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In ‘My Flipping Family,’ the McMiller brothers shine a spotlight on St. Louis

Willie and Jon McMiller’s dad had a saying when they were growing up.

 From left: Jon and Willie McMiller of HGTV pilot "My Flipping Family."
Arthur Hamilton
From left: Jon and Willie McMiller of HGTV pilot "My Flipping Family."

“If you’re old enough to carry a bottle, you’re old enough to carry a hammer,” Willie Sr. would repeat on job sites. He often enlisted his sons to help with his renovation work.

In those days, Willie and Jon resented the saying. Now, it’s led to both a career and an HGTV pilot, My Flipping Family, which premieres Wednesday.

“As we got older, we understood just how valuable these lessons and working with [Dad] became,” Willie, 36, said on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air. “Because now look at us!”

As an actor and standup comic in L.A., Willie is used to cameras. His brother Jon, 32, is a real estate agent and contractor based in St. Louis. Since 2013, they’ve renovated around 12 properties together — many in north St. Louis County, where they grew up.

My Flipping Family is a family affair. Their other brothers are the demolition crew, their mom is the tiebreaker on important questions, and their dad, Willie Sr., brings old-school wisdom.

The pilot shows Jon and Willie rehabbing a home in Black Jack, the north St. Louis County town where they lived as children before moving to Florissant. With sweat, trips to beloved St. Louis after-market store Refab and a “Spanish modern farmhouse” design concept, they transform a modest ranch into a (still affordable) showstopper.

The pilot is one of three that earned a greenlight from HGTV for the 2021-22 season. Whether the show gets picked up depends on the audience it draws for tomorrow’s broadcast.

Part of the pilot’s charm is Willie Sr., who shows up to the job site to grill the brothers on their design choices and flash his flawless grin.

“He has stolen the hearts of so many people on the show, even on set,” Jon said.

An HGTV appearance once felt almost out of reach for the brothers. While working as a reality show editor, Willie filmed a “sizzle reel” to pitch production companies on a show featuring the brothers’ rehab work. His own employer rejected it and told him to stick to comedy.

“We're not gonna touch it,” Willie recalled the production company saying. “Nobody wants to see this.”

Instead, Willie posted the clip to YouTube, and after it gained traction, production companies started to reach out to them.

At first, Jon saw cameras as a distraction.

Florissant brothers star in HGTV pilot ‘My Flipping Family’

“I would be carrying in wood or paint buckets and [Willie] has a camera in my face,” Jon said. “And I'm like, ‘Man, can you put the camera down and just pick something up? We're not trying to do this for TV. We have a deadline to meet.’”

Now, Jon admits his older brother was right.

“I have to grunt it out a little bit, maybe mumble it, but he was right,” he said.

If HGTV greenlights the show, the brothers will become one of the few minority duos in a lineup of white leads. But that doesn’t bother the McMiller brothers. In fact, it makes My Flipping Family an easy sell.

“We’re the Black one, so you’re not going to miss us,” Willie joked.

If their show gets picked up, the McMiller brothers hope to bring more property investment to St. Louis and, perhaps, do what former HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines did for Waco, Texas.

“Not only are we as young Black men doing this, we're doing this in St. Louis,” Willie noted. “Usually when people hear St. Louis, they have a different viewpoint of what St. Louis is.”

“St. Louis is a gem,” Jon added. “When it comes to places that are not L.A., that are not Atlanta, St. Louis is a beautiful city. I believe just by bringing this show on air, it's just going to give exposure to the beauty that's already here.”

Related Event
What: “My Flipping Family” premiere
When: 10 a.m. Feb. 16
Where: HGTV

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, and Kayla Drake. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Kayla is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.