I spoke with Isaac Caldiero about American Ninja Warrior, his guest-starring role on tonight’s episode of The Mysteries of Laura, and so much more. Isaac holds the title of the first American Ninja Warrior. It was fantastic to speak with Isaac and gain some insight on what it actually took to be the first American Ninja Warrior. I loved watching him, and the rest of the contestants, compete on the show. You have not been entertained until you watch an episode of American Ninja Warrior on NBC. I can’t wait until it returns. His girlfriend Laura Kisana is also a contestant. Now that’s a power couple. How is Isaac not on a Wheaties box? Don’t miss Isaac on The Mysteries of Laura, which airs tonight at 8/7c on NBC.
Lena: Congratulations on becoming the first American Ninja Warrior. What was it like right after you won and then after it began to sink in?
Isaac Caldiero: Thank you very much. It was a long time in the waiting. It was literally just like a dream come true. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to accomplish for a long time now and I’ve dedicated my entire life over the last three years and all of my climbing up to this point has helped me achieve these things. There was definitely a lot of hard work behind it.
Lena: Are you able to compete again?
Isaac Caldiero: Of course! As the years go on the competition continues. They make it harder and the competition gets stronger. The competition itself will get more difficult as the competitors get stronger. It’s kind of cool to think about what they are going to throw at us next year. I’m looking forward to next year.
Lena: That’s great. I wasn’t sure if you were barred from competing again since you won.
Isaac Caldiero: Yeah, I mean I hope so. I don’t see why not. [Laughing.]
Lena: You’ve always been one of my favorite competitors. Your season five Jesus was pretty hilarious.
Isaac Caldiero: Thank you very much. I just happened to have a spare Jesus costume lying around. [Laughing.]
Lena: So that’s why you decided to use it. [Laughing.]
Isaac Caldiero: Yeah, I didn’t get accepted onto the show originally. My girlfriend Laura is one of the top female athletes on the show and everyone that I talked to told me about waiting in the lines and that I should find something to stand out. I happened to have this costume lying around from years past and I grew my beard out and with my hair down—Daredevil Jesus. I dressed like that for Halloween and I thought it would be the perfect costume. I wore it and everyone loved it.
Lena: That’s great! One of the reasons why I’ve always enjoyed watching you compete is because you are a natural and you make it look easy.
Isaac Caldiero: Thank you. I try to really emphasize that in my climbing and essentially translate that over to the obstacles. I like seeing that in other people—in their climbing and their performance. When people make it look easy even though it’s difficult. I try to recreate that in my own performance.
Lena: It’s crazy how confident you are. You are like a dancer because your movements are so fluid and natural. There are a select few that can actually do that. Was there an obstacle that you were really worried about?
Isaac Caldiero: Not necessarily. There wasn’t one specific obstacle. I would say during Stage 1 there are always weird obstacles where things are not in your control. It’s more lower body based and not upper body based, which I’m not as good at the lower body stuff. I can do it, but that’s the kind of stuff that concerns me. Stage one, as a whole, you just have to perform it flawlessly under a certain amount of time and things can go bad very quickly. That’s where I get the most driven.
Lena: Before this last season, you focused more on rock climbing rather than courses to prepare.
Isaac Caldiero: This year I decided that one of the main reasons why I had a failure last year was due to overtraining on specific obstacles. I had too much muscle memory on the course that I built in my parent’s backyard. I had done the salmon ladder a million times blindfolded and with one arm, so for me to fall on it in the actual competition the conclusion that I came to was that I just way over trained on the obstacles. I wanted to change that up and not let it totally consume my life. I was working, I was climbing, and I was doing more trail running. I was obviously still training but not anywhere near like the year before. I think that really helped my mental strength overcome my physical strength this year. Overall, I feel like I’m overtrained for the competition, but that’s what I like to feel like. I train on harder obstacles so when I get out there it’s way under my limit, so I can just feel confident and strong. Then I can focus on the mental aspect of the competition.
Lena: Trying to turn everything off while you are competing has to be difficult.
Isaac Caldiero: It’s very, very difficult especially when you add the lights and the cameras and all the action—the pressure. That’s where I’ve seen it in myself and other top competitors over the years is that everyone is so physically strong for this competition but you also have to strengthen your mind and really focus. That’s where I feel I had a little more of a cutting edge this season.
Lena: They even set off pyrotechnics right next to you guys. They are doing everything possible to make people fail.
Isaac Caldiero: Yes, just a few more distractions. [Laughing.] That and the fact that the competition runs through the night. We don’t even start competing until midnight. The night of the finals, I had just done Stage 2 and obviously there is a break between stages, so by the time I did Stage 4 it was five in the morning.
Lena: You definitely have to be fearless to be a rock climber. For someone that has never been rock climbing, how would you describe it?
Isaac Caldiero: I’ve been doing it for so long. There are different aspects that you can engage yourself into the sport. It’s like driving down the freeway is how I like to compare it. You can drive the speed limit and play it safe and have more things under your control and you’ll be fine. Obviously, there are other variables that you can’t control but at the same time you could speed up and take your seatbelt off and drive 150 MPH. You can take it to whatever level you want. Over the years, I’ve gotten more and more comfortable with what safety equipment to wear and myself on the rock. I really like that fluid motion and the purity of me and the rock and nature and yes, I put myself in very dangerous situations where my life is literally in my own hands and for me that is ultimate bliss. I really enjoy that and that’s where I feel that the Ninja obstacles directly relate to my experience in the mental focus that I have from rock climbing. I look at it the same way. I have one shot to do this competition. I fall and I’m done. It’s one shot, one kill. I’m not necessarily going to die, as I would if I fell rock climbing but I try to view it with that same mentality.
Lena: Any animal encounters while rock climbing?
Isaac Caldiero: Every once in a while you’ll run into weird little animals. A couple of years back me and Laura were out climbing in Lake Tahoe and we ran into a little bear cub. He was strolling around looking for food. Once in a while in the desert there will be rattlesnakes but for the most part it’s just your typical spiders and bugs and lizards here and there—nothing too crazy.
Lena: While watching the show, I’ve always wanted to know if you guys watch it back and listen to the commentary? I love how the hosts are always joking around. Do you have any favorite comments about yourself or fellow contestants? I still have “right in the baby maker” in my head from when a gentleman got hit in his groin.
Isaac Caldiero: Of course, many, many times. Just some of the funny nicknames that they come up with, Matt and Akbar are total comedians. They are great for the show. I love all of the commentary that they throw in there. There was one last season where I started skipping parts of obstacles and Akbar started going crazy and calling me Skippy, like the peanut butter brand. It’s always entertaining to watch those guys.
Lena: You have a guest-starring role on The Mysteries of Laura. You’re a natural showman, so it’s only fitting that you are giving acting a go. Is acting something that you’ve always wanted to pursue?
Isaac Caldiero: Not necessarily. It was a total surprise when I got the phone call for the gig on The Mysteries of Laura. As a kid, I was always the class clown and I definitely like entertaining people. On American Ninja Warrior I liked to entertain people and put on a good show. To get this opportunity to be my own stuntman and play this role for a really cool primetime television show I think I’ll give it a shot. I didn’t pursue it but if they come to me, I’m all game.
Lena: What can you say about your role and your experience on The Mysteries of Laura?
Isaac Caldiero: I play Connor, the owner of a bicycle shop and I’m training to become the next American Ninja Warrior. All of the obstacles were built outside of the bicycle shop and they are going to show me bouncing around and doing some of my training. They come in and do some interviewing. I had some lines. It was cool. I got to be my own stuntman. They didn’t have to have anyone stand in for me. [Laughing.] It was a total exciting thing to be a part of. I had no clue what any of that side of TV was about and what it entailed. It was really cool to see the crew working together. It’s very different from when I appeared on American Ninja Warrior. It was cool to see how it all pieces together. I haven’t seen the actual episode yet. I have yet to see if I actually did good or not. [Laughing.] I feel like I showed up there and everyone assumed that I knew what I was doing and I didn’t. I had never done anything like it. It was all just on the fly. I wasn’t nervous at all. I was like this is going to be awesome and I’m just going to have fun. The whole experience was very, very cool and I would love to have more opportunities like that.
Lena: Were you a Will & Grace fan?
Isaac Caldiero: I saw a couple of episodes a long time ago. It seemed like a pretty funny show.
Lena: What else do you have coming up?
Isaac Caldiero: We are rock climbing now. I’m just trying to keep everything rolling as far as branding from being the first American Ninja Warrior. Hopefully, that will bring in some opportunities like more acting gigs, any kind of action roles, comedies, or anything—I’m down for anything. I’m hoping some really cool endorsement deals come along and I want to write a book. I’m kind of riding the wave while it lasts. Hopefully, I can do some cool things and make the money grow. I just want to properly help my parents out and Laura’s parents. I just want to make everyone’s life easy and to continue on doing what I love in life.
The Mysteries of Laura airs Wednesday nights at 8/7c on NBC.
Isaac on Twitter: https://twitter.com/IsaacCaldiero
Photo: Bobby Quillard