A family man with a plan.PHOTO: COURTESY OF BRITTLESTAR
He was born Stewart Reynolds, but today he’s known by one unforgettable name: Brittlestar. The popular Canadian host, personality, and producer grew up in Stratford, Ontario, a farm town that happens to be the home of North America’s largest repertory theatre company. That might be the secret to how he developed the acting bug yet has been able to maintain a relatable, approachable persona. His latest endeavor is our Fast Health series—in which he interviews various health experts from the driver’s seat of a sports car—and he brought to the set years of on-camera experience and viral video know-how from his wide-ranging career.
“When the Vine app came around in 2013, I jumped in with both feet,” Brittlestar says. “I had been self-employed since I was 20 and had just experienced a catastrophic business failure because of a hacker. Making videos to make people laugh seemed super fun and like it might make my own days a little less grim.” It worked: Thanks to his viral Vine called “Put Your Finger on the Screen,” he quickly racked up a global fanbase and deals with major brands like Disney, ESPN, and Subway. When Vine abruptly folded in 2016, he carved out a new niche on Facebook Live and a daily talk show called The Morning Show Thing. These days, you can find him churning out videos for Facebook and on CTV News’ Behind the Headlines Panel. (He’s also very active over on his YouTube channel.)
The self-appointed “Internet’s Favourite Dad” also keeps busy raising his two teen sons with his wife, Shannon, in Ontario. The family works together often: Shannon is his Morning Show Thing co-host, and he’s teamed up with his son Gregor for a DreamWorks series called Kid vs. Parent. “I couldn’t have imagined what I do for a living as little as 10 years ago, but I knew I wanted a life just like the one I’ve worked hard—and been fortunate enough—to build,” he says.
Learn more about the talented host of Fast Health and watch all of our episodes here!
Where does the name “Brittlestar” come from?
I originally had chosen Brittlestar as a band name. Back in 2004, I decided that if I wanted to record and release an album, I better just do it. I co-wrote an album with some help with Stephen Duffy of Duran Duran, who was writing and producing for Robbie Williams at the time. “Brittlestar” is not a made-up word, though! There are starfish called brittlestars that are spindly and “see” through their tentacles.
Have you always been comfortable in front of the camera and speaking to large audiences, or is it something you grew into?
I’m shy. I get nervous in large crowds. I’ve found the best way to deal with that fear is to be in control of the room. I’m my most comfortable when I have a mic in my hand. The person with the mic is in ultimate control of the room. That said, I still get nervous but performing feels so great.
How would you explain what you do to someone who’s never watched your videos?
My videos are family-friendly but not in a pukey-sweet way. It’s like when you watch National Lampoon’s Vacation on TV. All the irreverent funny stuff, but no profanity or anything too sexy. No one wants to see me try to be sexy.
What are some things you learned from doing Kid vs. Parent with your son Gregor?
I learned that TV shows are hard. We self-produced Kid vs. Parent. The pressure of making sure everything happens as it needs to is massive. To be clear, as a family, we loved making the series. How lucky are we that we get to make a living having fun together?
Fast-forward to 2018: How did the Fast Health video series come to be?
I had met the producers of Fast Health at a conference. They’re young and hip, and I didn’t know why they liked me but thankfully they do! The director asked me if I’d be interested in hosting a show where I drive supercars and talk to people. I asked him what kind of stupid question that was and immediately accepted the offer.
Have you incorporated any of the Fast Health experts’ tips into your daily life?
Yes! I’ve learned so much from Fast Health. Health is usually a boring topic, and this series makes it fun—and sometimes funny. The biggest takeaway I had was to ask myself why I’m eating or drinking something. Do I need it? Why do I need it? It was shocking to find out how often I didn’t have an answer. That made choosing what I was consuming easier.
What do you hope viewers will learn or take away from this series?
Fast Health is an amazing show. There’s something about being in a car with someone that makes conversations immediately more intimate. You feel like you can talk about anything. Talking about health can be boring, but everyone has to tackle it eventually. I learned so much on this series and I know viewers will too. The added benefit of driving a car that’s worth as much as a house doesn’t hurt. I wasn’t a huge car guy before Fast Health. I am now.
“There’s something about being in a car with someone that makes conversations immediately more intimate. You feel like you can talk about anything.”
Which featured car was your favorite to test-drive?
The McLaren. An absolute dream to drive. A hybrid with unbelievable power and drop-dead looks. I usually had to drive behind a camera car, which can get a little boring. However, for this episode we had to film some extra scenes that saw me ripping up the side of mountain on my own in the car. Ten-year-old me was losing it.
If we were to get our hands on a Fast Health blooper reel, what would we see?
Me falling out of supercars. They’re so low! Getting out requires skills I do not possess.
Thinking big picture, what are some personal and professional accomplishments that you are most proud of?
This is going to sound corny. I’ve been lucky enough to win awards, work with celebrities, and even get invited by President Obama to the White House for Prime Minister Trudeau’s arrival ceremony, but absolutely nothing compares to when someone tells me my videos helped them through a hard time. That kind of feeling is unbelievable. The first time it happened was shortly after we went viral on Vine. We went to a Vine meetup and the first person to come up to me was a middle-aged woman who hugged me and thanked me for helping her keep smiling. I was hooked from that moment on.
What is your definition of a viral video?
A viral video is the holy grail of social video. I’ve found that viral videos are the ones that speak to people, the ones that people will share because it tells others who they are or what they are.
What is one career goal you have yet to accomplish?
We filmed a pilot teaser for a comedy series that’s like Fawlty Towers meets The Office—I would love to get that series going. I also love writing. I have a middle-grade reader novel called Shortcuts Book 1 that was a best-seller on Amazon and a short story called Nineteen Fifty-Now that was also a best-seller. I would love to bring those two worlds to life. But I try not to plan too far into the future. I’m doing something as a job that didn’t exist five years ago.
How did you meet and get to know Drew and Jonathan?
I met Drew and Jonathan when I was asked to present an award at a digital media awards show in Toronto. I actually have that very moment on tape in a vlog I made that’s on YouTube. From the get-go, I knew they thought I was pretty great. They were great too, I guess.
What’s it like working with the Scott brothers? (Pretend they won’t read this.)
I’ve done a number of social videos with the brothers, starting from back in the Vine days. I honestly thought they’d be a bit vacuous, you know? I quickly found out that they are nothing like that at all. Drew and Jonathan are driven and nice—that’s a rare combo. A friend of mine once told me that when you meet people who are good people, you should immediately add them to your network of good people…so you can get rid of the not-so-good people in your life. Drew and Jonathan quickly were added to my list.
Does everyone in Canada know each other?