"Putting on a front doesn't work, as our process is designed to sniff out anyone who isn't being authentic," says the host and executive producer.
SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

It started with a simple enough question: Who has surprised you out on the island on Survivor 43? The question was posed to Jeff Probst. But what we got back from the host and executive producer was not merely a name or two from the current cast, but rather a rare sneak peek into the entire casting process that hopefuls go through to end up on the show.

"One of the most fascinating and enjoyable aspects of producing Survivor is the casting process," Probst tells EW. "It's so much fun! We get to meet so many truly amazing people and learn about their lives." Okay, but what about the process itself? "Typically, it goes like this," says Probst. "We hop on Zoom, and they start to tell us about their lives. I often spend the first few minutes thinking the same thing… 'How have they already done so much at such a young age, and what was I doing when I was 24!??'"  

Survivor 43 Jeff Probst
'Survivor' host Jeff Probst
| Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

Of course, that is just the first step. "If they continue onto the next round," continues Probst, "they meet our psychologists, and that can get pretty deep pretty fast." Probst explains what they are looking for in these interviews while also offering some key advice to future applicants.

"Our only intention is to get to know who they really are," says the host. "It's one of the things I try to stress to people who are applying to be on Survivor. You don't have to be anything other than who you are. It sounds so simple but it's the absolute truth. You do not need an emotional underdog story, you do not need to be the funniest person in the room, you don't need to have a college degree, you don't need to be anything other than you." 

The host also has a warning for those who may enter the casting phase trying to act like someone they aren't: "Putting on a front doesn't work anyway, as our process is designed to sniff out anyone who isn't being authentic."

Survivor 43 gallery
The cast of 'Survivor' 43
| Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

So how does what producers see during casting match up to how people act once they get onto the show and into the game? "By the time we get out to the island, we know a lot about each player," Probst explains. "But all that really does is allow us to build a theory on how they might respond once the game begins. Survivor is a very unique experience, and we can never fully predict how each player will handle the various elements because they've never done anything like this!"

Okay, so back to the original question. Who has surprised Probst with how they have played out on the island? "We've been pleasantly surprised by a number of people this season," says the host. "Cody has surprised with his level of cleverness. Gabler has surprised with his ability to go with the flow and play the fool when necessary. Jeanine has surprised with her resilience, both physically and emotionally.  We were also surprised at Karla's initial fear of taking the Beware Advantage. We anticipated she would attack out of the gate, but instead she is playing a more subtle, but strong game."

Probst's overall take on the season 43 cast? "As a group I really am happy with how the season is going. Survivor is hard and every player out there is giving 100%. That's all we can ever ask of anyone."

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SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Strangers starve themselves on an island for our amusement in the hopes of winning a million dollars, as host Jeff Probst implores them to "DIG DEEP!"

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