THR Emmy Roundtable: Randy Jackson, Gordon Ramsay and Other Reality Stars on Bad Contestants and Biggest Regrets
Tom Bergeron, Phil Keoghan, Heidi Klum and Padma Lakshmi also dish on tragedies on the set, awkward product placements, and the moments they wish had never aired.
Being a veteran in business dominated by scandals and sex tapes deserves kudos on its own. To create more than 10 seasons of family-friendly, Emmy-nominated content? Truly surreal. Representing their genre's best, the six contenders here -- Dancing With the Stars' Tom Bergeron, 58; American Idol's (departed) Randy Jackson, 56; The Amazing Race's Phil Keoghan, 46; Project Runway's Heidi Klum, 40; Top Chef's Padma Lakshmi, 42; and Gordon Ramsay, 46, of Hell's Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares and MasterChef -- dish freely about the strange and hilarious moments that keep them coming back for more.
The Hollywood Reporter: Has there been a moment where you sensed a contestant had been pushed too far, and how did you handle that particular moment?
Tom Bergeron: When Marie Osmond fainted, and I called for the paramedics. When a contestant actually loses consciousness, I think that's a good sign.
Randy Jackson: It might be time to say, "Well, maybe they went a little too far."
Gordon Ramsay: Yeah, I think pressure's healthy, and very few can handle it. Pushing them to the extreme is part of the reason why they're there, to get that kind of magic.
Jackson: It's part of the competition, too.
Ramsay: Also to separate the cream from the milk and to identify who's got it and who hasn't got it.
Jackson: Yeah, because that's what it's about. Honestly, on our show, you're going to get a chance to win, or come in the top 10 or top 20, and you're going to jump into that great brass ring with all of your idols and compete some more. So you love Rihanna, you love Mariah [Carey], you love Nicki [Minaj], you love Jay-Z, you love Justin Timberlake -- guess what? OK, you won, now go and compete with them with your record. You think there's pressure on the show? Get ready!
Padma Lakshmi: The pressure brings out more creativity for a lot of our chefs. I think that pressure is also very revealing about what kind of person that chef is. Sometimes, they'll push themselves too far. They will take on more than they can actually execute, given the time constraints and the budget.
Heidi Klum: I'm always surprised when they start complaining. I'm like, "Really? You stood in a line to be part of this, now you're here, and you're tired? Really? Go home and be tired. You're here." And then they say, "We really only have one day to complete this challenge?" I'm like, "How many times did you watch this show?" "Yeah, but we thought this is TV time."
Phil Keoghan: That is the show. What we're all trying to do is, essentially, take all this potential energy, put it in a pressure pot, heat up the pot and see what happens. We have all the ingredients for pressure, and we're watching to see what's going to happen when the heat goes up.
Bergeron: That's why there's not a show set at a spa. Who the hell wants to watch a bunch of people at a spa? They're all relaxed, and nobody's competing.
Ramsay: But it's not really pressure.
Jackson: "If you can't stand the heat, get out the damn kitchen." Right?
THR: The unscripted industry has experienced a series of unfortunate events because of unsafe conditions. What kind of responsibility do you all feel as producers or hosts?
Ramsay: You take it personally. There was a tragic incident with a chef who sadly took his life. It was nothing to do with the program, Kitchen Nightmares; it was just a terrible state that he was going through and a level of pressure [that he was under]. You know, you see that kind of environment, and you get so close to them, and then when you're out of there, you want them to stay in that normality. But I think it's about them being open and honest prior to entering that kind of circus. We do background checks, every network has to go through that parade, but we're not there six months prior. We're there for a week, and so they have to open up, and if they don't give you the bare bones of what the issues are, then no matter what happens, whether it's six months or six years later, if a crew was there, and you're part of that, then you're part of the bigger picture and the headline. It's awkward, but you take it personally.
Bergeron: I wonder, too, because the four of you, unlike Phil and myself, your shows deal with people trying to pursue careers. Andy Dick doesn't want to become a professional ballroom dancer, and nor should he. And after they're done with the race, they're back to their life.
Keoghan: You're absolutely right. They're coming in there for that experience, and one of the things that we've prided ourselves on is testing and retesting our challenges. I don't worry about the teams doing any challenge on our show because it's been so thoroughly tested over and over and over again. The thing I worry about is when they're just doing something ordinary like ending up in a taxicab in India. There is a potential for something to go wrong because it's not something that we can control.
Jackson: Last season on Idol, we were in Hollywood, and we had like three people in a row just drop from the stage and pass out, hit the floor. This one girl, she's going up to sing, and she just falls in front of us, and you're just like, "Oh my God, what is happening?" The doctors are all there, and we took it personally. You have to stay hydrated!