Casting director: Amazing Race “is a relationship show, period”

Lynne Spillman, who casts Survivor and The Amazing Race, says that the show is about relationships–and that she’s annoyed by the calls she gets from former Survivor cast members who want to race around the world.

“For me in casting, and production will probably hate that I say this, but it is a relationship show, period,” Spillman said when I talked to her yesterday about casting both shows (more on Survivor‘s casting, including recruiting of models and actors, in the coming weeks).

Although it may be obvious to some fans that the show is successful because it’s crazy people and their conflict is entertaining, Spillman said that among the 12,000 teams that apply for every season, many people “clearly don’t know this when they apply,” because they show up with someone they met in line at casting, or a boss and his or her employee try to be cast. “There’s no story there; we don’t care,” she said. “We want relationships that you relate to, that you understand, that you care about.”

“We want to know where they are, how their relationship is going to change on the race. You’ll see happy dating couples, but they’re usually at a crossroads of, you know, moving in together or getting engaged. You’ll see happily married couples but they’re a little bit in a slump or they’re about to retire. They always have a story where the Race is going to change something, and people don’t get that when they apply,” Spillman told me.

There’s another group of people who aren’t likely to be cast: former Survivor cast members. Spillman said that “it actually bothers me that I get that call. Every cast member will call with someone else they want to do it with–from every season it happens. My phone rings off the hook with past cast members with their ideas about who they want to do Race with.”

That’s bad news for Survivor Gabon cast members Charlie and Marcus, who have talked about doing the show in their post-eviction interviews. Marcus told me, “it is possible for gay people and straight people to have friendships. … I would love to go on Amazing Race and prove that once again.”

“I don’t want to say never, but I think, again, who cares about that relationship? I mean, so what? They’re friends, they met on Survivor; where’s that going? Maybe it’s gone somewhere; I don’t know,” Spillman said. “It’s a relationship show. That’s what makes Amazing Race so great; it’s the soap opera of what’s going to happen. If Charlie and Marcus did Amazing Race, why would we care unless they’re a couple?”

So what about Rob and Amber, who appeared on/ruined not one but two seasons, The Amazing Race 7 and The Amazing Race All-Stars?

“With Rob and Amber, they met on the reality show, they were engaged. They were not at a crossroads, but they were getting married and they had a lot of issues to work out,” she said. “And also they were household names. Let’s see, if Charlie and Marcus become household names, maybe. I think that’s the difference, too.”

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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.