Criss Angel Talks Celebrity Contestants On Criss Angel's Magic With The Stars - Exclusive Interview

You've probably seen "Dancing With the Stars," where viewers watch their favorite stars rip up the dance floor, but fans haven't seen anything like "Criss Angel's Magic With the Stars." Just when you thought every possible competition show already existed, superstar magician Criss Angel and The CW have cooked up an all-new immersive experience that challenges two celebrities to do some of the most difficult performances in the magic arena. 

Angel is no stranger to the world of TV, having produced and starred in 85 episodes of "Criss Angel Mindfreak." He even has writing and directing credits on the show. In addition to his own show and specials, Angel has done cameos on shows like "CSI: NY," "American Dad!," and "Grandfathered." 

The List spoke to Angel during an exclusive interview where he discussed the celebrity contestants, judges, and host on "Criss Angel's Magic With the Stars." He also lent some insight into the show's fashion, how he comes up with new illusions, and even how he feels about the "Supernatural" parody magician episode that shades his name in the title. 

Snagging the stars

You've had an incredible slate of talent on the show, between Corbin Bleu, Debbie Gibson, and Flavor Flav. What were some of the highlights of showing these performers a little piece of your world? Did any of them surprise you?

They all surprised me for different reasons. "Magic With the Stars" really boasts an incredible, diverse lineup of people. Whether we have an Olympian, a gold medalist, a comedian, a singer, or a UFC champion, it's an eclectic group of people, and they all have their own skill sets. That's what fascinates me, because you're taking [the] history of my work, my body of work that I spent decades perfecting, that is really, truly, without boasting but rather confidently saying, revolutionary. My levitation won The Greatest Illusion of All Time [in] the largest magic publication, Vanish.

You take Miles Brown or Corbin Bleu, two really skilled actors [with] incredible bodies of work, both mainly in two different arenas. You have Corbin, who's more of a Broadway guy, even though he has the television experience. And then you have Miles Brown, [who] did "Black-ish" — many seasons of that. You take these two, and you teach them my levitation that took me 22 years to create. It creates a very interesting scenario because things that you wouldn't anticipate happen — like, Miles was scared of heights and he had to go up a ladder. We had to overcome that fear and address it.

Then they literally are flying around, levitating 20, 30 feet in the air, in full light, right in front of the live audience — 1,500 people in front of the cameras. And you see who rises to the occasion — who's better at doing closeup magic or mentalism, or more of a stage illusion, and then the grand illusion. You get these three different categories in every show, which gives them an opportunity to shine and bring stuff that's in their wheelhouse and stuff that's outside of their wheelhouse to magic. They ultimately are performing illusions that professional headline magicians are not even doing or not capable of doing.

It's a high-level show with incredible talent, and it's fun, family-friendly, and it's something that I'm really, really excited about. You got me judging. You got Emmy award-winning comedian Loni Love. You got master magician, with over 16,000 shows in Vegas, Lance Burton. And [you have] the hilarious Eddie Griffin [with] over 75 movies — [a] standup comedian, the comedian's comedian. We have all of the elements for the ultimate family show on television. Hopefully, people will tune in, and I know they'll get addicted to it.

Nailing the fashion

I got a little bit of your style vibe from Corbin Bleu in that 1st episode. Did you help style him at all?

We have my team. I have about a hundred and something people that work with me. I have [the] incredible Julie and Kimmy that runs the costume department and designers in my shop. We get them, and they talk to them. We go through, [asking], "Do you want to do this as Corbin Bleu, or do you want to step out of your comfort zone and try something a little bit different?" We let them design it as they wish because ultimately, I'm judging along with Loni and Lance, so we don't want to make them do anything. We want them to feel good about what they're doing.

If they have a fear and they don't want to do something, no need to do it. But most people, if not all people, want to address their fear and overcome it. And we are creating a better show because I think it connects to viewers more because now we see that there are weaknesses to these people we see on television, or that we see as athletes or gold medalists. They do have [fears]. They're just like us. And if they can have these fears and overcome them, then so can I. It has this great, positive undertone that I think is going to resonate [with] our viewers.

There's aways a new trick

Eddie Griffin is so great as the show's host. What are some of your favorite moments working with him?

Well, Eddie and I have been friends for a decade. We have been friends for a long time. He comes [and] sees my show. I go see his show[s] with my family [and] his family. Eddie is the comedian's comedian, as I said earlier, because he is such a great artist with improv and with making things his own. He doesn't read the teleprompter as it reads; he makes it his own. And he's great on his toes. He's fast; he's witty; he's likable. He knows where to push it, where to pull back, [and] how to allow the celebrity to shine. He doesn't try to overtake a situation. He's amazing. 

And he cracks me up, [and] even Loni. We're always laughing. We're like family. Loni's like my sis, and Eddie's like my brother. We have a lot of fun, and I think that connects through the television or through the computer to people that are watching. It's not contrived. It's not like, "We have to be in a room together and we don't want to be." We love being around each other.

What is your process when it comes to developing a new illusion? And what's some advice you've given to some of the newbies on the show?

For me, developing a new illusion is happening all the time. I create thousands of demonstrations. I did over 1,000 on my show "Mindfreak" alone. I'm always dreaming up things that I want to see as a fan, and then I try to reverse engineer how to do that. I have a 60,000-square-foot facility, unlike anything in the world, where we do everything in-house, so we're able to design, engineer, [and] fabricate. That levitation that I do [took] 22 years [to create], develop, and evolve — we did all of that in-house. Whatever my imagination can conjure up, we can pretty much build it.

Meta magic in Supernatural

The show is on The CW, and there's a lovingly meta magician parody episode of the CW show "Supernatural" in Season 4 called "Criss Angel Is a Douche Bag." Did they ask you to green-light the title or ask you to cameo in that episode? And what are your thoughts on that if you've seen it?

No, I've never seen it. I wasn't asked, but you know what? Loved, hated, never ignored. When you're at the top of what you do, you have a lot of people that want to take a shot and use your name to benefit their product, and it doesn't faze me at all. The things that are important to me, the things that matter to me are my family, people that I love, [and] what I do. I can't worry about ... You go on the internet, go on social media. People spend and consume their lives as somebody else, commenting on somebody else's life.

I don't consume myself [with that]. I don't care. It doesn't matter to me. What matters to me is my happiness [and] my family's happiness. Shows and people will do what they will. I'm flattered by it because the fact of the matter is, obviously, I'm the most relevant, and that's why they named the show that way, because the other magicians that are behind me they're not talking about.

"Criss Angel's Magic With the Stars" airs Saturdays on The CW, with episodes streaming on the website the next day.

This interview has been edited for clarity.