by Keith Davis, USANetwork.com
Another exciting season of everyone's favorite guilty pleasure, Temptation Island, is underway and we can't wait to see what unfolds as the couples put their relationships to the ultimate test. Will they stay or will they stray?
Temptation Island host Mark L. Walberg had a front-row seat to all of the drama, from the awkward introduction of the couples and singles, to the nerve-racking bonfires. We recently sat down with the venerable host to talk about what we should expect on Season 2 of Temptation Island.
USANetwork.com: What's it like to host a show like Temptation Island?
Mark L. Walberg: I did the original about twenty years ago and that was before reality TV was reality TV. So we were sort of feeling our way around. It's an interesting ride. It looks like a dating show, like the other dating shows, but it ends up being a much deeper deal than that.
USA: Do you get the sense that the couples that come on the show are truly trying to figure out their relationships and build on them?
Mark: Well, yeah, I get that sense, but I don't think that's exclusive to just these couples. I think a lot of young couples are grappling with the question, "is there something better for me out there?" What I tell them is that you come to the Island with this list of questions and what you think your issues are as a couple, and usually their issue is with the other person. I'm constantly telling them, you're going to find the answers, but your questions are all going to change because it's not about the other person, it's about you and your own personal growth.
Blog: Meet The Couples
USA: During the bonfires, you can kind of tell when the couples aren't expressing their full feelings. How do you know when there are emotions being hidden and you need to pull more from them?
Mark: I tell them at the very beginning, I know you think this is a TV show, but for me, I'm buying what I'm selling. This is not a TV show. It's a TV show for me, but I'm committed to you guys getting out of this what you want. So if I sense at all that they're being less than authentic or they may think it's their truth, but they're not digging deep enough, I feel like it's my duty to kind of dig harder. I tell them "Look, I love you guys, but sometimes there's going to be tough love and I'm not going to pull punches because that robs you of an experience." So, I'm a little out of my depth in that I'm just a game show host, but I do have some life experience and I roll with it as best I can and hope for the best.
USA: Are the bonfires as the scary as they look?
Mark: For them, it's really, really scary. For me, it's a little nerve-racking too because we're kind of flying without a net. Before the bonfires, I sit up there as the sun setting, actually as it's setting, with one of the executive producers, and we kind of talk about where we think everybody is, what do we think is where we should go with this? But I don't see the clips and we don't really have a script.
USA: You're walking into the bonfires kind of open?
Mark: That's the best way to say it. Not unprepared, but open without necessarily a roadmap. I know I got a few opening questions I'm going to ask that they want me to ask, but after that, and especially after the clips are shown, I'm listening.
USA: So you're seeing the clips at the same time that they're seeing them?
Mark: That's exactly right. I don't see them beforehand. Sometimes I have an idea of what's in them, but I don't watch them. I just try to pick up on body language or whatever they're saying so I can say, "Hey, all right, listen, you know, this isn't about facts. It's not about trying to find out did someone cheat or not. It's about what does it bring up for you."
You know when you're separated on the island, you don't have the option of working on the other person, right? That's their trip. All you can work on is you. So I say to them, "Look, by seeing this, whether that's a real moment or not, what does it bring up emotionally? What are you feeling? Because in that is the answer." I'm constantly saying to them, "What does love look like to you? Because that's what you've got to figure out. What is it you want? before you can get what you want, you've got to know what it is before you can get it."
USA: Without spoiling the show, is there anything that happens that truly shocked you this season?
Mark: Oh! Oh my God! As a matter of fact, at one point I apologized to one of the girls by saying, "Look, I judged you too soon, your actions at the beginning of the show, this experience, I was pretty sure that you weren't being authentic. And now that I see that..." There's a lot of back story that goes this and I had to check myself a little bit.
I will tell you that I've got a guy who I end up holding in my arms like a child as he sobs on my shoulder, which you don't normally get to see in a game show host. So it's deep.
Watch: See what to expect on Season 2 of Temptation Island
USA: What's one of the big differences between season one and season two?
Mark: Well, this is what I love about this show. There is no prize here. There's no competition. It's not a game. So you don't have to change a thing about the show and it's entirely different based on the relationships that are in the new season. So it takes the shape of the four couples that come to the island and the singles.
So this one starts off, out of the box, far sexier than it should have been. Matter of fact, I said to the producers, "Too much, too soon! What do we do about that?" But what you'll then see is this transformation, specifically with the women, that I don't want to give away too much, but they become empowered. They start to remember or learn for the first time, what they value and what they need in a relationship to be happy. And I'm really proud of that. I think that how they grew... you're going to love it. It's pretty phenomenal.
USA: Do you have a sense early on who you think is going to leave the Island together and who's not?
Mark: You know what? I know enough to know that I don't know. Last season I was sure Shari and Javen weren't going to make it through the night and they ended up engaged. But that actually stumbles onto the root of it. Whether they want it or not, whether that was the intention of coming to the Temptation Island or not. What happens over the month that they're there is transformation. You're going to either evolve or devolve. So the person you meet at the final bonfire is not the person I met on the beach. And I got to leave room for that because growth happens and people become different. They look different, physically different. And that's how it goes down.
USA: When the singles first meet the couples, they all deliver these really funny pickup lines. Is there any line or anyone in particular that you found to be really funny?
Mark: Well, I thought Deac had that one line that's in the promo. They cut my line when I said, "He's got big Deac energy."
What I find interesting is that, the single women, they usually nail it one take, no problem, they can do this. The guys with all the bravado, all that energy, they can barely speak out of nerves. So they're funny. What I find interesting though is that your first impression of them is usually wrong. The guys come off a little douchey and the girls come off a little cheesy. But when you get to see who they really are, everybody's authentic at the end of the day. That's why the club scene is not necessarily the best thing. Cheesy pick-up lines are fun and all, but once the ice is broken, once you've done the hookup and now it's morning and it's time for brunch, you got to be real then, right? Or it's not going to last.
Create your own pick-up lines with the Temptation Island Pick-Up Line Generator
USA: How much time do you spend with like all the singles and couples
Mark: Surprisingly little.
USA: Is it just when we see you on screen?
Mark: Pretty much what you see and I'll tell you why. Bonfire days, I spend a lot of time with them on those nights. But the other stuff is drop-ins because when I show up, whatever's going on in the house stops. They're like, "Oh, sh*t!"
This is the part about the show that is hard for me. I think when people watch the show, they think I'm in this really serious, dark guy, when really I'm like, I got jokes. I'm kind of chill. But in this context, when I show up, I'm usually delivering something they don't necessarily want to hear. And they're living in this suspended reality. So when they're in the house and they're not being reminded about the other side of the Island, it's all good. And as soon as they have a reminder that the same stuff's going on on the other side of the Island, and I'm usually that reminder, they're like, "Oh God." Right.
But the one thing I'm proudest of is that it seems like, after two seasons now, I don't feel like I'd be uncomfortable talking to any of the couples or any of the singles. I feel like our relationship is authentic and real. They know where I'm coming from. They know I've got their best interest at heart, and I haven't had one bit of shade from them. Maybe a little on Instagram! But I try not to read too much of that. They usually represent for me and got my back.
Watch Temptation Island Thursdays at 10/9c on USA Network.