July 08, 2007 12:01 AM by Joe Blackmon
While Boston Rob Mariano was in Nashville casting for Tontine, Reality
TV Magazine sat down with him for an exclusive one-on-one interview.
Several new reality TV shows launch every year, but very few have the
success of American Idol or the staying power of Survivor. However,
Tontine looks like it could set a new bar for all of reality
television. With a $10 Million prize, a 100 day competition that spans
7 continents, and one of the most successful stars in reality TV
history as host, Tontine could prove to be the best thing to happen to
reality TV since sixteen survivors competed for a million dollars on an
island off the coast of Borneo seven years ago.
Reality TV Magazine: Who came up with the idea for Tontine?
Boston Rob: I don’t know exactly. I was approached by the producers. It wasn’t me. I didn’t come up with the idea. I was approached to host the show, and it seemed like a great opportunity. I mean transitioning from reality TV show contestant to host for what is essentially going to be the biggest show in the history of reality television on a major network. It was a no-brainer for me.
Reality TV Magazine: Are you able to say what network it is on yet?
Boston Rob: At this time, I’m not at liberty to say. I’ve signed a non-disclosure.
Reality TV Magazine: But it’s definitely one of the big networks?
Boston Rob: Yes.
Reality TV Magazine: Do you have any ownership in the show?
Boston Rob: No, I’m just hosting the show.
Reality TV Magazine: What exactly will you be doing in your role as host? Will you be more like Phil [Keoghan] or Jeff [Probst]?
Boston Rob: A similar role, I play a similar role to that. I will travel with the contestants. They’re going to all seven continents for over a hundred days. I pretty much try to keep some order to the chaos, you know how these things get. I think the cool thing about me being a host is because I’ve competed before, I kind of know the ins and the outs and the tricks that the contestants try to play on the host, you know, trying to get away with every little thing, and they’re not going to get much past me, that’s for sure.
Reality TV Magazine: Are you going to be kind of like Jeff Probst is at times in pointing out stuff that happened and maybe even altering the outcome of the game?
Boston Rob: You know, there’s definitely, without giving away too much, there is going to be physical and mental challenges. There’s going to be obviously a travel element. And without a doubt, there’s going to be a strategic element. So you know, we try not to interfere too much, and even Jeff doesn’t, but there are some questions that are probing that you have to ask, and when the times right for that, I’ll do my job, and I’ll do it well.
Reality TV Magazine: Do you see the hosting as being something with a potential career path for you? Would you host Survivor or Amazing Race down the road?
Boston Rob: It’s been truly amazing, just everything that I’ve gotten to do and what this has turned into. If you look at the history of reality television contestants, I don’t think any of them have been as successful as Amber and I in terms of turning this into something. I could have never planned seven years ago when I went on Survivor for the first time that I would still be working in TV. Obviously, being asked to host a job on a new TV show on a major network is a pretty big deal, so I hope it does lead to big things.
Reality TV Magazine: So should Jeff Probst be looking over his shoulder?
Boston Rob: No, Jeff’s a good friend of mine. I don’t think he has anything to worry about.
Reality TV Magazine: What type of contestants are you looking to cast on Tontine?
Boston Rob: First and foremost, I think that the people that come out need to be themselves. And I’ve said this in other interviews, it’s just a well-known fact in reality TV, you may be able to fake who you are for an interview or even for a couple interviews, but over the course of the game, over a hundred days, your true self is going to come out, so being who you are is the most important thing. Obviously, we’re looking for Type A personality, outgoing, you know, big personality type people, people who have a sense of adventure, and the ability to think outside the box, and probably most importantly that realize that this is a game, and that will do whatever it takes to win. You know, we’re looking for the best of the best for this show.
Reality TV Magazine: On a lot of recent reality shows, the casts have consisted predominantly of twenty something actors/waiters and actresses/waitresses. One thing, I was kind of impressed with is that y’all are hitting cities all over the U.S. Can we expect to have a lot of diversity in the cast?
Boston Rob: We’re going to eight cities in eight weeks. Everywhere from like Dallas and New York and Boston and LA, the big cities, but we’re also hitting St. Louis, Nashville, Minneapolis, so we are looking for a cross section of America. The more competitive people, that’s what’s going to win out, the competitive people. Tontine is a show that is essentially derived out of combining everything that people love about their favorite reality shows. There’s a Survivor element. There’s an Amazing Race element. You know, all the big ones, we’ve brought them together and created a sort of super reality show. The most important thing I haven’t mentioned is first prize for this show is ten million dollars. It’s the largest single prize ever offered in the history of television, and I’m not talking about one person might win ten million dollars or has the opportunity. One person is going to win ten million dollars.
Reality TV Magazine: On the ten million dollars is it going to be paid out over years or is it like a suitcase full of cash?
Boston Rob: As far as I know, they are getting it all at once, minus the taxes of course, but it’s truly life changing money. It’s not like these shows where you win a million dollars, you pay your taxes, you buy your house, pay your bills, and you’re broke again. This is really set you up for life money.
Reality TV Magazine: Do you think physical fitness or mental strength will be more important with contestants?
Boston Rob: You’re going to have to have a combination of both. There’s going to be physical challenges, mental challenges, but you’re going to need to be well rounded. You have to be able to do well in both of those areas, as well as strategically, which is very important.
Reality TV Magazine: Do you think like an older person could win? Sometimes you see an elderly person on Amazing Race, and they struggle with physical challenges.
Boston Rob: Yeah, you know, it’s funny, you dangle ten million dollars in front of the old guy or the soccer mom, and you’d be amazed what comes out.
Reality TV Magazine: As you’ve mentioned, Tontine takes place on seven continents, including Antarctica. What kind of cost and trouble is involved with traveling down there and filming?
Boston Rob: The logistics of it, I mean, I’m not on the production end. I know that we’re going there. I know that we’re filming this show in the Fall, which is actually the Spring time in the Southern hemisphere, and last year in November when I was on the Amazing Race All Stars, we went to the Southern tip of Argentina, and we were about a hundred miles away from Antarctica, not even, you could see it from one island to the other, and it wasn’t too bad. It was like twenty-five or thirty degrees, so it wasn’t like there were fifty mile an hour below winds. We’re going there in essentially what is the cusp of their Summer, so just imagine what we’re going to be able to do in Antarctica for challenges, and people can say they went to Antarctica.
Reality TV Magazine: Tontine has 15 contestants and it lasts 100 days. Will all 15 contestants be there for the all 100 days or are there going to be eliminations every week?
Boston Rob: No, there’s an elimination element to it, and each contestant is going to be given a key at the beginning of the game. The key represents the ability to unlock part of the ten million dollar fortune, and they’re going to compete for each others keys. Essentially your key is your life in the game, and if you lose your key to another contestant, you’re out. In the end, the person that possesses all fifteen keys will be declared the winner.
Reality TV Magazine: How will contestants be eliminated from the show? Do they get kicked off for losing a challenge or is there some type of elimination vote?
Boston Rob: I don’t want to get into the whole logistics of everything that’s going to happen, but I can tell you that what we have planned is pretty intense competition, unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
Reality TV Magazine: Will the contestants that don’t win get anything? Will they get paid anything for like second place?
Boston Rob: Winner take all.
Reality TV Magazine: You’ve already done one casting call in Dallas. How did that go? Did you find anybody there that stood out?
Boston Rob: Yeah, we found a lot of good people in Dallas. You know we’re not going to make any final decisions on the casting until we go through the entire country. San Diego is our last city in August. We’ll go back, take a look at everybody, and we’ll narrow it down from there, and probably do secondary interviews from there.
Reality TV Magazine: What made you select Nashville as one of your casting cities?
Boston Rob: Nashville has always been great for Southern, middle America, working class people, and just great television. I mean you guys have that Nashville Star television show born out of here. You know, you have a very diverse group right here in Nashville with the whole music and the culture. You know, it’s something different that you don’t see in a lot of the big cities, so it’s definitely one of our top stops.
Reality TV Magazine: Is Amber going to be involved in the show in any way? Will she be traveling with you during shooting?
Boston Rob: No, currently she’s not involved in the show, but I’m sure she’s not going to let me go gallivanting the world for 100 days alone, so I’m sure she’ll try to come out and visit some of the nicer places, probably not Antarctica, but maybe when we hit like Europe or something, she may show up in my hotel room. She’d be happy supporting me however, you know, whenever one spouse takes on a job of this magnitude, you really need the support of your wife, and luckily for me, Amber’s always been there for me.
Reality TV Magazine: How do you think Tontine will do in the ratings? Could you see it taking on American Idol?
Boston Rob: This is going to be like literally the single biggest reality show that’s ever been produced, ever conceived, so if you think about how Survivor was when it first came out or how the Race was, you’re going to have all that hype leading up to this, and then we’re hoping that it’s the biggest thing that’s ever been done. It’s the biggest thing that’s ever been undertaken, we’re hoping that the response is that big.
Reality TV Magazine: Other than the $10 million prize, what else makes Tontine different or better than other reality TV shows?
Boston Rob: It’s the only show that’s ever been done on all seven continents. It’s not like the Race where they go to a few each time. It’s the longest show in the history of production. Survivor is 39 days. Tontine is three times as long, and it’s ten times the biggest prize that’s ever been offered. Other than that,I mean it’s basically like these other shows on steroids,
Reality TV Magazine: And you’re hosting it,
Boston Rob: Yeah, and the fact that I’m hosting it. It’s just going to be a lot of fun, man.
Reality TV Magazine: There’s been rumors going around about another Survivor All-Stars being in the works? Have you been approached about it or would you do another season of Survivor?
Boston Rob: You know, I think I’ve proven myself in Survivor. I didn’t win, but I came pretty close. I don’t know that I would want to put my body through that again for a million. I’ll tell you if I was asked to compete on Tontine, I’d probably do it in a heartbeat, and when they first approached me about hosting this show inside I was dying to be a contestant. Survivor was great to me, and I had an amazing experience and got everything that I ever think I wanted to get out of it, so as far as Survivor and the Race go, I’ve done them both twice, and I don’t really feel like I have anything more to prove.
Reality TV Magazine: There was also an Internet rumor that you and Amber were going to be on Big Brother. Would y’all ever do Big Brother?
Boston Rob: Lot of rumors on the Internet. No, traveling the world for 100 days as a host is one thing, sitting in a house locked up with people I don’t know for what is it three months is something completely different. No, I have no desire to do Big Brother.
Reality TV Magazine: Are there any castmates from Survivor or Amazing Race that you keep in touch with?
Boston Rob: There are a few. Peter Harkey from the first season of Survivor. The guy that actually got voted off first in my season is from Massachusetts. Whenever I go home to Boston, we go out to dinner or hang out together. I talk to Sean [Rector] from my season, but for the most part,John Vito from the Amazing Race I speak with pretty regularly, when I go to New York I see him,that’s about it. Survivor All Stars, a lot of people, half the Survivor All Stars couldn’t get past the fact that it was a game and took a lot of what happened real personal. I don’t know if it was just bad feelings or jealousy, but it never really materialized to the point of continued friendships. I mean with these shows in general, like my motto was I’m not going into these things to make friends, I’m going in to try to win the game. The ultimate irony there is that not only did I make a friend, but I made my best friend and the girl that I married. Reality TV has given me a lot, and I’m grateful for it. I’m excited about this next stage. Like I said, making that transition from contestant to host is something that really hasn’t been done, not on a major network in a real big primetime show, and I was honored to be asked, and I’m excited to do it. I mean that’s part of the reason why I’m actually traveling the country this Summer doing the casting call is that I want to be actively involved in the contestants that we choose.
Reality TV Magazine: Will you be at the casting call in every city?
Boston Rob: I’m going to every city.
After that last question, the tape ran out on our recorder. Boston Rob smiled and said “You see how I timed that perfectly.” Reality TV Magazine also attended the casting call for Tontine, which was held at the Cool Springs Galleria in a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee. The Tontine set-up was impressive with an armored vehicle parked outside and a large display inside that included space for contestants to audition directly in front of Boston Rob and the casting agents. Pictures from the Nashville casting are included below. To learn more about Tontine and upcoming casting calls, visit their official website at http://www.jointhetontine.com/