Appearance as important as athleticism for Gladiators contenders; gays recruited; producers admit scripting hosts

American Gladiators, which returns May 12, recently cast for more contenders, and casting directors admit that one’s personality is given equal weight to their appearance and personal history. In addition, the show is actively recruiting gay contenders.

“Your looks, your story, a TV-friendly personality — that’s as important as athletic ability. We look for somebody America can root for. … And they have to have a reason for doing this, beyond just winning the $100,000 first prize and going on vacation. Touching stories, like losing your father to cancer, are part of the inspiration,” senior NBC casting producer Louis Caric told the Los Angeles Times.

That revelation comes in a story by Roy M. Wallack, who chronicles his audition to become a contender. Auditions start with a physical fitness test, and then move on to a 90-second interview. If they make it past those stages, they’re asked to produce “a 10-minute tape of [themselves] working out and showing off any colorful personal history and hobbies,” and that “[has] to include 30 seconds of swimming.”

After that are callbacks, where Wallack met Anthony Gonzales, “a 29-year-old Hollywood bar worker” who said that he was recruited because he’s gay. “Oh, I love the show, but I didn’t go to the tryout. I didn’t even know about it. I got a call yesterday. They needed to have a couple gay guys on the show.”

Meanwhile, the show featured a lot of awkward moments in its first season, thanks to its awful scripted host segments. Watching Hulk Hogan and Laila Ali attempt to read questions off a teleprompter was just painful. For MSNBC, I got the show’s producers to admit that those segments are at least partially scripted.

Via the show’s representative, its producers told me that they “give the hosts some bullet points of information to put in their own words to set the table, so to speak, and provide some questions to ask the contestants in interviews.” While they seem rehearsed, I was told that the gladiators’ and contestants’ responses aren’t scripted. They also insisted, of course, that the competitions are genuine and the show is “a straight-up sporting competition.”

‘Gladiators': Mortals need not apply [Los Angeles Times]
‘Gladiators’ isn’t scripted — for the most part [MSNBC]

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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.