Jeff Probst says 85 percent of racially split Cook Islands cast was recruited

After Survivor decided to cast a more ethnically diverse group, and then split them into tribes by race, the show had to recruit most of the cast, Jeff Probst tells asap’s The Slug. That’s because of the traditionally low number of applications from non-whites that the show receives.

Casting director Lynne Spillman, who has previously discussed the already difficult task of finding good cast members, “had her casting associates going all over the country to find specific groups where we could find Asian-Americans, maybe a cultural center or a certain part of town where more Latinos live,” Probst said. “We really just took off all blinders and said we want to find 20 people to play this game and we’re really gonna have to source them out.”

As a result, the cast might not have been familiar with the game. “I’m not sure of the exact number, but about 85 percent of the people on the show were recruited,” he said. “In other words, these are people that did not apply, maybe not have seen ‘Survivor’ or even cared about ‘Survivor.’ We told them nothing about the way we were gonna group them because we didn’t even know that at the time.”

Probst also said that they had no problem with CBS agreeing to this. CBS president Les Moonves said, according to Jeff, “Yes, I want you to do it. If you do it, I want you to do it right. Don’t back off of it. Just do it.”

Slug Exclusive: Jeff Probst Talks “Survivor” Segregation [asap: The Slug]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.