Here's How MTV Casts 'The Challenge,' According to a Show Exec
Curious how to get on ‘The Challenge’? Here's everything you need to know about the casting call process for MTV’s long-running show. Details inside.
It feels like MTV's The Challenge has been on since we were kids, which actually isn't too far off from the truth. The series has been on the air for a whopping 34 seasons, and shows no signs of slowing down. At this rate, expect to be watching The Challenge with your grandkids and great-grandkids.
Season 34 has as its theme War of the Worlds 2, a reprise of the season that Turbo won just a few months ago.
And chances are that if you've been tuning in to The Challenge, you might be wondering how exactly the show is cast.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about The Challenge's casting call process.
Does MTV have a casting call for The Challenge?
Johnny Bananas and his group of repeat veterans have been on The Challenge since practically the beginning of time, which begs the question of how exactly MTV casts the show. Do the producers come up with the theme of each season or the cast of characters first?
According to The Challenge's executive producer Scott Freeman, it's the former. "It's usually the theme first," Scott told E! News back when Season 32's Final Reckoning was hitting the air.
But some themes that rely heavily on the competitors like Exes, for example, can make it so both theme and casting blend together.
When they opt for an Exes or Rivals-themed season, the structure of the season informs the casting process. MTV "may double-check and just make sure that the pairings that we want, that would be really good for it, are available."
Scott explained, "If we want to put, say, Bananas and Wes [Bergmann] as a team and for some reason Wes can't do it or at the last minute something comes up, I'm like, 'Uh oh. I have Bananas and I need to find someone for him.' In the past, we've had to lose some good people out of our casting roster because their partner couldn't do it."
Executives say the casting process is easier when the competitors are in the game as individuals than when they play as partners or teams.
When there's a season like Free Agents where the cast competes as individuals, it takes a lot of the burden off of casting, Scott shared.
"We can just cast whoever we want and not have to worry that I can only have you if that person is also there," he said. "You don't need to match up." That's when it helps to come up with the theme first, so that you can curate the characters from the Challenge roster.
For example, when casting the milestone 30th season, Dirty 30, producers knew they were only looking for "the more conniving, clever people in Challenge history." Thankfully, CT and Bananas made the cut.
Scott enjoys the task of coming up with new themes for recent seasons, though War of the Worlds II is obviously just a reprise of Season 32. "It's fun to create new [themes]," he continued in his conversation with E!, "to surprise the audience and cast."
"Our favorite thing is when the cast hears it and goes, 'Oh my god! We didn't see that one coming!'" Scott said of the moment when TJ Lavin introduces the theme on the first day of filming. "We'll even see Bananas go, 'Hmmm...' He has that look like, 'You even surprised me! Well played!'"
But speaking of Bananas, Scott adds that a major concern for MTV is not having the cast burn out after filming so many seasons. "We don't want to burn people out by having them go from show to show so fast. A lot of it is just being ready and getting the wheels turning so that when the time comes... we're already ahead of the game."
Watch Season 34 of The Challenge: War of the Worlds 2 Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on MTV.