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What It's Like Trying To Be America's Next Kids TV Host

The new host of Blue's Clues, Joshua Dela Cruz, along with the original host, Steve Burns. (Photo by Gavin Bond/Nickelodeon.)
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The classic Nickelodeon TV show Blue's Clues is being rebooted but finding someone to fill OG host Steve's shoes wasn't easy. The lucky flesh-and-blood human who will pall around with animated dog Blue? Broadway actor Joshua Dela Cruz, who beat out thousands of aspiring TV stars, to earn the coveted spot. One of them was Mike Rylander.

In an unusual move, the show's producers decided to hold an open audition, and they really meant open. Anyone could -- and did -- audition for the role.

As a child of the 1980s and '90s, the original Blue's Clues aired after his prime kid viewing years. But during the height of Blue's Clues mania, he dated a woman with a 5-year-old son and they watched the show together.

Rylander has experience in children's television, hosting Disney XD's Play With Caution in 2017. He had also worked with Nickelodeon, playing a DJ character the Kids Coice Awards.

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A working actor in Los Angeles for almost a decade, Rylander doesn't usually attend these sort of open auditions, but he thought his background gave him a shot at the gig. He says many actors were skeptical of the casting process and thought it was just a publicity stunt.

"Was it some great viral marketing? Absolutely," Rylander said. "[But] if they would have found someone through the open call who was rugged and raw and didn't have professional acting experience but just had that special something, I guarantee they would have cast them."

The open call was "super friendly, super professional," Rylander said, with the staff treating even the actors who weren't professionals with respect.

"Did a lot of people who go to the open call maybe not stand a chance? Nope. But they were there, they had fun," Rylander said. "If you're not an actor, you don't get a chance to go to Nickelodeon Studios and pursue some crazy dream. They got a chance and I don't think there's anything wrong with that."

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Rylander got a callback but in the end, Nickelodeon didn't want his brand of Midwest charm -- and he says that's not a bad thing for the industry.

"Being a white male, going into the audition, I knew that I probably wasn't going to get it," he said. "If I were rebooting this show, that's probably the last thing that this culture needs is. 'Oh, what do you know? Another white male in this position.'"

A headshot of actor Mike Rylander. (Courtesy Mike Rylander)

As someone who has hosted a show for an under-18 audience, Rylander has one piece of advice for Dela Cruz: Don't BS the kids.

"I believe they see genuineness," Rylander said. "If you're being yourself and you're being genuine, I think they see that."

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It requires more than a high-energy persona.

"When we think 'kids entertainment,' we think of so much energy and so much excitement," Rylander said. "You're screaming off the walls and going crazy all the time. But I don't think that's what always works with kids. Because kids, just like adults, can't be screamed at and slimed 24 hours a day."

The new show, Blue's Clues & You, will air on Nickelodeon in the not-too-distant future.

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