It's not easy being Mike Holmes.
The perpetually busy 43-year-old contractor not only produces and stars in his hugely popular TV home fix-up series Holmes on Holmes (now in its sixth season on HGTV), but also runs a spin-off media empire that includes workwear, DVDs and a national foundation for victims of bad contractors.
If that wasn't enough, plans are in the works for a Holmes-related magazine, cartoon series and even a housing project.
Holmes' televised quest to expose shoddy workmanship and crooked contractors has made him not only a national celebrity, but also a hero of sorts to his fans. We were able to snag some time with Holmes while he was travelling between meetings — and stopping to pick up a double-double at Tim's via drive-thru — to talk about his show, his fans and what inspires him to stay so busy.
Mike HolmesUnfortunately not. It's like Hotel California. It looks like I can never leave.
It's almost a year for each season. What we'll do is shoot two to three shows at a time. It takes approximately one month for each show, so we do our damnedest to get two shows done in one month. And then, of course off to the edit suite it goes, and right to the television.
I'm extremely involved in it as I own the company. I used to go see [the families] and then it got the point where people just wanted to meet me more than come up with stories. So now I have a crew that go in, then I watch the videotapes at night and I flag the stories and I go see them personally. That's how it begins.
That's from my father. He was a jack-of-all-trades and unfortunately a master of none. But he had integrity and I guess that was something he distilled in me.
Most definitely. As a little kid I was fascinated with his talents — and I mean a little kid — I was three years old and he couldn't kick me away, so he started teaching me. I guess I took it from there (laughs).
There was no doubt that we were not financially well off at all, but we led the happy life. My parents were good people and they knew how to make everybody smile. We lived on hot dogs and Kraft dinner and to us kids we were rich. Kids, they don't know do they?
I was actually a very shy guy in school, quiet. In grade school, I guess it was grade six, seven and eight, I got into plays. But I was a very shy kid in school.
Yeah, I guess it did.
I never thought of myself as a hero, I definitely think that somebody needs to do [this work] and that's a definite. And if it gives me the opportunity to help change the building industry and help make people aware, then I'm in. I'll do anything I have to do to make that happen.
It's really not going to help anybody. I would love more than anything, to tell the world, Joe Blow's a bad guy don't hire him. The problem is, until the laws change, they protect the contractors. They can change their name the very next day, so all we're gonna have is a bad list of bad names and it doesn't help anyone.
I've figured I would from the beginning, but it doesn't seem to be that way. It seems that most contractors really do love the show. Obviously, only the bad guys don't care for it.
I guess it's just like my own house. I wouldn't just bring someone in to do what I have to do myself. So, if I'm running jobs, I have to be part of it. If problems arise, we need somebody there that can solve the problem. Until I find somebody that has the same ability to solve it, I will always be there.
No, that's not true. It's almost free. They pay about 10 to 20 per cent of the actual cost. Unfortunately, I can't get everything for free and the day that I can is the day that it will be for free. Obviously, they're screwed financially and we're there to help them.
Well, it can't be free. In Canadian TV production, there's not enough money to pay for such a large renovation. The production pay is for the shooting only. When it comes down to the project that is done by me. I will bring everybody I know and bend their arms and maybe they'll get ten cents on the dollar for their work. Not all of them, but most of them will donate their time. It's the little guys — I wouldn't want to hurt the little guys — and so they may need a couple of dollars in some material that I cannot get for free.
Our last renovation was about half a million dollars worth of work.
That one damn near killed us all.
I think everybody in Canada is trying to hire me right now. It's pretty funny. I would love to help the world, there's no doubt about it, but I'm only one person and it's obvious that the only thing I can do right now is shoot the show because it's such a dinosaur to make. It takes up all my time right now. I haven't even had a vacation in three years.
Oh yeah, we're on minimum twelve hour days, up to seven days a week.
It's honestly extremely depressing. We have the viewers watching the show and they can't believe what they see. But imagine the e-mails I receive on a weekly basis of all the people that are crying and in trouble and are in desperate need of help — it's thousands. If you think it's bad on the show, imagine walking in my shoes for a month — talking to the people that are crying, begging for help.
Well, it's kind of pushed me for doing the Holmes Foundation right across Canada. We can all can now donate a loonie or toonie and help the people that are going to lose their home and go bankrupt.
I definitely want to do that. You're going to see a lot of big and new exciting things coming that I really can't talk about yet. I want to do a development right across the country and build homes with a ten-year guarantee. Just forget the new home warranty. It just doesn't seem to work for me — I'll personally guarantee it for ten years. I'm going to give the people what they should have had in the first place and that's building homes with designs that are self-sufficient and environmentally friendly.
Surprisingly yes. I'm really stunned by that, to be honest with you. Not to mention the kids who watch. Something that blew me away was the e-mails that I receive from four to 12-year-olds and how they want to be the next Mike Holmes. I guess, I'm, in a way, their hero. So this has inspired me to do a Mighty Mike Holmes cartoon, which will hopefully be out soon.
Yeah, which will explain why I don't get any vacations (laughs).
For me, no. It's who I am, and I don't think that's ever gonna change. I don't think of myself as a celebrity, I think of myself as a contractor.