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The Traitors Creators Reveal the Secret Behind Casting for U.S., U.K. Murder Mysteries
At the annual Edinburgh TV Festival, the producers behind the U.K. and U.S. versions of The Traitors reveal their casting strategies.
If you enjoyed the delicious deception of Peacock's reality competition series The Traitors, you might be surprised to find out that it's also got a cousin program in the U.K. with exactly the same name, but a very different approach to casting. At this week's annual Edinburgh TV Festival in Scotland, the U.K. and U.S. producers of both series united on a panel to talk about the reasons behind the major cast differences between the two hit series.
For context, The Traitors U.K. and U.S. are actually spin-offs of the hit Dutch reality series De Verraders. In the U.K., Stephen Lambert, producer and CEO of Studio Lambert, brought their version of The Traitors to BBC One in 2022 with British presenter Claudia Winkleman as the series host. Stateside, Sharon Vuong, NBC’s Executive Vice President of Alternative Programming, brought the Peacock version with host Alan Cumming to streaming in February 2023. While both versions shared common conceits — the same Scottish backdrop and some gameplay devices — their contestants were very different.
In the U.K. series, every contestant was an average person with no prior television experience. In the U.S. version, The Traitors cast was split between average civilians and an array of previously known reality celebs, including Brandi Glanville (The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills), Kate Chastain (Below Deck), and Reza Farahan (Shahs of Sunset).
During the panel, Vuong said they made a conscious decision for the U.S. series to mix the experienced reality show veterans with the average contestants to “take the pressure off of the celebrities,” which created a "beautiful ecosystem" where everyone playing and watching from home felt like "Who knows what’s going to happen?”
Lambert's company All3Media produces all 26 versions of The Traitors that air around the globe, and assessed that the U.S. version's choice to include several competition reality show veterans, such as Survivor's Cirie Fields and Stephenie LaGrossa Kendrick, upped the stakes of the game play overall. “They were more strategic and were willing to play devious," he said of those players in particular. "That gave a slightly different taste and one suitable to the American audience, who are used to reality shows being strategic and underhanded.”
Asked if The Traitors U.K. might follow in the footsteps of the U.S. series by featuring celebrity contestants from the myriad of celebrity reality shows in the U.K., executive producer Syeda Irtizaali said "never say never." The execs on the panel promised surprises for both follow-up seasons, but would not reveal what they might be. The Traitors Season 2 was also picked up by Peacock (with Cumming returning as host), but there's no word on a specific premiere date yet.