Leigh Anne Tuohy Talks 'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition'

April 15th, 2011

Leigh Anne Tuohy Talks ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’
Inspiration for ‘The Blind Side’ talks about giving back, on and off the show
Posted by MSN TV Friday, April 15, 2011 10:42:12 AM

By Minh Nguyen
Special to MSN TV
Read Full Article Here

As the world fell in love with the movie “The Blind Side” so too, it seems, they also did with the show’s inspiration, Leigh Anne Tuohy. Tuohy, a strong, successful, heart-of-gold southern woman, portrayed by Oscar winner Sandra Bullock in the movie, joined the design team of ABC’s successful reality show, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” in 2010 after appearing on the show as a special guest with adopted son Michael Oher. “EM:HE” is set to return with new episodes and MSN TV had the opportunity to talk with Tuohy about what it’s like to work with the super-hyper Ty Pennington, where her giving nature came from and how her family’s life has changed since “The Blind Side.”

Bing: More about Leigh Anne Tuohy | ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’

MSN TV: You’ve been on “EM:HE” for a while now, how is it to travel around the country working on these projects?

Leigh Anne Tuohy: I love it. I’m always interested to see where we’ll be going when we get to the name of these cities. I’m amazed. I wonder where this city is. I was born and raised in the United States and it’s always a mystery to me where I’m going with the show. I’ve loved everywhere I’ve been. The people have been great. The stories can’t get any better, the cities can’t get any nicer, the communities can’t get any more gracious. Yet, every single time it exceeds my expectations. It has absolutely been a wonderful experience.

Prior to joining the design team, were you a fan of the show?

I was a fan. For the past couple of years, since Michael plays on Sunday and we went to all his games, I missed watching the show. After the kids and I were on a season finale episode as guests I started DVR’ing it. Everyone watchs it in the family, even Michael will call and we talk about the episodes.

What’s it like working with someone as excitable and energetic as Ty?

Ty has ADHD, the worst case I’ve ever seen. He’s like a flea, he hops everywhere. He has ideas and then he has more ideas. He’ll change it and go to something else. I’m a very focused person so it’s funny. He is absolutely the wind beneath our sail. He keeps himself going and he keeps all of us motivated. It’s been fun. I have a little ADHD myself. Sometimes when the two of us get together they want to separate us.

The upcoming return episode features the Halls. Can u give us a teaser of what viewers should be looking for?

It’s very exciting how they’re doing this. All our episodes coming up are exciting, but this one is a real tear jerker. You’ll have to get your tissues out. Obviously our family is very connected to sports and this dad was involved in baseball and married his high school sweetheart. It’s great because he gets to meet Derek Jeter and the Atlanta Braves.

For anybody, when you’re in sports and you get to meet a hero from the sport that’s near and dear to you, that’s always a game changer. I will tell you it is a wonderful episode but it will get to you. I think everyone will be inspired by this episode. If you’re not inspired, moved and challenged, and this doesn’t cause you to get excited and invigorated, I don’t know what will.

Were there any moments that you were surprised by while filming the show?

Not really surprised. Sometimes the challenges are surprising but we’re so well prepared. Historically in an episode, something will come along. The weather has an effect on everything we do. And you just go, “Oh my God!” Part of doing the show this quick, is you have to improvise, improvise, improvise. When something goes awry, and it doesn’t end up how you expected to, you’ve got to keep on going and make it work. You can’t bring in twenty thousand consultants and figure out how to do this. This is a split-second decision. You have to deal with it and make it happen. That’s always interesting to me. Like when we get a thunderstorm in and it totally screws something up. That’s part of what we do. We make over homes. We do this knowing we have a small window to make this happen. I think everybody is cognizant of the fact that you have to do your part and pull your weight. There’s no lollygagging. It is from sun-up to sun-down and 24/7 that people are doing something.

How has your life changed since the book & movie?

Life is not as we knew it. Someone asked me the other day, “where did I see myself in five years?” I said, “If you had asked me that five years ago, and I could have looked in the crystal ball and saw this, I would have wondered what is going on.”

I don’t know the dust hasn’t really settled in any way. Life is still crazy. Sean is speaking in Charlotte today. I speak in Florida tomorrow and I spoke at Tulane yesterday. We’re all going around doing our part, trying to make some difference. We are afraid that there are many Mike Oher’s in this world and all they need is a chance and an opportunity.

We still like what “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” does, they provide families with opportunity and hope. That just meshes with our platform and our message so it’s a perfect fit for the Tuohy family. We’re glad to be a part of it because it allows us to have a broader platform for what we’re trying to do.

You’re very well-known from the Blind side. Are you as gutsy as they portrayed you? There were moments I was scared for you in the movie.

My dad was a US Marshall. I was raised by a military man in the US Marshall’s so had guts all along. For the most part, they portrayed us pretty accurately. Sandy hung around a long time and they spent two years with us making that movie. When my three kids left the theater, they went, ” there are two of them running around.”[Leigh Anne Tuohy’s]. The filmmakers wanted to get it right. They were passionate about keeping the authenticity of the story. They did a great job. The unauthentic things never altered the message of the movie. Collins never played volleyball. She was a state championship pole vaulter, level 10 gymnast. That would have been really hard for an actor to play either one of those. She and Michael were in the exact same class. The movie portrayed her a year younger. None of that mattered to the message or the platform of the movie. The changes didn’t affect our personalities or our life.

You and your family give a lot back to the community. What is your advice for opening your heart to others?

We tell people to start small. Giving becomes infectious and that’s a lot what “In a Heartbeat” is about. How we got to where we are. How you get your kids to be givers. We say to start small. This week is National Volunteer week. I think it is pathetic that everybody in our country doesn’t know that. We should all volunteer for our military. Every American citizen should do something to volunteer this week. We should be ashamed of ourselves if we don’t. Go get a coat out of your closet and take it to a homeless shelter. If you give that coat to someone that doesn’t have a winter coat and you don’t have a huge change in your life and how they react to you, there’s something wrong with you. Usually you do that and you’re so overwhelmed by their generosity and their gratitude that you run as fast as you can back to that closet and pull out five coats and you want to do that five more times. Tell people to start small like that. They could take them to the fire station. Return a shopping cart to the store. Help a senior citizen. There are tons of things you can do and once you start small you will continue to want to do things like that. That’s what we challenge people to make a difference, to get involved.

“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.