EW’s Dalton Ross has a some fascinating insight in an interview with Jeff Probst about casting Survivor, and specifically casting Survivor Game Changers. The takeaway: CBS wants the show to cast younger, hotter players and returnees, and CBS also wanted Ozzy Lusth back for his fourth attempt at the game.
Probst said, in part,
“…it’s sometimes a battle with the network, because they want youth, and I’m often in the office saying, ‘But, this is a better player. I don’t care if they’re 30, 40, 50, or 60. Who’s the best player?'”
Thank you, Jeff Probst!
What’s amazing about this is that Survivor seems like a shining example of how diverse casting—in terms of age, but also sexual orientation, race, socio-economic background, education, et cetera—makes for better television and successful television, in terms of consistently high ratings. Yet it, too, struggles behind the scenes to convince well-intentioned but frustratingly obtuse network suits that diverse casting is beneficial.
Probst also suggested/joked to EW that his advancing age may have given him appreciation for what older players bring to the game:
“I think when you look at the history of this game, it’s much harder to be Zeke’s age and have a real impact, than it is to be Sandra’s age. They’ve been a parent, they may have had ordeals and obstacles to overcome in life, and they have a different perspective. And I’m not afraid of age anymore. Maybe because I’m old.”
Speaking of the suits, Probst also reveals that bringing Ozzy back for a fourth time was not the production’s idea:
“There was a lot of battling for people in this season. We wanted 100 percent unity on our cast. That was the agreement we made. So that meant there were people battling for their person. ‘I want this person on!’ Well, then you better convince everybody. Varner, we had to convince CBS. Ozzy, CBS had to convince us. That’s the truth. And I like that because we hold each other accountable. We all care about this game and we want to make it great, so let’s challenge each other.”