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Three Wishes

Interview with Amy Grant and Executive Producer Andrew Glassman

Written by Sheri McMurray, Contributor, September 22, 2005

NBC is asking us to Dream Big this Fall. Premiering September 23, 2005, at 9:00 pm Eastern THREE WISHES starts us on a reality-TV road that I hope Americans will embrace. Travel this road, and I guarantee you will feel good about yourself, feel a powerful spirit of community, and share a sense of pride for the country we live in.

In a recent interview, host Amy Grant and executive producer Andrew Glassman of NBC's exciting new reality television show THREE WISHES shared their own hopes and dreams for this heartwarming and vital contribution to the reality TV phenomenon.

The following are highlights from an informative conversation with Amy Grant and Andrew Glassman (plus representatives from several participating Christian organizations). Read on and discover the vision and heart behind this mission to help people from all walks of life transform their dreams into life-changing reality!

Q Mike Parker of GrassRoots: I had an opportunity to watch the pilot episode, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. According to the Scriptures, the greater reward is reserved for those who do their good deeds in secret, so I was curious if there were wishes granted outside of the camera, off stage where no one else could see?

A Amy Grant: Well, Mike, other things did wind up happening in that town. It just so happens that things did happen in this town that didn't make it into the TV show. Because people get involved and do things for each other. My particular feeling about this set up is that its a teaching tool.

Yes, (Three Wishes) is a television show. We are using network dollars, sponsorship dollars to do good things for people. We live in an age were people are not connecting the way they used to; not meeting each others needs on a basic level. This kind of reminds me of when I was working for Target years ago and they made public their giving program. I asked, “…isn't the more proper approach (to do this) in secret?” Target had at the time, correct me if I’m wrong, a giving program of one million dollars a week, and they made that public because they were trying to set an example - to say that this is as much a part of a successful company as their gross income.

My hope , when I first went to NBC, was that when people see Three Wishes they will feel inspired to reinvest. Its not like we cover the gee we ought to do this in private base, it just happens automatically! Because of the atmosphere in the town becomes so giving!

Some body on the crew got hurt and a chiropractor opened up their office at one o'clock in the morning to come in to the hotel and take care of that person. They came back the next morning on their day off, to take care of that person. It happened with the crew, it happened with people in that town and it happens when somebody hears about a wish that wasn't granted and they are compelled to be involved on some level. You cannot believe the ripple effect! That's my hope! That people will be energized!

For instance: I was in front of the wish tent in Clovis, New Mexico, and there were over a thousand people in the line. It took hours to get through that line. In fact the line split four ways because there are four of us that share the hosting responsibilities and are all talking to people at the same time. Finally this woman got to me, and I asked her “…tell me your name and tell me what your wish is.” She was quiet for a minute and then she said, “My wish is that the wish would come true for the woman who was standing in line ahead of me.” It is impossible for people to come together in an environment where hope is probable because they know that somebody is going to be chosen.

Need is expressed, and everybody has a need, that's why they showed up. Needs expressed in Clovis, like the Grandson who said he wanted to do something special for his grandmother, or a grown daughter (probably in her late 60s) saying her Mom was an original homesteader, one of 12 or 13 members in her family, who had four kids of her own. The father was murdered and the Mom raised them all on a waitress's salary during the depression. This woman said of her Mom: “She made us believe in our dreams. She's an amazing artist, painter and a sculptor who's captured the homesteading life here in New Mexico.

My dream for my Mom is that she would have her Georgia Pokeweed moment. My dream is that she would show in a New York Gallery!” But she didn't get picked. Then I came home and was having my hair cut by a woman in Nashville who also does hair in New York. I was telling her about how compelling this woman was and she asked for her name, that she couldn't promise anything, but would see what she could do. She has a lot of friends who own galleries in New York. See how this happens? People just want to be involved and you can’t guarantee just how they will get involved, but it is so captivating! Needs are being expressed! You can’t respond unless a need is expressed!

Q Annabelle Robertson of Crosswalk: Hi Amy. I wanted to hear a little bit about how you decided to get involved in this project. It is obviously a bit of a detour from what you've done in the past and Id love to hear about how you were approached and hear about the passion for this project. I think its a great show and I think it will be a big hit! Is this a detour that will be permanent? Will you be on TV from now on?

A Amy Grant: I’m not looking for a career on TV - my sole reason for being on NBC is because of this concept. I think the germ of the idea was burst at NBC. They pitched it to Andrew Glassman and Jason Rath because of their success with such reality shows like Average Joe (which I have never seen, because I don't get to watch much TV). I think Andrew and Jason contacted Jennifer Cook, who is one of my managers, and they discussed it. I think Jennifer went so far as to say, “she would be a great host because it seems consistent with how she has already invested her time.” Jennifer read the synopsis for the show and she said that “…we as a management company could not have designed a program that would be a more appropriate reason for asking Amy to consider something for TV!” There was a lot of discussion between them before I got involved.

I was finishing up that Steven Covey book and had gotten to the part that states how important it is to design a life mission statement. He says to take time designing it and that it should involve all aspects of your life, so I was in the process of churning through this and feeling a little wistful thinking there had been a time in my life where my income curve was greater and I was able to do magical things for people (and do it secretly) so part of me was wishing that I had that capacity back. I was on a trip with my son (trying to spend some time with a 17 year old that was exciting to him) and I got a call from Jennifer Cook that said I had to fly to L.A. She told me NBC was doing a new show and they wanted me to be the host - that the interview was this week and it had to be in Los Angeles. It just so happened I was scheduled to be on a flight at 6:00 in the morning as a chaperone with my daughters sixth grade national honors choir trip in L.A.! It really felt like following a bread crumb trail the way it all lined up!

Q Elizabeth Falsburg of Faith Magazine: Hi Amy. I loved Three Wishes! I couldn't help but notice that the people in the (show) had experienced major life altering events. I know that in your own life you've experienced life altering events that were judged fairly harshly and publicly in the media and I've wondered how those experiences of life change had helped shape or strengthen your faith today?

A Amy Grant: Right now we are on the road, doing 8 shows a day. I am on the road with my daughter, Corrina, and we have a hamster (I have never taken a rodent with me before - he's gray and she named him Rainbow - and I absolutely related to that !), but it gets me to thinking there are so many things in my life that has built my faith, but not the things you've mentioned. Its everything. Its all those things and everything. When I wake up feeling kinda useless (there is always) something (that) happens before the day is up that is necessary and meaningful for me and somebody else.

This isn't exactly what you asked, but I want to tell you this. I called my mother, she's a wonderful woman, so gentle, and I know for a fact she and my Dad are on their knees every day for our family - anyway - I said, “Mom, I have never in my life felt so equipped for a job!” I felt like every day I have spent with a Make-A-Wish child, every hospital I had already gone to, every time I had taken my guitar into the lobby of St. Jude, every Habitat For Humanity build I have went on, every green room that has happened before and after a concert for as long as I've sang, people have decided to tell me their life stories, sharing intimate details, has prepared me for this!

Because of the kind of songs I've written people have been open and close. Its been very surreal - ever since my first record came out - I was 17 then and I’m 44 now - people have felt comfortable opening up their lives to me. I don't know what that is! That's why I called my Mom and said, “Three Wishes is providing for every person whose wish is chosen. They are meeting a need and when these needs are met the walls come down between people!”

Things are happening that are important and necessary. So what I called my Mom about was that these kind of conversations are as familiar to me as waking up in the morning. I have three sisters, whom I love dearly , and after the first shoot I went home and was trying to tell them about that first week (the California shoot), they became complete basket cases - crying their eyes out!

They all said you're used to this kind of thing, were not—and I did think they’re right! I am accustomed to this and I am so glad they thought of me! So glad that Jennifer picked that up.

I do think that, in a very spiritual way, that this thing was orchestrated in just the way it was meant to happen. I have never walked into a recording studio and felt I was completely adequate for the job because I can’t do a lot of vocal tricks, every night I pray the prayer: “God, give me the notes I need to sing tonight. I will trust every note I sing, that You give me. So if I finish the show and can sing, thank you!” I always feel like I’m on thin ice, but ask me to cook something to spice things up, that's no problem - Id never bat an eye - cause I love to cook. With this (Three Wishes), like I said, I feel so equipped!

My first call today was from Mrs. Castleberry (concerning the surgery on the little girl from Sonoma, California, that was in April) this was the major surgery and we were just praying because shell be going in for another one. (Her Mom) told me she (little Abby Castleberry) is getting ready to go back to school and they are all a little nervous wondering if she's up to the task.

There are lingering things that happen in a town even after we leave!

Q Faith Magazine: That's wonderful! And - for the record - I think God does give you the notes! You sound beautiful…

A Amy Grant: Thank you! I know He does cause I finish every night, and its a mystery.

Q Michael C. of Beliefnet: Thanks for doing this interview. You just mentioned that you call your family and have them praying and I noticed in the (show) there are so many references to people praying (I.E. You re in my thoughts and prayers, etc.) . I was wondering - from seeing this piece of America - if you can comment on the role of prayer in peoples lives and comment on the role of prayer in your own life?

A Amy Grant: Andrew and I were doing some follow-up video - the stories play out and then I go back and narrate what's happened. I remember thinking that first time, “I wonder what all you can say on this?” So I said, “You are all in our thoughts and prayers…” then Andrew said alright, now lets go on to this… I thought that was great, I can say that, OK! I made a mental note that I get to react also. We all get to react naturally.

We were in a town in Clovis, New Mexico and there was a little girl who had recovered from a brain tumor, her wish was not about herself. Her Dad is a basketball coach at the High School there in Clovis, and he made no bones about it. He just said he knew that God put everyone they needed right in their path! All were trying to do is let people tell their story. Were not trying to slant it one way or the other, but giving them the opportunity to tell their story and (so that we can) do something to get their wish granted.

Q (Susan) Preview OnLine: Hi Amy. I appreciated the show so much. I watched it last night and it really touched my heart. I think your being equipped to do the job is very evident. I would like to ask you to what extent your personal convictions have as an influence on those who actually receive their wishes? To what extent are you involved with the selection of the people and the projects on the show?

A Amy Grant: I am not. And I am glad I am not because that would be way too much pressure. We all go to Andrew. All of us are standing at the wish tent feeling like lobbyists. I don't know how Andrew and Jason do it! I’m sure as the show goes on they’re going to be looking for variety.

I had another press conference this week and Andrew and Jason, who are both journalists, said something Id like to share here. They talked about the helpless feeling of having to cover a story and just hoping the community would respond. For the first time as a journalist turned producer, Andrew had the opportunity to take his journalism skills and say “now I get to choose… I get to go to that place where I used to be left powerless.” A reviewer heard him say that and she said she knew exactly how he felt. Because of that, I really trust his instincts.

I have permission here to tell you about the coach of a team in New Mexico. He coached a little league team (8 to 10 year old age bracket) who was always in last place. He showed up and said, “We want to win a game. We just want to win a game!” What's really magical about the show is those wishes that people request are received and messaged. For example, I’m gonna digress here a little bit, there was this woman in Sonora who said she wanted a complete body overhaul.

I said, “Let’s get real here—we all are getting older, and there is only so much we can do. What is your real wish?” That's what the conversations become, what do you really want? She was quiet for a minute and she said, “I want my husband to find me beautiful.” So then you think, what was that coach saying - really? He wasn't saying that its all about winning.

He was saying, “I feel like I've failed these kids. I want these kids to feel good about themselves!”

You have to hear beyond the words. Get to what the essence of the wish here is. Anyway, they chose that coach's wish. They went and filmed practice and found out they were worse then the Bad News Bears! They had a time of it - they could not pick up that ball until it was dead in the grass. The poor kid in the outfield never caught a pop fly. They were all so charmed by how pitiful these kids played.

They found that the little boy in the outfield had the wrong prescription glasses, so they got him new glasses. The parents were asked to show up with an overnight bag, not telling them where they were going. So a bus shows up with Texas Rangers painted on the side! They take these kids to the Ameriquest ballpark where the Rangers play, into the locker room and find the Rangers uniforms and right beside each one is a miniature uniform for each one of these kids! All the kids put on their uniforms, are taken out on the field and are coached by the real Texas Rangers in all those areas where they were having problems. The camera guys said they didn't know what it was, but these kids were catching, hitting, fielding just like their expectations. They were all ratcheted up about 8 notches!

The Rangers worked with the kids that afternoon and that night and told the packed out crowd they had a visiting team from Clovis, New Mexico, they are playing their last game would you please welcome…and each kid was introduced and one by one they all ran out on that base line - they were waiving their hats - (Wow, I’m all choked up cause I have kids), … so what did that coach really want? He wanted those kids to feel like winners! Probably the most important moment for any of those parents was to have their child acknowledged because for a moment that whole stadium expressed very poignantly what every one of those parents felt about their kids! It didn't matter if they had a record season or a total loss.

I can’t tell you the whole story or how the night panned out, but Ill tell you there was one kid who was able to slide into home plate - the first home run he'd ever made!

Now this surely was not the most money dropping gift, but its not about how much cash you leave on account - its that you leave something that affects the person or a group of people in a way that the effects are long lasting. They hit a home run with that ball team!

Q Jenny Parker of Agape Press: Hi. I have been watching the pilot and I was really glad when Abby (Castleberry) asked you to sing. I probably would have had the same impulse, but would have been too shy. There were also highlights of your concert at the carnival. I was wondering if there were any plans to incorporate your music into the show? For those of us who are great fans of your music, it would create an added value to have that aspect of you to (do) background music that could speak through the stories being told. Are there any plans to continue to do (music or concerts) and how would you feel about that?

A Amy Grant: This is kind of interesting. NBC wanted it to be in my contract that I would sing on every show, but I didn't want to be capitalizing or be an infomercial on my singing, so I had that taken out of the contract. Then after Senora the next town we went to was La Mars and Andrew and I talked before hand about the dynamic of the concert. How (that was) the one thing people can actually come to that is free. We did an abbreviated concert in Sonora and a long concert in La Mars.

In a town of around ten thousand, about half the people were setting up lawn chairs. They set up a slide and free ice cream with such a neat carnival setting right on the courthouse square. After that I called Andrew saying “…at this point it sounds like I’m asking, but can I please close the week with a free show?”

He said, “I’m so glad you came to your senses!” (Laughter)

Sometimes there is a lapse, there might be business to do, a check that needs to be given to an organization, somebody wants to say thank you to the town, and the stage provides a good opportunity to do last minute business. So this actually works from a production standpoint. One of the reporters was in the crowd asking everyone questions - he said it was such a highly emotional week for those who had their wishes granted but for everybody else, they stood in line all day one day and nothing else happened. They all said, “…at least we got a free show!” This is now a part of it, I don't know how it will work musically into the program, but that's really secondary.

Q Jenny Parker of Agape Press: I also wanted to direct a question to Mr. Glassman, that being - what other names were considered to host the show?

A Andrew Glassman: That's the easiest question! Absolutely no other names were ever considered to host the show. Amy was our first choice on our first day. I just thought whose public persona fit the values and the character of the show that we are trying to create? I literally thought of Amy's name first. Meeting her in person only solidified that! She is the ideal choice. Her warmth and compassion for other people is so genuine, so real, that it strikes you in the room on a personal level and it carries right through the screen. She was our first and only choice.

A Amy Grant: Thank You! I must tell you, I have done some television work, but I am grateful every day that I either am working in a town, or thinking about (working in a town) and to be working with Andrew and Jason. They are just great!

I must say Andrew is so respectful to all these people in the towns. Its really a pleasure. Its funny, because some of the people on the crew had worked on other reality shows - and some of the crew were with Survivor and its very typical for somebody to show up on their first day of work and yell, “Oh, thank goodness, a guilt-free job!” (Laughter) Not every reality show can let you feel like that.

Q Mike Parker of GrassRoots: Hi, me again. I’m playing devils advocate, but somebody's got to. I sat in my chair beside my wife and my teenaged daughter watching the show. They were blubbering… and I looked at my wife and she looks at me and I say “OK, how do ya do this without coming off totally manipulative?”

I’m watching the show and everyone is so pitiful with their wishes and wishes granted. It jerks at the heart strings. There's a certain part of the constituency that's gonna look at it and say “Oh, they’re just jerkin my chain. This really doesn't happen in real life. This is all comprised just to get me to feel good.”

A Andrew Glassman: Ill take that one. I can appreciate that. In an age where even the most trusted newspapers in the world haven't been totally on the level with its readers, I think healthy skepticism is ok, but what you're watching is real. The reactions that you're seeing in peoples faces and the gratitude that they feel and the changes in their lives, the situations that they are in - those are real stories that we are coming upon. The people in our show are not actors. They are regular people and we are looking for the most deserving among them.

Some of the other reality shows you watch on TV… the people in the shows are aspiring actors or they want their fifteen minutes of fame or they want to be written about in People or Us magazines. Our show is much different. These are not generally people who want to be on television. They are people who are caught in an emotional crossroads in their lives and genuinely asking for a little help. I respect that you look at things that you see on TV in that way, but I think the proof is in their faces and their words that the changes we are trying to help them make in their lives are very real.

A Amy Grant: And Mike, I also want to throw in that when we filmed the show in Senora, (and a lot of pilots were filmed for NBC!), they chose six shows to pick up. I remember a few of us discussing that whether or not this show is picked up, every town that we go to the effect that our input provides for these peoples lives remains! Abby Castleberry even as we speak is in the middle of her second surgery. All that happened because of NBC. they’re still footing the bill. Some of the therapies for people, the rehabilitation opportunities, the rent being paid for the first year while somebody gets their legs under them, those things are all very real changes! Does the (sic) music make you cry a little bit? Yes, underneath the beautiful editing, but trust me we were all crying there! There are no fingers crossed on this show. It is what it is - an amazing use of Network dollars to pay, and sponsorship money to do amazing philanthropic things in peoples lives!

This article was written from comments made during a telephone interview with Amy Grant and Andrew Glassman and edited to the best of my ability. I apologize for any incorrect spellings of names or comments.

Read Sheri McMurray's article about THREE WISHES