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How Tim Gunn’s refusal to do Project Runway without Heidi Klum led to Under the Gunn

Under the Gunn was renamed Project Runway: Under the Gunn after its debut earlier this year, and there’s a good reason for that: it was supposed to be the 13th season of the Lifetime series, but Tim Gunn refused to do it without Heidi Klum.

The contestants were all cast for the original series, and even they confuse the show they were supposed to be on for the one on which they actually competed: In a Boston Globe interview, contestant Sam Donovan said, “At the end of the day, whether I win or lose I got to live out a life dream. I won a challenge on Project Runway — or anyway, Project Runway: Under the Gunn.”

The show changed to a modified format because of an agreement between Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum that presented a major problem for Lifetime. Tim told me how the show came together last fall:

“I had on my calendar, as did everyone else, the 13th season of Runway would be taped in the fall in Los Angeles, and it was out of deference to Heidi, because she lives here. She’s uprooted for our seasons in New York, and it’s disruptive. But then, she had a kind of 911 with Germany’s Next Top Model, and she was committed, she had to go. So then she’s unavailable.

We have a pact, she and I: We will not do the show or consider doing the show without the other. So, Lifetime actually suggested that there could be another host, and I said, ‘Well, there could be, but then you have to find another mentor because I’m not doing it unless Heidi’s there. We have this pact and we’re serious about it.’

They were very unhappy. They huddled and huddled with Sara Rea, who’s the showrunner for Project Runway, and came up with this concept. And I loved it.”

Production began on Nov. 12; Tim said that, “When we had the season 12 finale during New York Fashion Week in September, we were doing another season of Runway.”

A new season of the actual Project Runway will film this summer, he told me.

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.

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