Entertainment Television

Jeff Probst shares Survivor casting secrets

By Nelson Branco, 24 Hrs

Jeff Probst. (CBS Photo)

Jeff Probst. (CBS Photo)

If you saw last week’s epic showdown between past winners Tony Vlachos and Sandra Diaz-Twine on the 34th season of Survivor, you know Game Changers is going to continue to be relentlessly compelling.

The two tribes are split up on what promises to be another nail-biting episode, which airs Wednesday on Global TV at 8 p.m. ET.

Postmedia Network probed Emmy-winning host Jeff Probst on the mechanics of casting such an epic season with veterans:

As much as fans love them, casting all-star seasons can’t be easy.

When you’re casting a season with new players, you’re just looking for interesting and compelling people. You throw them together and see what happens. With an all-star season, and especially one called Game Changers, you have to look at the right mix of personalities. Ultimately, we have decided over the years that we don’t have to spend too much time worrying about putting certain players on the same tribe. The truth is: the minute the game starts, all bets are off.

When someone doesn’t make an all-star season, how do you navigate his or her disappointment? I know you’re friends with most of them ...

Yes, it’s a really tricky thing. If there’s a misunderstanding between myself and the players, I imagine they think that I’m cold and I don’t really care. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I agonize if someone’s feelings are hurt because they can’t play again, for whatever reason, because I know how much they want it. This was a hard season. Our list started with 60 people and then we narrowed them down.

But there’s always hope for next time, right?

The good news is we can do an all-star season again. When it comes to Survivor, you need to have a lot of patience. Look at Troy “Troyzan” Robertson. Bless his heart, he (was a finalist on the) Second Chances season, risked not being included during the live fan vote and didn’t make it. He was hurt but I said to him, “Don’t give up. Just hang in there.” Luckily, we came up with Game Changers and we cast him. That’s how kind of how we do it: If you’re good to us, we’re good to you. You just have to hang in there for a bit.

There are always casting leaks, especially when it comes to all-star seasons, but the show has managed not to spoil who won the competition. How hard is that to manage?

It’s not easy and we do manage it. Ultimately, we’re all in this together. When the season finishes taping, I say to the players, “Look, the only people who know what happened out here is us and you guys. And we’re not going to give the ending away. But you’re going to be tempted to give it away because you have information — and information is powerful. Just remember, whoever you tell, then they have the information and they’re going to want to tell someone so they become powerful. And before you know it, it’s your season that is ruined. For the most part, players really do understand that they’ve busted their ass out there so the last thing they want is to give the conclusion away for free. We all want people to watch the show.