There are many of us who adore watching the many home renovation and design shows that populate HGTV. Because of our collective desire to have the most relaxing, beautiful, functional living spaces possible, we’ve made shows like Home Town, Love It or List It, Property Brothers, and Windy City Rehab major hits for the network. Now, though, former HGTV host Orlando Soria has shared an extremely candid story about what hosting on the network was like for him.

Orlando Soria Was Responsible For Many Unexpected Show Details

Orlando Soria’s time on HGTV didn’t last long, with him hosting Unspouse My House (later repackaged as Build Me Up) for two seasons, beginning in July 2019. While word has been slowly coming out about how all of the contractors / designers / hosts get their jobs done for each of their projects and what being a part of those series can be like for homeowners, few have talked about what being a lead on such a show is like. In a post on his website, Soria said he understands that hosting an HGTV show probably seems “glamorous,” but his experience was “an extreme amount of work” that made “having a social life impossible.” He continued, adding:

It is an honor to have your show idea funded by a network and to see it come to life. But it is a ton of gritty, dirty, physical work…A typical day shooting Build Me Up involved me waking up at 4:30 or 5 AM, driving myself 2-3 hours (each way) to our shooting location, filming until 5 or 6, then driving 2-3 hours home, rarely getting home before 8 or 9, where I’d eat my first meal of the day…So typically I’d be standing for 12-14 hours a day on no food. And because I didn’t have any help with hair, makeup, or wardrobe, it was up to me to stay as perfect looking as possible throughout the day while trying to find a place to change where there often weren’t any private places. Because we often shot multiple days, out of order, on any given day, I had to keep track of my wardrobe and continuity of what I’d be wearing at what point in the show (to make things seem like they’re moving along at a logical pace, HGTV shows often film scenes out of sequence to save time and money).

If anything, my thought was that HGTV hosts likely do way less work than it seems when we watch these shows on television. As you can see from what Soria noted, though, it was certainly not that way for him. 

Just considering all of the details he had to think about in addition to actually redesigning homes is starting to give me a mild panic attack. This is not to mention going without food for way too many hours while filming. Soria said he did this so that he wouldn’t feel “food churning” while wearing a microphone pack wrapped around his stomach, and so that he wouldn’t have to use the bathroom, seeing as how they rarely had access to clean / private facilities while filming.

Soria And His Crew Had No Help From HGTV While Filming During The Pandemic

If this already seems like a bit of a nightmare, it does get way worse, as he was working on his show when the pandemic began…and had to keep working, but not under the safest of conditions. Soria said:

I worked continuously for the first few terrifying months of the pandemic with very little protection. While everyone else was isolating, my design team and I were going to every store possible before they closed down to get the furniture we needed in time for our show to meet its (immovable, even in the time of covid) deadline. It’s a miracle no one got covid, because there weren’t any clear guidelines for safety. We just tried to wear masks and not stand too close to each other while we were shooting scenes. One of the first things HGTV asked for when covid began was self-shot footage they could use to promote covid safety in a commercial. The irony of them asking us to tout how we were all so happy to be safe and sound at home while me and my entire crew risked getting covid every day with absolutely no network oversight was not lost on me.

Orlando Soria Believes Many HGTV Hosts Have Similar Experiences

Soria continued, and said that after meeting and talking with many other HGTV hosts, he believes that the “rosy picture” of their work for the network is generally a “misrepresentation” and “all fluff and bullshit meant to keep them in good graces” with HGTV, with only the most celebrated and long-standing of them getting true decent / star treatment. 

And, Soria also noted his feeling that the budgets for many of the shows are “so unworkably small” that the work becomes “unsustainable for everyone from top to bottom.” He revealed that his pay for Build Me Up only amounted to $17,500, and that because he was paid per episode he had to dig into his savings when shooting took longer than expected, while everyone else (all paid weekly) kept making money from the show.

In case you’re wondering, the network did give a statement to People about Soria’s post and would only say that they knew about it and “continue to wish Orlando well.”

Build Me Up began airing in July 2020, but three weeks later it was moved to midnight (despite what Soria calls “honestly decent, not cancelable ratings”), essentially cancelling the show. As he said:

That time slot was a death sentence…it was a huge blow to me and the crew after we literally risked our lives to make a TV show for a network that was simultaneously using me to peddle its alleged covid safety protocols.

Still, Orlando Soria also noted that he has “only positive things to say” about the people he personally dealt with at HGTV, and, overall, found the experience “wonderful, exhilarating, and absolutely worth it,” and said he would be willing to do it again. Though, I can only imagine, he would likely make some very specific requests beforehand should the opportunity to host an HGTV show arise again. 

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