Twenty former Survivor winners will do battle for the show’s biggest prize ever when Survivor: Winners at War premieres Feb. 12 on CBS. The theme and cast list were revealed at the end of the Dec. 18 finale/reunion for Survivor: Island of the Idols. Sandra Diaz-Twine and Boston Rob Mariano, who appeared in season 39 as mentors, will both be returning to play for the now two-million-dollar prize, along with other champions going all the way back to season 3 in Survivor: Africa winner (and two-time cancer survivor) Ethan Zohn. (Full cast list below).
EW was on location for the anniversary season and got some thoughts from host Jeff Probst about what to expect in season 40.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’ve been resistant in the past towards doing an all-winners season. What turned you around on doing it now?
JEFF PROBST: Okay let me set the record straight! I was never resistant to the appeal of an all winners season. My doubt came from iconic popular winners like Parvati, Yul, Rob, Amber, Tyson, Dani telling us they would never play again. If you don’t have some of these popular earlier winners, then it’s hard to pull off the idea.
So one day, I was in a meeting with Kelly Kahl, the president of CBS who asked, “Have you asked them recently?” It made me laugh, because the question was so obvious and so smart. We started calling people and instead of “no way” we heard a lot of “hmm… maybe.” And from that point forward it was full steam ahead. That single question turned everything around. As a result, we have the greatest cast of winners you could ever dream would have said yes!!
Edge of Extinction is returning for season 40. Why did you all decide to bring that twist back for this installment?
Ah yes, the Edge. Full disclosure: Nearly every single winner asked how we could ensure they would have a legitimate shot at winning. So we just said — let’s do a second chance season. We’ll tell everyone upfront that they know they’ll have at least one more shot to get back in the game. And the other reason we liked the idea is because this is not only an all-winners season, this is also 20 of the most popular Survivors of all time. Watching them try to survive on Extinction will be fun. And make no mistake, they will have to work their butts off for anything they get.
You doubled the prize to $2 million for this season. Was there any difficulty behind the scenes in securing that increased prize money and did the higher stakes impact the intensity out there?
That was a CBS decision and they never hesitated. They’ve been very supportive and excited about this season. They know what a milestone it is for Survivor to reach its 20th year and 40th season. We all want to celebrate! And I need to say it again, this season only happens because 20 former winners all said yes. We don’t have this season without them.
Anything else you can share at this point about Survivor: Winners at War?
I think we should leave some stuff for the future, but I do feel like it’s worth sharing that the title is very appropriate. It’s a war. Every. Single. Player. Came. To. Play. We’ve never had a season like this and I can’t imagine we ever will again. If you have a friend who doesn’t understand how you are still watching Survivor… this is a great season to introduce them to it. They won’t be disappointed.
THE CAST OF SURVIVOR: WINNERS AT WAR
Winner of Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X
Amber Mariano (formerly Amber Brkich)
Winner of Survivor: All-Stars
Winner of Survivor: Heroes v Healers v Hustlers
Winner of Survivor: Guatemala
Winner of Survivor: Philippines
Winner of Survivor: Africa
Winner of Survivor: Cambodia — Second Chance
Winner of Survivor: One World
Winner of Survivor: Kaoh Rong
Winner of Survivor: San Juan del Sur
Winner of Survivor: David vs. Goliath
Winner of Survivor — Micronesia: Fans vs. Favorites
Boston Rob Mariano
Winner of Survivor: Redemption Island
Winner of Survivor: Pearl Islands and Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains
Winner of Survivor: Game Changers
Winner of Survivor: South Pacific
Winner of Survivor: Cagayan
Winner of Survivor: Blood vs. Water
Winner of Survivor: Ghost Island
Winner of Survivor: Cook Islands
Also make sure to check out our Survivor: Winners at War cast gallery, and for more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.
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