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Survivor’s casting director, Lynne Spiegel Spillman, was fired, a former contestant says

Survivor’s casting director, Lynne Spiegel Spillman, was fired, a former contestant says
Survivor casting director Lynne Spiegel Spillman with Survivor host and showrunner Jeff Probst at a reception for casting director Emmy nominees on Sept. 7, 2017. (Photo by Television Academy)

Lynne Spiegel Spillman, Survivor and The Amazing Race‘s Emmy-nominated casting director, has been fired, according to a former Survivor cast member.

Spillman cast Survivor since season one, and the show’s diverse cast has always been one of its key strengths; it’s impossible to separate the show’s success from its characters, all the way back to Richard Hatch, Kelly Wiglesworth, Rudy Boesch, and Sue Hawk.

And while the show is in a definite slump and needs to change, that’s because it’s lost focus on cast members and the social game..

News of her exit comes from Shane Powers, who was a contestant on Survivor PanamaOn the latest episode of his podcast, he said he called Lynne to ask about how he could get cast for Big Brother—which, despite being a CBS reality show, is cast by someone else (Robyn Kass).

During that phone call, Shane said,

“She’s like, Well, I’ve been let go from Survivor. I’m like, What are you talking about, let go? You are Survivor! The casting—you are the fuckin’ show!

The show is not done, and this fuckin’ ragged douchebag Probst—and clearly this is all my opinion—she was super sweet, and toed the company line, and was respectful, and had nothing but nice things to say.”

Shane blamed this on Jeff Probst, who’s Survivor’s host and showrunner who’s in charge of the entire production.

While Shane was careful to say, “I don’t know if that’s what happened” and add other disclaimers, he referenced Probst’s restlessness with just being a host (Probst even quit Survivor in 2009) and said these things:

“I know what’s going on here—this is my opinion—Probst is an ego-maniac, and he doesn’t want anybody else getting credit for his show because he’s so empty and void because he’s never been able to get anything else going on in his life.”

“The problem with Jeff Probst is that he doesn’t have the chops to do anything other than what he knows how to do, which is this game show.”

Shane also said that, “five or six times, [Lynne] tried to get me back on the show and it never happened,” and that’s “because they don’t like me over there—the Burnetts and the Probsts.” He added, “She’s the greatest reality television casting director of all time” and said they’d “become friends over the course of 15 years.”

Listen to the podcast; the discussion about Lynne starts around 43 minutes in:

Casting director Lynne Spillman on what makes a good Survivor

I’ve reached out to Lynne to confirm this news, and to ask if she’d continue to cast The Amazing Race, which is  currently filming season 31. (Shane said he thinks she’s still casting TAR.)

Update: Lynne’s son tweeted a link to this story with the “A true pioneer in her field and an incredible 19 years,” along with 12 goat emojis. (And here is confirmation that he is her son; it was tweeted the same day as the Survivor Caramoan finale.)

Spillman has been casting Survivor since September 1999 and The Amazing Race since January 2000, according to her Linkedin page.

She also cast some other series for CBS, including Pirate Master, Kid Nation, Greatest American DogThere Goes the Neighborhood, and Jeff Probst’s short-lived reality series Live for the Moment.

Survivor Pearl Islands and Fans vs. Favorites cast member Jonny Fairplay tweeted that Lynne “changed my life forever and was the best thing #Survivor had. Everyone has their part, but she was the soul of the show”.

And season 32 cast member Nick Maiorano tweeted, “She’s THE gate keeper that changed ~570 lives and impacted millions more. Her efforts will never be forgotten or go unappreciated. To one hell of a 19-year run and hopefully… a comeback.”

In 2008, Lynne told me what makes the best Survivor contestants.

We also discussed why it was harder to find contestants despite having between 10,000 and 15,000 12,000 applicants per season.

Lynne also told me about how she is “the most annoying person to go out with,” because she’s always looking for possible cast members: “I never let anyone pass me by on the street, on the store, where I think there’s potential there, for any of the shows.”

Read the full Survivor casting interview. Also read my interview with her about casting Amazing Race.

Previously, Survivor lost the composer of its theme song, Russ Landau, who told me that he left—after Survivor Blood vs. Water—because “it got to the point where it wasn’t satisfying for them or me. I wasn’t getting to score. I was just putting music in a bin.”

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About the author

  • 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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