At 6-foot-2, weighing 230 pounds and sporting his signature thick, black beard, Russell Holmes is someone who immediately makes an impression.
When Holmes, 44, of Southold, flew out to Los Angeles in February for the final round of tryouts to join the cast of the Discovery Channel reality series “Garage Rehab,” he couldn’t help but notice the other men vying for the spot.
“They’ve all got a certain look about them — slicked back hair, clean shaved,” Holmes said. “Nobody’s got a beard like this, so I’m like, there’s no way I’m getting it.”
Producers of the new show, which sends out teams to save failing car repair shops, felt differently, and two weeks later, Holmes was selected to join the cast of “Garage Rehab,” which premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m. (The first episode can be previewed at discovery.com)
The show stars Richard Rawlings, who also hosts Discovery’s “Fast N’ Loud,” in which he restores rundown cars. In “Garage Rehab,” Holmes helps Rawlings and another cast member attempt to save struggling automotive garages across the country by refurbishing them and offering business advice to their owners to get them back on their feet.
When Holmes, a longtime fan of “Fast N’ Loud,” learned in January that Rawlings was casting for a new show he decided to apply.
“I’m like, ‘What do I have to lose?’ and I sent in my information,” said Holmes, who’s been involved in construction for about 20 years and now works as a supervisor for a Melville-based surveying and engineering company.
Holmes said he missed the initial call from Pilgrim Media Group, the company producing the show, but he had a feeling in his gut that he should call the unfamiliar number back.
His instincts were spot on and after connecting with the studio, he was scheduled for several rounds of interviews, then screen testing, before being hired.
Holmes, who restored his first car — a ’78 Camaro — when he was in high school, said the opportunity combines his love of automobiles and his willingness to help others. He spent years as a volunteer in emergency medical services, he said.
“It was like winning the lottery for me,” Holmes said about his new TV gig.
The first 10 episodes are set in garages in Tennessee, Los Angeles and others scattered across the country, according to Holmes. In each spot, the “Garage Rehab” team sweeps into a locally owned garage and is tasked with turning the business around in one week.
Holmes said he pulled 16-hour days renovating the garages, training personnel and helping businesses with marketing and branding. He was on the road filming for weeks at a time.
“It’s been a really awe-inspiring experience,” Holmes said, “walking into these shops, meeting the owner and the employees and helping them succeed.”
— With Laura BLASEY
THE SHOW “Garage Rehab”
WHEN | WHERE Premieres 10 p.m. Wednesday on Discovery