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'Survivor' host Jeff Probst: It was a battle to pick 'Game Changers' cast, CBS wants younger players like Ozzy Lusth


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 02/23/2017 

Survivor host Jeff Probst has revealed there was a tough negotiation between CBS and producers over which castaways should be brought back for its upcoming Game Changers season.

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"It's sometimes a battle with the network, because they want youth, and I'm often in the office saying, 'But, this is a better player. I don't care if they're 30, 40, 50, or 60. Who's the best player?'" Probst told Entertainment Weekly.

Survivor: Game Changers will feature the return of 20 former castaways that the show believes became known for risky, game-changing moves, and 12 of them are notably age 30 or older. Because all the castaways are veterans, they are naturally older than a typical cast of newbies. In some cases, the returnees have played multiple times.

After choosing a high school student to compete last season, the youngest person in the cast this time around is surprisingly 25-years-old, Michaela Bradshaw also from Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X.

When asked why older contestants are more likely brought back to play again, Probst told EW, "Honestly, I think because the older players are more seasoned in life."

Probst believes the older players tend to be more interesting and are therefore better candidates to receive a second, third or fourth chance. But the network doesn't necessarily agree with that theory, and according to the show's longtime host, the casting process was tedious.

"There was a lot of battling for people in this season," Probst said. "We wanted 100 percent unity on our cast. That was the agreement we made. So that meant there were people battling for their person: 'I want this person on!' Well, then you better convince everybody."

CBS and producers apparently argued over two memorable, fan-favorite players in particular -- Jeff Varner, 50, and Oscar "Ozzy" Lusth, 34.

"Varner, we had to convince CBS. Ozzy, CBS had to convince us. That's the truth," Probst revealed. "And I like that because we hold each other accountable. We all care about this game and we want to make it great, so let's challenge each other."

It's no secret there are pros and cons to casting people of a certain age. EW pointed out that younger players often look great in bathing suits, while older castaways frequently bring a lot of personality to the table.

"I think when you look at the history of this game, it's much harder to be [Zeke Smith]'s age and have a real impact, than it is to be [Sandra Diaz-Twine]'s age," Probst explained of 28-year-old Smith and 41-year-old Diaz-Twine.

"They've been a parent, they may have had ordeals and obstacles to overcome in life, and they have a different perspective. And I'm not afraid of age anymore. Maybe because I'm old."

Survivor: Game Changers will premiere with a special two-hour episode Wednesday, March 8 at 8PM ET/PT on CBS. The show's debut marks the franchise's milestone 500th episode. Survivor will then resume airing in its usual time slot of 8-9PM ET/PT beginning on Wednesday, March 15.

To learn more about the Survivor: Game Changers cast of returnees, click here.


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