In a recent interview with Us Weekly, Skye Topic discussed some Challenge casting practices and secrets. Skye, who has my dream job, is a casting producer for The Challenge. She shared some insight, but she also seems to have ruffled a few feathers with some answers.
While some of the things she said are unpopular, they’re also kind of obvious. When it comes to casting, the objectives are hidden in plain sight.
Firstly, she revealed there are always 6-10 alternates on board for each Challenge. We’ve known this for a long time, as we’ve seen replacements come in from time to time. It’s also an obvious requirement in the age of COVID because production wants to make a safe bubble for the cast. This means anyone who is sick may need to be replaced.
While some popular people have become alternates, this is not shocking information. Skye also says there are alternate alternates, so the casting pool can get quite big.
Then, she began talking about the new casting pools. She admits that casting has become a massive job because they’re casting from multiple shows across the globe. At this point, anyone can be considered. When they were just pulling from The Real World, she would need to watch the show to consider who would fit into The Challenge world. Now, they have such a huge casting pool that they can’t watch every show to comb through all the reality personalities.
While some people are upset by all the random names, there is no denying that some fan favorites have come from international recruiting. Kyle and Big T seems to be some of the new regulars, and they have a lot of fans. There’s also no denying that some controversial people have been cast on the show thanks to this directive. People are getting kicked out of the franchise at an alarming rate nowadays.
Skye also mentions that an all-veterans season would never work. The show needs rookies, and fans don’t know they love a new personality until the person is introduced. There is a lot of truth to this, though the issue has been very prominent on recent seasons. Double Agents had ten rookies and very few will be part of season 37. It seems that cast members now are disposable if they don’t resonate with fans immediately.
Many fans are quick to point to All Stars, proving an all old-school cast can work. While this is true, eventually old schoolers will dry up and become less interesting. Skye even cites Theresa and Darrell on Double Agents as exciting players. This is only because of their time away from the show, and the same phenomenon is present in the bulk of All Star players. But, they’re casting from a very finite pool, and the level of excitement can’t be sustained with All Stars after a few seasons.
It’s also true that veterans eventually leave the show. There are times when it was hard to cast seasoned favorites. The direction of The Challenge has been in jeopardy in the past. This can be seen during seasons like The Inferno 3 and Rivals 3. We need new blood to keep the show going.
Perhaps the most controversial conversation was her love of Josh. She believes he’s a valuable cast member, and someone who fans may appreciate over time. Currently, she knows Josh gets a lot of hate. Personally, Skye loves him.
While I can’t speak to production’s opinions on specific people, I know Josh is not the first person to receive this treatment. Production needs to strike a balance between the people fans love and the people who drive storylines. The show needs villains, so some unpopular people get cast.
I’ve watched the show for decades and watched some people receive hate during early seasons but that turned to love as their tenure on The Challenge progresses. Take Nelson for example, who did five consecutive seasons without a lot of love. Then, he volunteered in Cory’s place during the final elimination on Total Madness. After that move and his time on Double Agents, people have found a lot of respect for him.
Skye even claims she has to cast people who are difficult to work with because she knows they make for good TV. She tries to remove production favoritism from the casting process, but clearly some decisions favor production over fans.
I certainly don’t want to defend all of production’s decisions, but nothing Skye said is a surprise to me. Personally, I think production needs to stop casting so many unknown competitors when we’ve seen dozens of rookies disposed after a single season in the past few years. Casting needs to focus less on the “rookie” and “veteran” split. The intermediate players need more attention. People who have done 1-4 prior seasons don’t seem to be getting much love, but there’s a lot of potential with these people.
I can also understand why production is making changes, but the show is becoming unrecognizable. Soon, especially after the pandemic, they need to reevaluate the show’s direction before the veterans retire and the veteran fans stop tuning in.