The four guys of Big Time Rush are backstage trying to cool off in their overheated dressing room a few hours before they'll hit the stage for thousands of fans at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine, Calif.
Sound check and a meet-and-greet are finally over, so the stars of the Nickelodeon's "Big Time Rush" -- a TV series about a boy band that created a real-life boy band, too -- have a few minutes to talk about the whirlwind their lives have been since the show premiered in January 2010.
"It blows my mind," says Carlos Pena, like cast- and band mates James Maslow and Logan Henderson, 22. "I leased a car when I came out here in August 2009. I returned it today and I couldn't believe it's been that long.""The stuff we've done, it's amazing," says Kendall Schmidt, 21, as he sits on the floor of the bungalow that contains four large trunks packed with clothes for each of the guys.
Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Pena had acted in TV, movie and commercial roles since they were kids. Mr. Maslow, who grew up in San Diego, had acted in theatrical productions there. Mr. Henderson had appeared only in the TV series "Friday Night Lights" before deciding to swap those lights and his home in Texas for the brighter lights of Hollywood.
Show creator Scott Fellows took his time in piecing together the cast for a show that is often seen as a modern-day version of "The Monkees." Mr. Maslow jokes that for a year or more he and Mr. Pena called each other to check on any updates. But in the end, the BTR guys say they're glad he did.
"He was looking for talent and personality," says Mr. Schmidt, explaining that the mix of personalities was key not only to their on-camera, on-stage chemistry but how they get along all the rest of the time, too.
"I've seen these guys more in the past four years than I've seen my family in the last 10," Mr. Pena says.
"We think this is the way it's supposed to be," Mr. Maslow says of how easily they meshed. "But we've heard so many stories about people [on other shows] hating each other.
"Sure, we have fights from time to time," he says. "But it's like brothers do in any family. Nine days out of 10 we're just having fun together."
The third season of "Big Time Rush" is currently airing new shows. For the tour, which runs into October, the group is playing larger outdoor theaters and arenas, jumping up from crowds of 6,000 or 7,000 in the winter to 10,000 or more now.
"The reasoning there was that everybody wanted to come see us [earlier in the year] and we sold out so fast so people couldn't get tickets," says Mr. Henderson.
"I think we put like 600,000 tickets on sale for this tour," Mr. Schmidt says.
They feel pretty good about how far they've come with both the TV series and the band and seem genuinely thrilled to be one of a handful of boy bands around right now. Mr. Pena ticks off acts from the classic 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys to the current One Direction and says Big Time Rush is proud to be part of that group.
"There's only a few guys who get to experience it," he says. "And these guys, for the rest of my life, I'm going to be part of this."
They say their fame still is mostly a kick. They say their fans have been terrific, if occasionally a little overzealous. Mr. Maslow mentions a recent birthday party at a hotel that a few fans managed to crash through clues on social media. Mr. Schmidt has been followed by a photographer while driving in Los Angeles.
"We love and support our fans," Mr. Henderson says. "But when I had that fan show up at my house that was kind of too much."
Mr. Maslow says he thinks Big Time Rush is "just getting to where we want it to be." Mr. Schmidt quickly adds that they can see the road they want to travel further on, too.
"I can tell you that the last thing we want is to work this hard and have it peak at some place we're not happy with," Mr. Schmidt says.