Survivor host and executive producer Jeff Probst recently spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about how the coronavirus pandemic has affected filming of the hit reality series and how the recent calls for racial justice and inclusion will impact the show’s casting.
In a typical year, the Survivor production crew would be in Fiji right now, wrapping up the second season of its filming cycle. But the rapid spread of COVID-19 caused production to be shut down indefinitely back in April, leaving the future of Survivor up in the air.
“Shooting in a foreign country is exponentially more complicated, and we are still exploring ,” Probst told THR’s Kirsten Chuba. “I’m on the phone every couple of days, either with the government of Fiji or with our executive teams that are in charge of logistics and planning.”
Last month, Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama announced details of “Phase 2” of Fiji’s COVID-Safe Economic Recovery, which included new safety protocols for film productions.
“Cast and crew won’t even be allowed to board their plane without proof of a negative COVID-19 test and will be screened for symptoms both before boarding and upon landing,” explained Bainimarama. “They’ll then be entered into government-designated quarantine—whether that’s a preapproved hotel or a remote isolated island—for the mandatory 14-day period.”
Despite the new safety measures, however, no firm agreement has been made on when Survivor will resume production. “We’re continuing to lay out ideas,” said Probst. “We don’t have a plan yet. It’s what we’re spending all our time doing because it’s not like we’re going to Atlanta to shoot a show.”
Bainimarama also revealed that production companies entering Fiji will bear the costs of all quarantine and testing. There is also a freeze on all tax rebates for film productions—Survivor usually receives a 45% rebate for shooting in Fiji.
“They’ve done an incredible job of controlling the virus,” Probst said of Fiji. “They’ve had a total of only 15 cases in their entire country, and they’ve had no active cases for months.”
Fiji has actually had 18 recorded cases, but zero deaths, according to data from the World Health Organization, and no new cases have been diagnosed since April.
“They have figured out how to handle it, and they just want to ensure that when we come shoot there, we don’t change that,” Probst continued. “We’re working together with them, but they’ve been very production-friendly in terms of wanting it to happen.”
Yesterday, Inside Survivor sources revealed that season 41 will not begin filming until AT LEAST September, with season 42 being moved to early 2021.
The Emmy Award-winning host was also asked about the Black Lives Matter movement and if the show’s casting will reflect the recent calls for racial inclusion. Last month, former Survivor contestant J’Tia Taylor launched a petition calling for more racial diversity in the show’s casting, filming, editing, and promoting.
“Survivor should reflect and honor the racial diversity of our society both in front of and behind the camera… We call on the executive producers of this show to use their influence within ViacomCBS, MGM Television, Survivor Production LLC, Castaway Production LLC and all others involved in the making of this great show,” reads the petition, which currently has over 5000 signatures and is supported by many Survivor alumni.
“The entire culture is in a beautiful upheaval, and our job is to respond to it to make sure that Survivor continues to reflect our culture and our behavior and how we’re interacting with each other,” said Probst. “Everything that’s happening is going to inform the future of Survivor.”
In terms of how Survivor will look in the immediate future, Probst explained it’s the show’s job to “use this format to explore new ways to examine how we’re behaving as people and how we’re relating to each other.”
He continued: “There are all kinds of things happening in the world right now—certainly they impact the physical aspects of production, but they’re also going to change the tone and subject matter of a lot of shows. I think Survivor‘s going to be one of those shows.”
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