PROVO — BYUtv’s hidden camera show “Random Acts” will return this month with three new hosts, 10 new episodes and plenty of the show’s signature tagline: “mischief with meaning."
“Random Acts” season four will premiere on Tuesday, Jan. 22, on BYUtv, with new episodes airing weekly until March 26. The episodes will also be available on byutv.org. Season four, like the previous three seasons of the show, features the cast going undercover with hidden cameras to perform random acts of kindness to unsuspecting people.
“I think you can look forward to a lot more of the heart of the show,” said host Jenna Kim Jones about the show’s fourth season. “We get to be silly, but I think what people come to the show for … is to see lives change and good things happen to good people."
Jones, a comedian and the host of the 2014 "Meet the Mormons" documentary, is one of the three new hosts to join the “Random Acts” cast. Jones graduated from New York University before working for “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” spending almost a decade in comedy.
“You name it, I've probably tried it or been a part of something like it in the entertainment world,” Jones said. “But somehow, one way or another, I was able to get on this show this summer, and I've had a blast. It's been an awesome experience so far."
Jones recalled a defining moment of her work with “Random Acts” after a long day of shooting. Her mom, who watched Jones’ kids as she worked that day, asked if she was beat and exhausted after such a long day. Jones replied that she had the best day, despite it being long.
“It kind of hit me like, ‘Wow, I really love working with these people and I love what we’re doing,’” Jones said. “I think that's what I've loved working with this crew and with these stories so much is that it really doesn't feel like work. It's really a lot of fun and I feel really lucky to be part of this season.”
Joining Jones as a new “Random Acts” host is Melanie Nelson, a Utah-born actress featured in “Being Charlie,” “White on Rice,” “47 Minutes” and “Midway to Heaven,” according to IMDB. Nelson, although initially nervous about joining “Random Acts” because of the amount of improv, said she feels excited to be part of the show.
“It's exciting because it’s something new that I get to do,” Nelson said. “It's a really cool group of people and I think that what we do is … something that I think people want to see.”
Nelson sat down and watched every episode of previous seasons of “Random Acts” after being offered the opportunity to be a host, crying several times.
“It was just so fun to see something kind,” Nelson said. “We never make fun of anyone. It's always … recognizing the good, nice, kind, open-minded things that they do and highlighting that.”
Mason Branning, a self-described Southern gentleman born in North Carolina and raised in Texas, has been involved with “Random Acts” since the show began in 2016. He worked on the set first as a production assistant and later as a writer and production coordinator, naturally gravitating toward the camera until officially becoming a host this season.
“It used to just be, I would sit there and the camera would turn to me and I’d maybe do a little dance or say some small little line,” Branning said. “And now I show up and they’re like, ‘OK, Mason, this is what the intro is,’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t know how to think past 10 words.’ So it’s been a challenge but it’s been great.”
Branning — who said the other new hosts immediately fit in with the “Random Acts” family — said his favorite moment of season four was traveling to Seattle, where four of the five hosts used their various talents to work as street performers to raise money to help someone.
“I think back to those two days and I remember during it you're like, ‘What am I doing? What on Earth is she doing? What are we all doing out here?’” Branning said with a laugh. “I look forward to seeing it. … If I can feel the same way I did on those two days, we did a good job and everybody is going to feel exactly the way we did when we had to go to Seattle and take to the streets.”
“Random Acts” executive producer Tom Morrill said the decision to add new hosts to the show has two motivations: one, to keep the show’s focus on the acts of kindness and not specific individuals, and two, to ensure “Random Acts” outlives the cast.
Original hosts Will Rubio and Emilie Starr are still with the show, but according to Morrill, host Lisa Clark has moved on in her career. Morrill said cast members are talented individuals with other opportunities to pursue besides “Random Acts.”1 comment on this story
“We wanted a show that could have the flexibility of an ever-changing cast and allowing the cast to be able to go on and do other things without it being detrimental to the show,” Morrill said.
Branning added the new hosts immediately became part of the “Random Acts” family.
“I think when people are able to watch that they'll be able to go, ‘Oh, yeah, I already feel they're part of this, this family that I have watching the show,’” Branning said. “It's impossible not to love either of them.”