Paige Hemmis of “Extreme Home Makeover” has enough warmth and enthusiasm to power the show’s bus across the country. It was a lot of fun to talk to her about the show’s 9th season, which starts this Sunday with a two-hour special featuring First Lady Michelle Obama and moves to Fridays in late October.
What’s going to be different this year?
We’re going into Season Nine, which I can’t believe! We’re trying to go bigger and better and really help families that turn around and help everyone else. We just got back from Delaware, where for the first time in our history we had to shut down production because of the hurricane and then go back. That family runs a soup kitchen out of their tiny house and they give out 1000 meals a week. We gave them an industrial kitchen and tons and tons of space so that they can continue to help the community. That’s what we’re really trying to focus on, those people who look beyond themselves so that if we help one family that will help thousands of families in the future.
Did you get to go to the White House?
We film two shows at once and Ty flies back and forth. So while they were working with Michelle Obama, we were in Utah on another project. It was a fabulous experience. The other team got to meet Michelle Obama and Rhianna in the same week!
Any other special guests coming this season?
It’s fun for us to have them, and we become fans and get all giddy and turn into little schoolgirls when the guests come on. This week we have Chris Powell from “Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition.” He’s helping me create a boot came for this mom who’s into fitness. She works with mothers of kids with autism and she runs this boot camp for free. I am so sore, even talking to you now, I am hurting in places where I didn’t know I had muscles! He’s helping the mom but he’s also kicking my booty and getting me in shape and that’s fun!
Tell me about the special chair you had created for the wounded veteran.
Last year we brought in a company from Los Angeles. They call themselves dorks but they are the nicest, sweetest guys. They’re brilliant of course. They have created all this technology and last year they created a sip and puff system that allowed a father to pitch a baseball to his son. This year, they created a chair that looks like an egg if you saw if from the back but it’s a sensory chair. If you press “beach” a beach scene comes up in front of you and you hear beach sounds and even smell beach smells like salty air. He was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder so this helps him relax. I snuck away and sat in it a couple of times and it’s really fun!
I understand that you are entirely self-trained in home repairs.
I feel like I am still learning. About 15 years ago I had a rent-to-own program to help people get into their first home and save them money. I would buy the homes and fix them up. I was a wedding planner at the time and could not afford to bring in people to do the repairs. I went to home improvement stores and got the books and try and try and I made a lot of mistakes but learned a lot. At first I could repair a hole in the wall but by the end I was redoing electrical and doing roofing and bathrooms. If you mess up, it’s wood or drywall — you can replace it. Then on the show, I said, “I know how to fix stuff but to demolish and start over, that’s something else!” But now we get to do the fun stuff. Before I would fix an old toilet. Now, I get to start from scratch, which keeps me learning all the time.