Jeff Probst on the Future of 'Survivor' Amid Pandemic, Calls for Racial Inclusion

Jeff Probst on How the Pandemic Will Change Survivor- H 2020
Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ; Amy Graves/Wireimage

The host discusses safety concerns for the internationally shot reality show and how the Black Lives Matter movement will affect casting.

After 20 years and 40 seasons of hosting the CBS hit Survivor, Jeff Probst is being honored by the Critics Choice Real TV Awards with its Impact Award. He didn't get his award in person; the 2020 event was canceled in favor of a June 29 press release. But that's fine with Probst. He explained why in an interview with THR, where he also discussed the future of Survivor amid the coronavirus pandemic and how the Black Lives Matter movement will affect casting.

How do you feel about receiving an award this way rather than at an in-person show?

I'm actually much more comfortable receiving an award virtually than I would be in person. As much as I love the recognition, I don't like being the center of attention. This is a perfect scenario for me: I don't have to leave my living room, but I can pat myself on the back all day.

What does the immediate future of Survivor look like now?

Our job is to use this format to explore new ways to examine how we're behaving as people and how we're relating to each other. There are all kinds of things happening in the world right now — certainly they impact the physical aspects of production, but they're also going to change the tone and subject matter of a lot of shows. I think Survivor's going to be one of those shows.

What types of safety measures are you discussing?

Shooting in a foreign country is exponentially more complicated, and we are still exploring them. I'm on the phone every couple of days, either with the government of Fiji or with our executive teams that are in charge of logistics and planning. We're continuing to lay out ideas. We don't have a plan yet. It's what we're spending all our time doing because it's not like we're going to Atlanta to shoot a show.

Fiji, where you're filming next, just declared itself COVID-19-free.

They've done an incredible job of controlling the virus. They've had a total of only 15 cases in their entire country, and they've had no active cases for months. They have figured out how to handle it, and they just want to ensure that when we come shoot there, we don't change that. We're working together with them, but they've been very production-friendly in terms of wanting it to happen.

With the current push for racial justice and inclusion, how will that impact your casting going forward?

The entire culture is in a beautiful upheaval, and our job is to respond to it to make sure that Survivor continues to reflect our culture and our behavior and how we're interacting with each other. Everything that's happening is going to inform the future of Survivor.

How'd you like filming May's season finale from your garage?

That was really fun. It became a question of, "How are we going to do it?" And our art department threw out the idea, "What if we built a mini tribal council and just shipped it to you — like a Lego set — and you put it together in your garage?" That's exactly what they did. It would say, "Log A connects to Plant B." My son Michael, who's 16 and was a Lego kid, and I put it together in the garage. I loosely include myself. He did most of the work.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

This story first appeared in the July 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.