As seen on TV: 'American Ninja Warrior' returns to state Captiol
The state Capitol steps were adorned Friday evening with elaborate temporary attractions sporting unlikely names like the “Salmon Ladder,” “Fly Wheels” and “Warped Wall.”
A splash zone was also in effect as final preparations were made for two nights of filming on the television show “American Ninja Warrior.”
Producers, medics and designers — and higher up, the “The Guardian” statue atop the Capitol dome — oversaw the action as a series of testers tried out the new obstacles featured in this season’s OKC obstacle course. Several hopefuls struggled to get into the swing of the “Tricky Trajectory," while others went bananas trying to stick the complicated landing on the “Coconut Climb.”
“It’s a big national TV show, so it’s a bit of a spectacle. And we’re excited to be able to bring that spectacle,” said executive producer Anthony Storm. “I’ve very cool and we’re honored to be granted that opportunity. When we go to these places and the governor comes out and runs our course and then greets us and we get an opportunity to take advantage of this beautiful landscape, we feel really blessed and honored. We don’t take it for granted.
He confirmed that Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Wednesday run at the course is believed to be the first time a governor has attempted an “American Ninja Warrior” course.
“He’s certainly the first one to get through a few obstacles — spoiler alert,” Storm said with a grin.
The “traveling circus aspect” is part of the appeal of “American Ninja Warrior,” which is filming for its 11th season overall and eighth to air on NBC. The show follows competitors as they traverse challenging obstacle courses in qualifying and finals rounds in various cities around the country. Top competitors in each of the city finals rounds move on to the national finals, where they compete on a four-stage course that includes multiple obstacles on each stage. The winner, who must complete all four stages, will earn the grand prize of $1 million.
It's the production’s second visit to the state Capitol, where it previously filmed in 2016.
“It’s about 20 18-wheelers that hit the road and carry all this stuff with us. That’s what it takes to move this thing from place to place," Storm said. "We’ve always said that it’s a platform for everyday people to do extraordinary things. And everyday people live in every part of this country, so if we don’t visit every region of this country, then we’re going to miss some of those really special people.
“And yes, we could probably invite them to come to us. But then we don’t get the flavor of all of these spectacular cities like Oklahoma City.”
The show’s return speaks volumes about the people in our state, said Tava Maloy Sofsky, director of the Oklahoma Film + Music Office.
“An estimated 50-plus local crew are being employed, and over 200 out-of-state crew members are occupying an estimated 2,200 hotel room nights in Oklahoma City in only 10 days, which boasts an economic impact worth bragging about,” she said.
On Thursday, the production visited additional OKC landmarks to shoot footage. Rodeo Cinema Executive Director Kim Haywood encountered the crew filming in Stockyards City.
“The people of Oklahoma City have worked passionately to put ourselves and our city on the map, so the selection of OKC as an official location is a testament to years of hard work," she said.
“American Ninja Warrior” crew and competitors can relate to hard work. Since it airs at night, that’s when the show films, and 100 contenders were to take on the course Friday, with the top 30 to continue in the competition Saturday.
“It takes us from sundown to sunup to complete a night of competition,” Storm said. “Many of them are running at 4 in the morning, but that’s the game. It’s so exciting to be out here competing that they’re willing to make that sacrifice.”
“American Ninja Warrior" will launch its eighth season on NBC with its summer premiere at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 29. The show then will move to its regular time slot from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, June 10.