But it's really, it's a lot of fun. We have an amazing crew up here in Toronto that, I'm normally acting to pieces of tape on the floor or on the wall, and Ashley Krantz, who is my on-set assistant, she is essentially every single part that isn't me, giving me all of my lines. She's my acting partner. She makes sure that I get through the day, and our hair and makeup, every single person on our team is incredible, and it trickles down from our creatives. They didn't bring back the show just because we should just bring it back. They brought back the show because they saw it as an opportunity to bring all the good things and all of the learning tools that Blue's Clues has at its disposal to help kids of this new generation learn how to have fun while they're learning and get them ready for preschool."
"Every single meeting, every read through that we've had, that is always the beginning, middle and end of our story is how are we affecting the kids," Cruz said. "And it's really inspiring to see a show that has so much integrity and that is its purpose and to have fun doing it. So it's really, really cool."
While there will be plenty of recognizable aspects from the past Blue's Clues shows, there will be some new elements as well, and one of the biggest innovations is the evolution of the Handy Dandy Notebook.
"The biggest thing that sticks out in my mind is the handy dandy notebook because now it's also a smart phone, so you have the functionality and nostalgia of the actual notebook, but now we can kind of explore video calls, which are even more personal than a regular phone call," Cruz said. "And now we can get emails and video letters, which is really, really exciting because we don't have to just imagine that this letter, this video message, we can place it into the world that these kids live in now. My nephew knows his way around an iPhone without anyone's help. He can order things and he's five. He can call people back and it's pretty funny, but this is the world that we live in, and to get kids to stay in that world is definitely important. We can't ignore it."
As fans saw in the first episode, Steve and Joe are still around in the world, and Cruz shared some advice he got from both former hosts of the show.
"Yeah, they said, it always comes back to when you're talking to the home viewer, they're a real person," Cruz said. "So whenever we're asking them a question, it's not just because, 'oh hey, you're here. Can you answer this question?' When we ask a question, they are the expert in the room. If we're talking about skateboarding, Steve said to me in the audition, 'if I ask them a question about skateboarding, they are Tony Hawk. They are the utmost expert in whatever question we're asking them.' That's important. Especially as a kid, you don't really get taken seriously a lot yet, especially your feelings and your points of view, so our show is amazing in that respect that we can give kids that power and that voice and really the safe space to make mistakes, which we don't really get in our everyday life."
"They told me that person is the most important person in the room," Cruz said. "So I'll envision, when I'm talking into the lens, I'll see, one of my nephews, kids of my best friends and an imaginary kid that's somewhere out there in the world, but it's a very specific person. And to give, ask a question and value their opinion and care about them. So that was the biggest takeaway that it's not just talking to a hypothetical person that might be there, there is someone there and they are listening and they are ready to answer your question."
You can catch Blue's Clues & You on Nick Jr and NickJr.com as well as the free Nick Jr. App.