Paul Ricci on Filling ‘Hip Hop Squares’ with Personality

Daina Amorosano by Daina Amorosano, Viacom

MTV2 is ready to air Hip Hop Squares this Tuesday, its fresh spin on the classic game show, and with talent like Fat Joe, DJ Khaled, Mac Miller and Biz Markie, among 35 others, the show really is a party – both during and in-between the episodes.

We caught up with Paul Ricci, SVP of Programming and Production for MTV2, for some more color on what it took to get 180 tic-tac-toe boxes filled, and the unique bonus footage viewers can look forward to.

“With so much noise in the cable landscape, we wanted to find a format that was familiar, but that could also be updated. We were looking at a lot of classic game show formats, but when the idea popped up of doing this particular show with hip-hop talent and fans of hip-hop, it was kind of a no-brainer,” he said. “MTV2 is a fun, young male lifestyle network, and hip-hop is a large part of that lifestyle.”

Backstage Bonus

While the roster of talent and the format of the show are a foolproof recipe for entertainment, with so much personality in one place, it overflowed beyond the confines of the game show. Recognizing an opportunity, production kept the cameras rolling backstage. The network plans to package and roll out many behind-the-scenes moments as additional content for fans.

When asked what his favorite backstage moment was, Ricci said there were so many.

“Kat Graham eating macaroons with Ghostface was something you don’t see every day,” he said.

Before every tape day, production gathered all the talent in the green room and had a toast, in hopes that the talent would relax, have fun and interact with each other. And that’s exactly what happened, according to Ricci.

“Since Fat Joe and Khaled were in every episode, they kind of took on the role of masters of ceremony, welcoming new talent into the group and getting everyone fired up,” he said. “The beauty of these moments is that we were rolling on almost all of them, and we plan on sharing these clips across all of our platforms, so that fans can get the feel of what it was really like on set.”

The nine quadrants, towering 28-feet-high by 22-feet-wide, were an impressive feat of set-architecture that exceeded expectations all around.

“After watching a few people see the set for the first time, we decided to roll on all talent as they first walked in, to get their reactions, which we also plan to roll out as bonus content,” Ricci said.

Filling in the Squares

Filming 20 episodes over eight days – each episode featuring nine boxes of celebrity talent – meant that production was a huge logistical undertaking.

After conceiving of the idea for the show, the network had to secure rights to the tic-tac-toe format and managed to get all these personalities in one place. The network also held casting calls in the tri-state area with hundreds of individuals, ultimately selecting the 40 for its first round.

“It took countless meetings to book the show, and it never would have happened without the incredible music and talent team, who added this show to their already daunting list of tentpoles and show bookings,” Ricci said.

Led by Amy Doyle and Joanna Bomberg, Elena Diaz, Malika Quemerais, Sandra Piedra, Brina Grossman and Brenda Antonio somehow managed to fill every square.

“Watching talent fill in those squares the first day was a pretty memorable experience for all of us,” he said.

Hip Hop Squares debuts this Tuesday, May 22 on MTV2. Watch the trailer above for a sneak peek.

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