For its forthcoming reboot of The Mole, I’ve learned—major scoop!—that Netflix is following ABC’s footsteps, casting a broadcast journalist in the role of host.
Netflix’s revival of the beloved format filmed in Australia more than one year ago, and was finally officially announced last month, but Netflix gave next to no details about it.
We don’t even have a premiere date yet; we only know it’s coming sometime this fall, and not in September.
From my reporting, I do now know, however, who is hosting: Alex Wagner, who’s best known as a broadcast journalist, just like the three people who’ve hosted the U.S. version of the format before.
While Anderson Cooper is known now as a CNN anchor, before he hosted the first two seasons of ABC’s The Mole, he was an ABC News correspondent and anchor on the overnight World News Now. Prior to that, he reported stories around the world for Channel One.
After Anderson left for CNN—he was not a superfan of The Mole!—ABC hired sportcaster Ahmad Rashad to host both seasons of Celebrity Mole.
Sports journalist and anchor Jon Kelley hosted ABC’s 2008 revival of The Mole.
Who is Alex Wagner, host of The Mole’s Netflix reboot?
Netflix has not yet announced the new host, but I’ve independently confirmed with production sources that journalist Alex Wagner is the host.
Her social media hinted at this more than a year ago, when she posted about being abroad for a couple months last summer, which is when The Mole was filming in Australia, using the code name The Insider, produced by Eureka Productions, which also produces the great ABC show Holey Moley.
But it was her return image that was the most revealing. Alex posted a photo to Instagram of her in front of a barbed wire fence with cows behind it; one commenter asked if it was taken in New Zealand. Her caption:
Guys I’m back from being really far away for a really long time. There will be more explanations later, but let’s pretend that I’ll be better about social media now that I’m back in North America.
This year, in mid-August, Alex began hosting MSNBC’s Alex Wagner Tonight, which the network described as a show in which she “brings years of reporting experience to covering news, politics and culture.” It’s on weeknights except Monday, in the same timeslot as Rachel Maddow used to be, now that Rachel only hosts on Mondays now.
She’s also been a print journalist, writing for The Atlantic, and also wrote a memoir about her ancestry, and previously worked for CBS News and anchored CBS This Morning Saturday, in addition to hosting an MSNBC show in the early 2010s.
She may be best known, however, for co-hosting Showtime’s The Circus from seasons three to seven, and her presence on that show gives me a lot of confidence in her casting.
Alex was my favorite correspondent on The Circus, because of her combination of ease and earnestness, and that show is closer to The Mole than any regular TV news gig.
The Circus is not a standard news show; instead, its correspondents move across the country, embedding themselves in political events and interviewing people.
Its co-hosts also start most episodes over a meal, talking about the week’s events, and what they’ll be covering, so I think Alex can definitely handle The Mole’s mealtimes—which I hope will be part of the new season, because the dinners with Anderson Cooper were one of the reasons why I applied to The Mole back in 2001.
Like The Mole itself, the role of host is a balancing act between seriousness and humor, and requires both casual interaction with the players and being a taskmaster who oversees the tests. Sometimes that line blurs, as happened increasingly in The Mole season 2.
I’m excited to see what Alex brings to the role, and very excited to see how Netflix and Eureka have revived this all-time-great competition reality TV format.
Update, Sept. 8: One day after my report, Netflix announced Alex’s casting, and The Mole’s premiere date. (I had no idea they were announcing it today!)
Here’s Netflix’s bio for its Mole host:
Alex Wagner is the host of Alex Wagner Tonight, which airs Tuesday to Friday at 9pm on MSNBC. Prior to this, she was a co-host and executive producer of “The Circus,” Showtime’s Emmy-nominated weekly documentary series chronicling American politics. She was a contributing writer at The Atlantic, and is the author of Futureface, a critically-acclaimed memoir about identity and immigration.
Wagner is a former special correspondent with CBS News and co-host of CBS This Morning: Saturday. Prior to this, she was the host of the Emmy-nominated NOW with Alex Wagner on MSNBC. She was a reporter with the Huffington Post, where she covered innovation and the American economy, and also served as the White House Correspondent for AOL’s Politics Daily.
Wagner has hosted several podcasts, including Crooked Media’s Six Feet Apart, a limited-run series about the pandemic, as well as Podcast for America, Slate’s weekly political podcast, which she co-hosted with journalists Mark Leibovich and Annie Lowrey.
Earlier, Wagner was the executive director of Not on Our Watch, a grant-making and advocacy non-profit created to stop mass atrocities. Before that, she spent four years as the editor-in-chief of The Fader magazine, covering music and culture around the world.
Wagner attended Brown University and lives in New York City with her family.