It may have seemed like a long shot, but in some ways it felt like destiny.
It was January 2016 when Russell Holmes spotted a post on Richard Rawlings’ Facebook page seeking a “right-hand man” to work alongside him on an upcoming Discovery Channel show titled “Garage Rehab.”Rawlings, who has more than 2 million Facebook followers, is the star of “Fast N’ Loud,” a reality show centered on his shop, Gas Monkey Garage. More than 100 episodes have aired since 2012 featuring Rawlings restoring run-down cars.
Holmes, a Mattituck resident and former EMT with the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps, would watch Rawlings’ show and joke about how he could fit right in with him. He had always been involved in construction, worked with his hands and had an outgoing personality. The role seemed like a perfect fit.
He applied online and said he figured he “had a better than average chance.”
Fast-forward 17 months and Holmes, 44, is poised to star alongside Rawlings as co-host on “Garage Rehab,” which will air the first of its 10 episodes at the end of the month. (An exact release date is not yet available.)
“It’s just amazing how this has occurred,” said Holmes, a land surveyor by day. “Because I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would end up being on a TV show, let alone the Discovery Channel, let alone with someone like Richard Rawlings.”
The show follows a format similar to that of “Bar Rescue,” which airs on Spike. But rather than remodeling bars, Holmes and Rawlings travel to different automotive garages in Texas, California, Mississippi, Tennessee and Louisiana and come up with ways to upgrade and remodel them.
“I don’t know what I’m doing until the minute I step my foot in that shop,” Holmes said. “I go in there and I do the full design. I say, ‘I’m going to take this wall out, I’m going to put the lift here, I’m going to put the air compressor here.’ ”
Rawlings focuses more on the business end, such as branding.
It was about two weeks after he applied for the job that Holmes received a phone call for an interview. What was supposed to be a 15-minute interview turned into a 90-minute conversation, he said. The next day, he did a Skype interview that lasted nearly two hours. He soon found himself as one of six finalists for the role. He flew to Los Angeles to meet with the executive producers from Pilgrim Studios, the production company, and to do a screen test.
During the interview, the producers asked him if he’d be willing to tell Rawlings no on something if he felt it was warranted.
“I said, ‘Listen, I’m from New York, I’ll tell anybody no whether you want to hear it or not.’ He still puts his pants on the same way I do,” Holmes recalled.
During his final interview, he saw the other contestants. They all looked the same, with slicked back hair like Jesse James, who hosted the Discovery show “Monster Garage.”
At 6-foot-2, 240 pounds and with a dark, thick beard, Holmes figured he was out of luck when he walked in and saw everyone else.
“I found out since, that when I turned out of the hallway and they saw me walk in, they went, ‘That’s the guy right there.’ ”
Mr. Holmes was offered the role and in March 2016 they filmed the pilot. It was a waiting game from there to see if the show would be picked up further. In January, filming resumed with a jam-packed schedule to complete the first season. If ratings are strong after the first few episodes air, Mr. Holmes said he is hopeful the network will pick up the show for an additional season.
The co-hosts quickly developed chemistry together, even if Mr. Rawlings, a Texas native, never quite moved at the same speed as Mr. Holmes, a New Yorker. Mr. Holmes said he’s learned a lot working alongside his co-host and the two have become inseparable.
“He tells everybody he and I are the same person. I said, yeah, except you have a lot more zeroes in your bank account than I do,” Mr. Holmes joked. “But we have such a great dynamic when we work together.”
Mr. Holmes’ longtime friend Chris DiGirolamo of Mattituck owns a public relations company called Two for the Show Media, which deals primarily with musicians. Since they’re good friends, Mr. DiGirolamo agreed to help him in promotions.
The show couldn’t have found a better co-host, Mr. DiGirolamo said.
“I swear I’m not saying this because he’s a friend,” he said. “They could not have stepped in it any better. Not only is the natural personality there, but he has the contractor side where he knows everything about everything.”
Mr. Holmes has two sons, Dylan, 20, and Zachary, 19, both graduates of Mattituck High School. They’re his biggest fans, he said.
“My son Zachary, when I told him this, said, ‘Dad, you should have been famous a long time ago.’ ”
Top photo caption: Russell Holmes of Mattituck. (Credit: Discovery Channel)