The Mindfreak himself discusses his newest show and why he trusts the American Public

The new show Phenomenon, an intriguing search for the next great mentalist, premieres live on NBC on Wednesday, October 24 from 8-9 p.m., helmed by world-renowned mystifier Criss Angel and famed mentalist Uri Geller. Recently, Criss Angel who is very well known for his show Criss Angel Mindfreak, took park on a conference call to discuss this new endeavor.

Can you talk a little bit about how this show is going to work?

Criss Angel: I just thought it was a great opportunity to be involved in a show that would showcase the talent and the art that I love so much, which is the art of mentalism. To really give people the opportunity that might not be known to showcase their talents and their ability. It's going to be interesting because on the show we're going to have people who think they have supernatural power and that's going to be fun to expose them live and on television.

Honestly, I think it's going to be myself and Uri and there will be a guest celebrity. We're going to have performers come on and they'll be doing a presentation for an audience and the home viewers will vote to see who is the best or the most talented. The one that they appreciated the most will go on to the final round and win the grand prize. Basically, myself and Uri will be there to comment... and kind of give our reflection on what they've done.

You talk about exposing people with supernatural powers. Do you, in everything you do, always represent yourself as an illusionist?

Criss Angel: I believe when the mind, body and spirit work together anything is possible but it's not supernatural. I think that when people claim that they have another sense and that they can speak to the dead, obviously, since the days of Houdini, who spent half of his life proving that psychics were basically charlatans taking advantage of the vulnerable. If anything, I am a voice for the people to expose that because I believe that people in their darkest day, when they lose a loved one or when they're trying to find out something because they're desperate, I don't want people being taken advantage of. These charlatans are probably the lowest form of scum in the world and so everything that I do, I may create the illusion that I can read your mind, it's something that I've practiced for many, many years and honed my skills.

Do you know how many people they've looked at for this show?

Criss Angel: I know that they have auditioned pretty much all over the place. I know they even had an audition in Las Vegas. I know Las Vegas magicians who have shows currently playing there were trying out for it. Whether they made the cut so to speak, or not, in their mentalism ability I don't know. I know that I was kind of surprised because I did hear about a few names that tried out for it and I was kind of surprised that they did indeed try out for the show.

Are you looking on the show for people who can fool you?

Criss Angel: I would love to be fooled. The innocence of child for the first time, seeing something and being in wonder is something that I long for because I'm tainted. Everything that I spent my entire life dedicated to, which is this art of mentalism, of magic... I don't see it and feel it and experience it like I first did when I was getting involved in this art. Now, I see things and I see it differently. I try to look at it as a spectator but unless I get amnesia I still can't overlook that. I can appreciate the performance but I would love to be fooled.

If you end up having to expose someone would that make you the Simon Cowell of the show?

Criss Angel: Well, I don't think of it that way. I just look at it to be true to myself and do what I believe is right. I think the American Public is very smart and will realize that I'm out to be true and to protect them. If somebody sits there and says, "Hey, send me $50 and I'll tell you what's gonna happen tomorrow, I'm gonna talk to your dead loved one." I'm gonna expose those. Look, you can't please everybody but I think the majority of them will realize that I'm doing that because they're not speaking the truth.

Do you think there's something recently that's increased the interest in magic, mentalism and illusion?

Criss Angel: Without sounding... I don't want to sound egotistical, or conceded or anything, but I think quite frankly Mindfreak has certainly stirred up television. Being that we're going into the 4th Season, the 100th episode, being that... more hours we've created on Mindfreak on A&E, on prime-time television, than any magician, any mentalist, any escape artist in the history of television in the United States. That's really a credit to the wonderful team I have working on the show.

With all the time constraints your going to have once Phenomenon gets up and running are you going to be able to continue Mindfreak?

Criss Angel: I start serious rehearsals April 14 and one of my missions is to create a schedule, which I know we'll be able to achieve, where I'll be able to do my 10 shows a week, 4,600 performances in my 10 years, and still be able to do my television projects and movie projects that I really want to explore. For me, it's not about the money, it's not about the fame, I love creating. I love develop as an artist, to push my envelope, to grow, to make mistakes, to learn from them and to try and be the very best that I can be while I'm on this earth.

Are you and Uri and the celebrity guests on Phenomenon, are you judges? Are you commentators? What exactly will you do?

Criss Angel: I'm going to basically be somebody who comments, if you want to call it that, kind of a judge. I'm not voting, it's really the American Public that will vote each week to pick out who they feel is best. I will be commenting on each performer, like Uri, on what comes to mind at that moment after watching their demonstration.

Do you think it will be frustrating for you that the American Public will decide on somebody that you might think is not so good?

Criss Angel: It doesn't matter what I really think. I've always said that. I could give a sh*t about what magicians think of me. They'll never pay my bills. I could care less. Let magicians on the internet say I do this trick this way, I do this... it means nothing because the American Public is who I'm interested in. Ultimately, if they think I'm good and they think I'm entertaining that's all that matters So if I'm there and I say somebody sucks and yet the American Public says they're great, they're the ones who are looking at it through virgin eyes. They know better than me what the public wants because I'm tainted.

Phenomenon premieres on Wednesday, October 24 from 8-9 PM on NBC.

Evan Jacobs