UPDATED: 6/28/15 Kristi Russell answers more questions about Naked and Afraid XL, if more people will be cast on Naked and Afraid: Show Us What You’ve Got, secrets of Season 5, and the three things you have to prove to get cast on the show.
Discovery’s Naked and Afraid places two strangers in an isolated and extreme location to survive for 21 days with their wits, experience and little else. The two adventurers are completely nude and armed with one survival item each, and the two must work together and create strategies for survival.
This doesn’t sound like how I’d choose to spend my vacation, but nevertheless, I’m totally hooked on the show. I’m amazed by the volume of talented survival experts that they find, their willingness to accept nature’s punishment, and their lack of inhibition. Prancing naked in the wilderness seems like my worst nightmare. Too many bugs and not enough clothes.
But I guess the daunting locations and nudity aren’t as deterring for other fans of the show. “How do I sign up?” is a frequent question. In my search for Naked and Afraid casting and application info, I was led to Kristi Russell, president of Metal Flowers Media. Kristi and her staff cast a variety of reality programs, including Naked and Afraid. She shared insight into the casting process as well as tips and tricks for getting cast on Naked and Afraid, so if you’d like to be the next Jeff, Eva, Cass or Alison read along then apply!
What shows does Metal Flowers Media do casting for?
We do Hungry Investors for Spike, Bar Rescue, To Catch a Contractor, Naked and Afraid …we have approximately 10 shows that we’re casting at any one time, including some that I can’t mention.
We read every submission. We respond to every single comment. We have a very people-centric approach to casting, as we feel we have to. So anytime someone communicates with us, you’ll get a live response from someone on the phone. Or an actual email. We want to meet you!
Do casting directors from Metal Flowers Media go on location with the show?
No, those crews are very, very, very small. It’s very protected. In order to keep the experience as authentic as possible, that footprint is very light.
We are not actively engaged in the production process, we are on standby until the final episode is shot, due to the fact that we have a high attrition rate for some of these shows. Especially on a show like Bar Rescue, where the bar is in risk of closing its doors because it needs a rescue. A lot of time, a bar wont be able to stay open until the cameras start rolling and we’ll have to find a replacement. But in terms of stepping into the production once the cameras start rolling, and being on set, we remove ourselves from that process.
How long have you been involved in the casting of Naked and Afraid and what is the casting process like?
We’ve been involved since the very beginning from before it was even a series. Casting Naked and Afraid is a tough one. It is really difficult. It is both our most rewarding show but our most challenging show. First and foremost, any candidate who applies for Naked and Afraid must be a top-tier — almost elite — survivalist. The conditions that our cast members face when they get out there are harrowing.
Every time we meet with a candidate, we ask them, “Do you have what it takes to survive this? Can you get past the mental challenges that you’re going to face when you’re out there?” We implore them not to go. We really try to paint the picture of how remote, how desolate, and how challenging their environment will be. And every time, it’s a hearty, “Yes! I can do this. I don’t stop. Things don’t get in my way.” And we have found, interestingly, that those who are most adamant that they’re not going to quit, they’re the ones that we lose … so it’s tough.
First and foremost, they really have to have the survival chops to make it out there. And frankly, to not die. And if you’ve seen the show, you know all of the variables that can plague you. It’s not just lack of food; it’s not just lack of water. It’s the wildlife; it’s injuring yourself physically. It’s making one fractionally incorrect move that can put your life in danger, so we really need well-educated survivalists out there.
Do you have a pretty good gauge of who is going to succeed and who is going to fail?
We’re very surprised in the first season and also the top of the second season when a participant tapped out. As we moved into the bottom of the second season and we were still casting, we felt that we had sharpened our intuitive skills on who was going to make it out there.
We still get surprised…Alana, who was a Gucci sales woman, at a very high end department store, she certainly came with the survival potential and she definitely passed the PSR, we were all surprised that she kept moving forward in the process and then we all held out breath in hope, when she actually got on a plane and was chosen to be a cast member, and then she just thrived out there. She was such a strong candidate and there was nothing that could stop her.
So we continue to be surprised by the verve and fortitude that some of the candidate have when they get out there. And conversely — I don’t want to name names‑ but we are shocked by the people that we’ve lost recently.
Can you tell me about the first episode of Season 2, when a participant dropped out before shooting began? What was the scramble to find a replacement?
So that was one of our earliest episodes on Season 2, and we had top-loaded that season with some of our very strongest candidates and this individual was someone who we all high-fived and we all secretly looked at each other knowing that this was going to be a great episode and he was going to carry the show and he was going to be able to handle anything that went on out there and be able to pull his partner along if she were to falter.
They didn’t even start rolling cameras. He got to location and tapped out. He was like, “Where is the craft service table? What do you mean we stay here at night? Where is the hotel?” and we were like, “No dude, what you see on TV is the real deal.” And that was it. We were shocked.
And the production crew was all down there with cameras raised and ready to press record and we had no cast member. So there was a lot of conversation on what to do and how to move forward with this episode. Do we just send the female in there by herself to begin with? That didn’t seem fair to her, it also broke the format that we had been establishing during Season 1. So the call was made to find another candidate and get them down there as quickly as possible. They had to leave within 48 hours.
So was Tyler already cast on a future episode?
Correct, so if he had not been on that episode, he definitely would have been on a future episode.
When AK and Tyler both dropped out, how hard was it to convince EJ and Laura to do a second go round?
Well again it was the timing that was so crucial for us. They were earmarked as our top two choices if we were ever put in this situation. And coincidentally, they happened to be interested and available at a moment’s notice. So it was about 12 hours of utter fear but then it was one moment of utter relief when we found out that they were both on a plane and on their way.
What has casting Season 3 been like?
We are still vetting locations, and as you may imagine, it takes and army to figure out where we’re going to go. Once we fall in love with a location, there is a tremendous amount of work involved with the local authorities to make everything come together. It’s a really big puzzle that is solved as early as possible in the process because it takes really the most amount of work. We’re still vetting locations. I don’t have any locations to share now.
In casting people for Season 3, finding the survivalists is our top priority. So as far as personalities, that all comes second. We are just looking for individuals who believe that they have what it takes and can prove what it takes before they ever get there, to participate.
Do you cast participants with specific locations in mind?
Sometimes yes and sometimes no. If we have a pairing where one person if obviously stronger than the other, and that person knows the jungle much better than the desert, we’ll do our best to send them there to give them a chance to succeed. We want these people to make it. We’re all rooting for them. We definitely don’t want any bad to come to anybody.
Other times, the availability dictates where they’re going to go. If we have a candidate that we’re madly in love with but they teach a survival school and they only have a few weeks off, we’re kind of at their mercy so we put them in that slot. There are a lot of variables that dictate who is going to go where and when.
If people want to be cast on Naked and Afraid, or any of your shows, how should they apply?
We’re always accepting submissions. Casting has started up officially, so now is the time. This is when we’re paying the most attention and putting people on tape. We’ll be doing intense casting until the end of July. The Facebook page is the #1 place for people to get the most up to date information. Facebook.com/metalflowersmedia. All of our Naked and Afraid casting announcements are on there. All of the updates and information that candidates need about the show and about the casting process can be found there. Also, on metalflowersmedia.com there is a now casting page and we take submissions from there. Then there is a general casting inbox that is firstname.lastname@example.org and that’s a big submission warehouse for us for all Naked and Afraid candidates. So those three outlets will get people in the door.
Do you have a favorite Naked and Afraid cast member?
Oh gosh. I really loved Eva. I also loved Fernando. He stole out hearts. We had a hard time getting him on the show because he was such a nice person. And then he turned out to be that quality, that niceness turned out to be what saved that episode and what saved the two of them out there. So Fernando is very close to my heart.
If you’ve got what it takes to survive 21 days in the remote wilderness clad only in a smile and a well-placed tote bag, apply for Naked and Afraid here!
Updated: 6/28/15 Read my New Casting info for Naked and Afraid.