When Darren Schwindaman and Melia Dicker opened their door on Thursday morning, they were hoping the visitors on the other side would be ready to rip their house apart.
“We were on pins and needles, peeking through the blinds, hoping, but we had no idea,” Dicker says.
But that’s exactly what happened — to their kitchen anyway – as a film crew let them know they had been chosen for Fix It & Finish It, a new nationally syndicated home improvement show. The man at the door? None other than Antonio Sabato, Jr., the show’s host.
“My passion is blessing people,” Sabato, Jr. said from the couple’s front yard yesterday. “By the time we are done, this family and their baby will have a better life.”
Sabato, Jr., whose credits include stints on television’s General Hospital and Melrose Place, created the half-hour daytime show with friend, Scott Sternberg, who suggested the premise play off the actor’s strengths. “He asked about my homes (that I have renovated) and if I was interested in sharing that, doing a renovation or design thing, and I said, ‘Yeah, I’d love to do that,” he explained. “We’ve done over forty shows so far that are fun and educational.”
For the Schwindaman-Dicker project, the couple submitted an application and went through multiple rounds of calls and emails. While the homeowners give the show’s designers input on colors and direction, the final product is still a surprise. “We trusted them to make it happen,” Schwindaman said.
The desired result? A more modern look with more storage, a better use of space and a less cramped flow. Dicker said it was important to make use of the natural light the room invited and to use as many natural materials as possible. To accomplish that, the Fix It crew hired local contractors and construction crews like House Works and Sims Construction and relied on Cowboy Maloney for new appliances. “I love that the show is supporting local businesses,” Dicker said. “It’s so important to us to showcase what we have here.”
The kitchen project is one the two have hoped to complete for some time, but both, communications professionals, didn’t know where to start. “It’s nice,” Dicker says, “to have a fresh set of eyes.” Schwindaman added, “We spend our creativity at work, and come home drained, so we recede and relax. Our (creativity) bank is empty, so there’s no energy to make it happen. And with a one year old, there’s no extra time.”
With a major motion picture being made in Fondren this week, too, Dicker is giddy talking about her city, her neighborhood and her state. “We love Fondren and it’s exciting to see other people taking notice and making use of the landscape here,” she said. “We’re glad to see Mississippi as a location for national productions, showing people the beauty and people and a positive, modern impression of Mississippi.”
For Sabato, Jr., the show takes on a different meaning. “We need to take this time that we are on this planet to help people – your neighbor, your family — to stop thinking about yourself and give to someone else,” he said, a concept he is seeing over and over in the South. “(It) gives me goosebumps how nice people are here. They’re giving, kind and loving, everywhere I go. How do you describe that? If you could multiply that and spread it, there’d be no worries. I’ll come back here for season two.”
The Schwindaman-Dicker shoot is one of 10 filmed in Jackson over the last two weeks. Fix It and Finish It premieres September 8 at 11:30am on WLBT.