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Q&A: Grace Helbig on Her New E! Show, Her Dream Guest Star and the YouTuber Effect

Grace Helbig is preparing herself for quite a bit of change.

The YouTube star, whose channel “It’s Grace” boasts more than 2 million subscribers, is embarking on a new project on cable. Her weekly primetime show “The Grace Helbig Show” will hit E! this Friday, April 3, taking her from filming on her own couch to the small (but still bigger than a computer) screen.

Helbig took some time out of her preparations for the show to give Variety a brief preview of the show, what it’s like to go from YouTube to cable and those Chelsea Handler comparisons.

A television show is quite a bit different than your YouTube channel. How have you been adjusting?
It’s been really cool to have people that handle things that I don’t have to handle, which is insane and a real exercise in like, relinquishing control, because as a YouTuber, you are the CEO down to the PA of your own brand. So it’s very interesting to work in a really collaborative group effort and to feel really supported by professionals that do the jobs that they do better than I could ever do for myself.

I’m curious about the aspect of relinquishing creative control. Has there been a moment yet where you haven’t been able to do something that you would’ve been able to do otherwise?
No, I really pride myself on being a collaborative individual and I try to operate from a place that’s not ego-driven and really try to understand, like, big picture. So, if anything, they’ve had to ask me, like, ‘Are you sure you’re okay with this?’ I’ll be like, ‘Yeah, that’s fine.’ And they’ll be like, ‘You know you can speak up if you need to!’

Can we expect any of your YouTube friends to appear on the show?
Oh, absolutely. I really want the show to feel like a hybrid, like this enmeshed universe where there’s no hierarchy between traditional celebrities and YouTube personalities and my brother. You know, I really want everyone to kind of live under this literal roof, since we’re shooting in a house, and just enjoy each other as human beings, at the end of the day, because I think there are so many interesting content creators, and I think there’s so many interesting traditional media celebrities. And my wonder is, what happens when they come together?

I really want it to feel new and fresh and like a hybrid and, for people that strictly watch the Internet, there’s something still relatable for them there. There are Internet personalities that they’re used to watching on the computer and for people that watch TV, there’s something relatable for them, which is the traditional celebrity interview type of thing that they understand. But at the same time, there’s something brand new for both parties, and I’m excited to see how that pans out.

Can you tell me a little bit about what the show is going to look like?
Yeah! It takes place in a house. We have this house that we rented that’s going to feel very similar to my YouTube videos. It’s going to feel like this is where the show lives. This is where the crew lives. This is where I live. This is where my friends come and hang out. And the camera, I really want the camera to be the audience, like, to truly, truly be the audience. We talk directly to it. We engage with it, interact with it and try to have the most two-way of a conversation that can be had on television. I always feel way more engaged if someone’s talking directly to me. It’s why I really resonate with YouTube and the style of videos that is incorporated there, but I want the television show to feel like everyone at home is hanging out with us and we are hanging out with them and we’re even taking suggestions and building segments around suggestions that they offered online using their art in their house and using their catchphrases and really making it feel interactive and feel like we’re hanging in with you on a Friday night. I invited you over to my house on Friday night.

About the fan engagement and taking fan suggestions, how exactly is that all going to work?
We’re kind of figuring out, you know, whatever quote-unquote “strategy.” I feel like I’ve already put it out there asking viewers for what kind of art they would want to see in the house, in the set design. What kind of catchphrase do they want me to end the show with? I want the audience to feel like they’re creating the show with me. I really want the crew to be people that the audience knows. Like, they’re going to know cameraman A wears his hat all the time and they’re going to call him out for it. I really don’t want there to be a fourth wall at all. I mean, structurally, in the house, yes, it’s great. But, symbolism, for the show, I really don’t want there to be a fourth wall. I really want to, week-by-week, use their ideas and thoughts and hear their feedback, because that’s the best way to grow as a human being and as a television show.

How have you fans taken to the news?
Oh, it’s insane. Well, they’ve all become my Internet mom. They are so proud and excited that it makes me so overwhelmed with happiness, and at the same time, they’re like, ‘Are you sleeping enough? We feel like you’re working a lot. Like, take a day off.’ They’re very concerned in a true friendship way, where they’re really proud and they’re also excited and they’re also going to give me their honest opinion about if they like it or not. And that’s awesome. I mean, they don’t want smoke blown up their butts and neither do I. So I’m really so pumped about the way the audience has responded to this idea.

Do you think Hollywood’s getting rid of the YouTuber stigma?
You know, I try not to even think about that. It’s something that I feel like you will limit yourself if you think of those concepts as parameters or struggles. The people who still have that mentality, I feel kind of bad for, because they’re going to be lost in the past, they’re going to be left in the dust because things are moving at a rapid pace and everyone’s trying to figure out what’s happening, what’s next, how do I get ahead of things. My mom knows how to FaceTime now, like, the world is insane. So everyone, I think, is trying, and realizing — I mean, some people are slow on the uptake — but people are realizing that YouTubers have this thing, this indescribable thing that everyone’s trying really hard to describe, that is just so relatable to an audience. And reliability kind of molds into power and responsibility, so there’s this authenticity that YouTube and YouTube personalities have that television just hasn’t had and film just hasn’t had, and so I’m so pumped that E! is like, giving me a chance to test how this hybrid could work.

A lot of people are comparing you to Chelsea Handler, and saying you’re filling the void she left when she exited E! How do you feel about those comparisons?
Everyone can have an opinion. I don’t think that’s the case at all and I don’t think of myself in that way. I’ve been a guest on her show. I think she’s so goddamn hilarious and she’s so off-the-cuff funny and so great at like, engaging people, but her show is very different from my show. And I loved watching her show. But now I want to push the envelope and see what works for my style and my brand and my voice. I think her show was the perfect show for her tone and her voice and her point of view, and I have a different voice and different point of view, and so I’m going to try this show that’s going to feel different than Chelsea. But I don’t want people to think it’s in any way a replacement for Chelsea. It’s just something that makes more sense for me.

If you could have any person appear as a guest on the show, who would it be?
This is so hard! I mean, my ideal guest is someone that’s just fun and silly and sweet and kind. And so, I mean, the more I’ve been talking about this, the more this becomes my ideal guest, is the Rock. I think he would be just so fun and interesting to talk to and I just want the experience of being picked up by the Rock.

Who doesn’t?
Right? I mean, I feel like that should be everyone’s dream in life without knowing it! Is that, yeah, you just want the Rock to lift you off your feet one time and then be like, ‘Nothing really matters.’ He’s really talented, and he’s got a great sense of humor and he just seems silly. From what I’ve seen on social media, he’s got this really silly side to him that I think would be so fun to hang out around.

“The Grace Helbig Show” airs Friday on E! at 10:30 ET/PT.

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