In The Mix

TV Titan

An exec producer — and competitive bodybuilder — wants to get America up and moving.

Michele Shapiro
  • Cara Robbins

When Dany Garcia heard more than a year ago that Universal Television and A. Smith & Co. Productions, the muscle behind American Ninja Warrior, were fielding ideas for an athletic competition series, she couldn't believe her luck.

Garcia, who's been training as a bodybuilder since age 40, cofounded Seven Bucks Productions in 2017 with her former husband, Dwayne Johnson. They're both passionate about spreading the gospel of health and fitness. "It's an anchor of who we are and how we run our businesses," she says.

Seven Bucks pitched an athletic competition series that would feature everyday athletes tackling extraordinary feats (think scaling 70-foot walls or dragging around 200-pound cement balls). Each episode of the resulting NBC series, Titan Games, which premiered in January, delivers on that promise.

The 30 men and 30 women Garcia and Johnson selected for the first 10-episode season compete against each other, rather than against larger-than-life gladiators.

"There's not one mega-athlete of the world," Garcia explains. "We didn't want that." Instead, she and Johnson sought out athletes who were relatable and came from diverse backgrounds. Contestants run the gamut from those who've overcome tremendous physical challenges to a firefighting grandmother.

The scale and size of the set put Titan Games in a league of its own. "Our campus is six acres. The arena is 70 feet high. It's the largest stadium ever built for a TV show," Garcia says.

Another differentiator: Garcia and Johnson understand the competition mentality. "We're both athletes and we ourselves have been pushed," she says. "We're going to take the competitors to a certain point they've never been before, and then they'll go beyond that."

Garcia entered her first fitness competition in 2011, placing seventh out of 42 women at the NPC National Bodybuilding Championship.

She's excited to be part of a series that's "adding more depth and dimension to women" by exposing the grit and determination required to go beyond known limits. "You have the Olympics and an occasional WNBA game," she notes. "But to actually see women reach physical hurdles and then have to go on, and reemerge to finish the challenges — that's the magic moment."

Of course, Garcia knows that Johnson, whose career she has managed since 2008, is a major draw. "Dwayne has a huge fan base," she acknowledges. (His global social-media following exceeds 200 million.) "He doesn't have to do TV. But he's featured on every episode. He wants people to understand how important this project is to us."

Ultimately, Garcia hopes that viewers will be inspired to stand up, turn off the TV and take on new challenges. "If we've done our jobs right, they'll see themselves in the competitors and realize that they, too, have something to bring."

Viewers can catch up on The Titan Games on Hulu, or the NBC app.

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 2, 2019