As an executive producer for many of your favorite reality and competition television shows, Alex Cross believes her biggest responsibility is telling stories. She aims to entertain audiences while respectfully showcasing the real lives of her cast. It is this approach that has made her internationally sought-after for what she does, and she loves every day of it.
"Every project is so different and I never stop learning. I get to work with some great people so it can be incredibly fun and rewarding. This field of work can be all consuming and exhausting, but it's never boring. I really enjoy it."
As a British native with over ten years of experience in the UK television industry and eight years in the United States, Cross has worked on hits on both sides of the pond. In the UK, she is responsible for the success of shows like Big Brother UK, Dating In the Dark, Celebrity Scissorhands and many more. In the US, she is known for her tremendous work on Celebrity Wife Swap, the popular reality format that aired on ABC from 2012 to 2015. This was her first project working in America with the renowned production company Zodiak LA.
Each episode of Celebrity Wife Swap follows two women from celebrity families with different backgrounds that trade places for one week. Not only are the moms given the opportunity to see how another celebrity chooses to raise her children and deal with the spotlight – making them appreciate their own lives more – but viewers are given a peek into how some controversial celebrities live their lives. At the end of each episode, the couples meet and discuss how they feel about each other's life and share what they've learned from the experience.
"The show was popular because the viewers not only get the chance to look inside the celebrities' homes and see how they raise their families, but it reveals that at their core, relationship issues and family dynamics are the same for everyone, no matter how rich or famous you are," said Cross.
When Cross began working on the project in 2012, it was the show's first season, and although it was a big success in the United Kingdom, launching any new show is tough and stressful for the cast and crew. On top of this, it was a lot of footage to squeeze into a one-hour show, the week of two different families all trimmed down to 43 minutes. However, Cross made it work beautifully, finding the humor and heart in every episode.
"The content was great, with a lot of compelling moments to play with. But having so much good footage really tested our skills in the edit. Condensing down footage while still making the overall narrative work becomes harder, the more footage you have. We had a fantastic team though, all stemming from an incredible show runner, and we were able to make it happen" she said.
Celebrities on the show included Joan Rivers, Vince Neil, Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Niecy Nash, Gary Busey, and Carnie Wilson, to name a few. The show required they film right in the celeb's homes, which meant they had two teams working in different locations, often different States, simultaneously. Cross' job was coordinating the story narrative, making sure they were fully tracking storylines as they unfolded and getting the best content that represented each wives' journeys in their new homes with their new families. During post-production, she oversaw a large team of story producers and editors who were responsible for crafting the two wives storylines into one episode, cutting the week's worth of footage down into one compelling hour. The show's tremendous success was helped by her profound sense of storytelling.
"It feels great that the show was so successful. It's always nice to get positive feedback from the Network or colleagues in the industry, but the biggest reward is when the viewers enjoy a show. After all, that's why we make TV, for the viewers to enjoy," said Cross.
In the three seasons that Cross worked on Celebrity Wife Swap, she collaborated directly with Emmy nominated reality Producer & Showrunner Bruce Toms. The two worked together many times throughout the years, including the hit Bravo series Timber Creek Lodge in 2016. He was a great mentor for Cross as she navigated her way through the American television industry, and she is thankful for all he taught her.
"Bruce sadly and unexpectedly passed away in December 2016. He was an incredibly established, talented, well-loved and well-respected Showrunner in the TV industry. Working directly under him when I first arrived in the US was a gift in so many ways. He taught me not only how to be a great showrunner and make compelling TV content, but also the importance of being a great manager and running a happy and productive team," she concluded.