Warning: Explicit language
“The Shop” seemed to even rattle seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady.
“I remember seeing Tom Brady in the chair next to me,” the show’s co-creator, Paul Rivera, recently told The Post about the Buccaneers quarterback’s Season 4 appearance last June. “At the time, I had done the show enough that I could tell he was a little nervous.
“But I don’t think that he was nervous from a standpoint of, ‘Wow, this platform is so big. I’m nervous to be on here.’ But he respected what we do at ‘The Shop’ and he wanted to do well. Me, as a fan of football and Tom, I was like, ‘You’re Tom Brady. You’re the goat. How are you nervous for our little show?’ That was a pretty cool moment. I’ve honestly taken it as the ultimate compliment that people of his stature even care to be nervous.”
So, what really goes on inside Uninterrupted’s “The Shop” — the safe haven Rivera helped create for sports and pop culture’s biggest stars to speak their mind in meaningful conversations led by LeBron James and his business partner, Maverick Carter?
The Post was on set of “The Shop” at All-Star weekend in Cleveland last month for a behind-the-scenes look at the new fifth season, which premiered March 4. We were on hand for the taping of episode two — premiering Friday, April 8 — that features rappers Rick Ross and Gunna, Las Vegas Aces star A’ja Wilson, and business maven Steve Stoute.
A Sports Emmy Award-winning talk show, “The Shop” units athletes, politicians, and celebrities — such as Brady, Mary J. Blige, former President Barack Obama, and Jay-Z — inside a barbershop, where haircuts are performed on- site.
When guests arrive at the set of “The Shop,” they are asked on-site if they’d like a haircut and the hot towel VIP treatment. Many guests have gotten haircuts on the show, including Draymond Green and Charles Oakley, while rappers Jay-Z and Nas chose not to get haircuts during their respective appearances on the show, according to Nick “Slick” Castellanos, James’ personal barber.
The episode in which The Post got an inside look was filmed at the Black Cat barbershop, which is located on Cleveland’s West Side in the historic Gordon Square Arts District, about 50 minutes from James’ iPromise School. The popular Cleveland barbershop sits on a quiet corner alongside a vacant building. It’s narrow inside and has an edgy, rock-and-roll vibe with antique furniture and decor.
When the Uber arrives at the Victorian-esque building, it is hard to imagine what is going on inside. James, Carter, and the guests were inside talking about the meaning of Gunna’s latest hit (“Pushin P”), the moment Wilson knew she deserved a max contract (signed in February), and why the first million-dollar check is the hardest to make.
The crew is setting up cameras and adjusting the lighting. Each barber chair had a seat assignment. Gray Goose bottles sat in-between James and Carter’s chairs, although James and Wilson chose to drink red wine throughout the episode.
Guests are able to drink whatever they’d like throughout the taping of “The Shop,” which can last anywhere from 30 minutes to five hours, depending on the level and flow of the conversation and how many drinks have been consumed. Guests of the show are asked to submit their drink orders ahead of filming.
“The Shop” has been taped in cities all over the US, including Los Angeles and Charlotte, as well as Toronto during All-Star weekend in 2019.
“The Shop” will choose a barbershop location in whichever city they plan to film and work with the shop owner to obtain access to the space. This can be a process, as is coordinating schedules to get James and guests — such as Brady — in one room together.
When it comes to choosing guests for each episode, Rivera said it’s all about finding the right people that will make for the most dynamic conversation.
“That’s why you’ll never see us in the shop discussing who the top five rappers are, or who the greatest basketball player is. Although we do have a point of view on that as you can imagine,” he said, smirking. “It’s about the richest of conversations. That’s what ‘The Shop’ started as — we wanted to a create a fly-on-the-wall experience for people to learn, be empowered, and be inspired from these conversations.”
It truly is a fly-on-the-wall experience. The cameras are hidden in order to create an authentic environment. There aren’t crew members running around to film certain angles, and the lights don’t feel like they’re burning the top of your head or causing the room to overheat. It’s actually a calm atmosphere that makes you feel at home, sitting around the table, talking to friends.
Brady made headlines during his appearance. At the time, he was discussing his 2020 free agency experience and remarked, “One of the teams, they weren’t interested at the very end. I was thinking, ‘You’re sticking with that motherf–ker?’
“It’s interesting to have a Tom Brady in a room, who’s just one of the most guarded athletes and the greatest to ever do it, and put him in a room with Draymond Green, who’s one of the most outspoken athletes,” Rivera said. “We’re having fun putting rooms [of guests] Together, we’re having fun saying, ‘Hey, it would be fun to have Chelsea Handler in a room with Draymond Green.’”
A new home
“The Shop” now airs exclusively on Uninterrupted’s YouTube channel following four seasons on HBO, due in part to a massive expansion at SpringHill Co. — the entertainment and production company founded by James and Carter.
“The idea is that ‘The Shop’ isn’t just a TV show. It’s a franchise,” Rivera said while discussing the show’s expansion from HBO to Uninterrupted’s YouTube channel.
Jamal Henderson, the chief content officer at the SpringHill Co., said that nothing will change in terms of a show standpoint. Viewers will still see James and guests of the show getting real haircuts while sipping cocktails over unscripted conversations about sports, music, celebrity, and culture.
“We’re just building on our mission of potential and we’re excited to continue to the show and reach more people through video and audio,” he said.
The expansion of “The Shop” also includes a branded men’s grooming line; a multi-platform audio-exclusive version of “The Shop” in its traditional format; and a dedicated flagship barbershop location in Los Angeles for activations, in-person moments, filming and more.
“We will not only film the show there, but fans will also be able to get a haircut in the same chair that LeBron gets a haircut in,” Rivera said.
Yes, the haircuts really happen
“The barbers are not extras,” Henderson said. “Those are real barbers and it brings authenticity to the set.”
Since the show is unscripted and focused on authenticity, Henderson said, “We don’t really do a lot of takes. We just let the conversation flow.” Except for the time Ross had to use the restroom while taping in Cleveland and James playfully called him out.
“I know there’s been a lot of chatter on social media, like ‘Are they real barbers?’ or ‘Does anyone get a real haircut?,’” said Rivera, who noted that “Maverick and I get a haircut every episode.”
Castellanos has been a mainstay on the show since its inception in 2018. He was actually Dwyane Wade’s personal barber before moving on to James after the Heat legend discovered him in Miami.
Castellanos is one of four main barbers on “The Shop,” including Vince Garcia, who has cut celebrities and athletes such as James, Devin Booker, Damian Lillard, Travis Kelce, Victor Cruz, Ludacris, Drake, and Fabolous.
“I’m actually in Phoenix once a week to cut Devin Booker and a bunch of the guys on the Suns,” Garcia told The Post.
Lionel “Brownie Blendz” Harris got his gig on “The Shop” through his friend, Warriors star Green, who helped introduce him to the Uninterrupted production crew. Harris previously served as the barber for several Raiders players when the team was in Oakland.
“We don’t have time to pre-prep,” Castellanos said about doing haircuts while filming. “Everything we do is right there and we do what we can, but we don’t get in the way of the cameras. So, when we’re done filming the episode, we’ll just finish haircuts after if guests want to hang around. But we actually put razors on necks, we put clippers on heads, we brush hair — we do the whole nine.”
Once director Rob Alexander yells action, the barbers are tasked with doing their job while remaining as quiet as possible so that the cameras and microphones don’t pick up their sounds or that of their instruments.
“Me, Vince, and Nick are skilled enough to whisper and converse with the client and work around [production] and do what needs to be done on set,” Harris said. “But the cutting we’re doing is real. We’ve done whole haircuts on the show in early seasons.”
Garcia recalled, “There was one episode we were filming and I was doing my thing and I went to the back and Nick came up to me and said, ‘They’re pissed off at you bro. It’s way too loud.”
The barbers laughed, thinking about the moment, and said they now use clippers and other tools with quieter motors.