Survivor's Casting Chaos
by Angel Cohn
Every year, thousands of Survivor fanatics film themselves doing outrageous things for the audition tapes they submit to the show. But do any of them really have a chance of landing on a desert isle?
Survivor: Palau's first ousted contestant, Wanda Shirk, told TVGuide.com that out of this season's original 20 players, seven people were cut and replaced with models from an agency who had not submitted audition tapes. Was the songbird of Palau blowing the whistle on a big cover-up? Or is she merely misinformed?
CBS casting director Lynne Spillman — who helps pick contestants for Survivor and The Amazing Race — insists it's the latter case. "[Shirk's assertion] is a completely false statement," she says. "Completely false. There was never an original 20 people cast. Wouldn't you be hearing from these 'other' seven that were 'originally' cast? There is no one on the show from a modeling agency. We don't use modeling agencies."
As for the players who allegedly told Shirk that they didn't get cast by submitting audition tapes, Spillman has a simple explanation. "We have never hidden the fact that we recruit people," she says. "I personally found Jonny Fairplay [from Survivor: Pearl Islands] on a bus-stop bench smoking a cigarette, and he just looked like such a character to me.
"But they still have to make an audition tape," she adds. "And the people who go to open calls technically didn't put their own tapes together, but they had a submission tape. So sometimes, if someone is asked that question, 'What did you do for your audition tape?', I guess the lingo [is confusing].
"Maybe [Wanda] misinterpreted what their answer was," Spillman continues. "They were all good-looking, and to her, that means model. So when they said that they didn't make a tape, it could have been an open call or they were recruited or whatever. There are a lot of the same types of people who apply season after season after season to Survivor — you have to go outside the box to find different people or you'd be looking at the same thousands of tapes every season."