During this interview, Chicago was in the clutches of a polar vortex that brought historically low temperatures to the region over the next 36 hours. But that did’t stop Anthony Downing, a suburban Chicago firefighter, from reporting to the fire house for a 24-hour shift, where would be “dealing with the weather, juggling interviews and vetting contractors for use in the future.”
He and his twin brother, Anton, who’s also a full-time firefighter, are very much blue-collar working men from Chicago’s south side. But all of that could change if their home renovation show Double Down makes enough of an impression to land a regular spot on HGTV. The Double Down pilot first aired on DIY Network in December and on HGTV Jan. 25.
The brothers are currently on a media tour that involves print media as well as television and YouTube appearances. At press time, they’re still waiting to hear if Double Down will be green lit for a full season.
“The network is very mysterious about the process,” Anthony said. “We found out that the pilot aired around the same time everyone else did. We hope that the network and advertisers will decide that we’re a good fit with their brand.”
The Grio: How did you both get interested in creating a show?
ANTHONY: It was a gradual process. I was the first to purchase property in 2007 because we had the mindset that you should buy homes to live in rather than rent. A few years later, Anton bought a multi-unit, so we figured we would both buy a couple more properties. We decided to start flipping houses in 2017. Around that time, a friend looking for a place to film a horror movie came to my property. He didn’t use it but jokingly asked if we’d ever consider going on HGTV. He said we could be the Black Property Brothers. He had a contact with a production company that already has television programs; when we heard that, we both perked up like, ‘are you serious?’ We did an interview and they showed up the following week with a camera. We did a sizzle reel and sent it off. Four months later we’d almost forgotten about it and boom, we got funded.
The Grio: Would Double Down focus only on Chicago homes?
ANTON: So far, every property has been in the city limits of Chicago, but that doesn’t exclude the suburbs. We can go city wide, but we’re from the south side and are most familiar with the south side. We’ve been approached about properties all over the city, so we anticipate that we’ll be everywhere. There’s nowhere we can’t go, and you’ll see the same quality of interior design that you see on any other show on HGTV…it just happens that twin brothers from the south side are doing it, and obviously it will include our banter.
The Grio: How would you describe the appeal of Double Down?
ANTON: We deal in affordable houses, unlike a lot of [home renovation] shows that have $500,000, $600,000 houses and whatnot. On the pilot, we sold a house for $261,000. The viewership will see that a regular, middle-class person will be able to afford our homes. The types of flips we do are truly aspirational.
ANTHONY: I totally disagree with that answer. I think the reason we were funded is because we’re firefighters, we’re twins and women find us attractive…at least that’s what we’ve been told. And the way we talk to each other…if you ask us a question and both of us look at that question differently, that shows up on the TV screen and people respond to how we go back and forth to find a solution. This happened on the sizzle reel – they asked us a question and we answered it completely differently and completely disagreed on the question in every way.
The Grio: How does your mother influence your work?
ANTON: Our mother came to this country with a big focus on education, making sure we went to University of Illinois to get our degrees. But she was also very big on real estate because our grandfather has lots of undeveloped land all over the Bahamas. Her life goal was to finish developing property in Nassau but also to have rental incomes around the city of Chicago. She did it first in the 1990s with a two-bedroom, one-bathroom. That property informed us that we should have real estate as our financial bedrock.
ANTHONY: She’s all about the idea of generational wealth through real estate: Put yourself in position with your job, save your money, establish good credit and continue to build on all of it. She let us know that one day we would be in position to buy property and develop land in Chicago and the Bahamas, and now we’re at the point we are realizing the dream she instilled in us.
Dustin J. Seibert is a native Detroiter living in Chicago. Miraculously, people have paid him to be aggressively light-skinned via a computer keyboard for nearly two decades. He loves his own mama slightly more than he loves music and exercises every day only so his French fry intake doesn’t catch up to him. Find him at his own site, wafflecolored.com.