I went absolutely feral filming Survivor – but I loved it, says Joel Dommett as he reveals makeover for new BBC reboot | The Sun

JOEL DOMMETT says he was delighted to turn “absolutely feral” to host the BBC’s new extreme challenge show, Survivor.

The Masked Singer presenter left his flashy suits at home to film the epic reboot on a deserted Caribbean island — and jokes that he tapped into his serious side by channelling his grouchy, pregnant wife.

Joel, who welcomed son Wilde with model Hannah Cooper in September, said: “It’s my natural thing to be silly but I was very aware from the start that I wanted to get away from my Masked Singer persona.

“For Masked Singer you’ve got the shiny suit, stood next to an Octopus, which is so different from Survivor and it’s a huge departure for me.

"I really love that.

“But then again it’s quite hard to be funny when people are punching each other in the face.

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“I grew my beard out until about halfway through, then I realised I was starting to look really ugly, so I thought, ‘I need to trim this back’.

“I speak for a lot of the crew here, we became absolutely feral.

“Every now and again someone new, like my agent, would come to visit and you don’t realise how unclean you are until someone clean arrives . . . we really enjoyed it.”

Survivor launches on Saturday and episode two follows on Sunday.

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The series sees 18 contestants marooned in a remote location in the Dominican Republic with limited supplies.

They have to hunt for their own food and build shelters while competing to win rewards and immunity from being voted out of the contest by fellow castaways.

The sole survivor wins £100,000.

The show previously aired for two series on ITV in 2001 and 2002.

A smash hit across the globe, Survivor has amassed a mammoth 44 seasons in America and 11 in Australia.

Joel, 38, felt the weight of responsibility as the new host of the UK outing.

He said: “I wanted to be myself, but I also wanted to make sure that people who already love Survivor will like what I do with it.

“In a weird way I felt more comfortable being this person than being in a pink flowery suit stood next to a massive singing boot on The Masked Singer.

“My natural disposition is to be friendly to people but you’ve got to separate yourself a little bit.

“It was hard for me to not go in and give the contestants a hug and be like, ‘It’s gonna be OK’.”

How did Joel, who found fame as a stand-up comic, tap into his serious side?

Grimacing, he jokes: “I had a pregnant wife at home!

“None of what you’ll see over the series is fake or false, it’s not a play.

"When they’re hungry they’re unbelievably hungry. When they’re tired, they’re unbelievably tired.

"When they hurt, they really hurt.”

Survivor promises to test its contestants to their physical and psychological limits.

The first episode sees the castaways, including a personal trainer, champion roller-skater and a one-legged surf coach, separated into two “tribes”.

As the series progresses players are voted out of their tribes one by one until the two sides merge and the game becomes a head-to-head battle.

Crucially, it is the ousted castaways who vote for the winner — and this social element could be the finalists’ downfall.

Joel said: “My favourites are the endurance challenges, which get bigger as the series goes on.

"But what the contestants put themselves through is insane. No food, no sleep.

"I can’t even hold my coffee cup if I’ve had less than eight hours.

“I would enjoy the physical challenges more than the mind games, I’d fall apart on those.

“You’re trying to get rid of people without p***ing them off.

"You’re trying to play three different games at the same time, that’s why viewers get obsessed with it.”

Psychological gameplay had been missing from reality TV for some years, with a focus on dating shows and talent contests.

But that changed last December with the arrival of BBC breakout hit The Traitors, where contestants conspire against each other.

Joel said: “Reality has done a full circle in the last 20 years, when Big Brother and Survivor were last on our screens.

"We’ve gone through this amazing journey where it’s gone heavily into dirty territory.

“The Traitors last year has lubed everyone up ready for Survivor.

“There had been more focus on celebrities until we didn’t have many shows left with your normal, everyday people from different walks of life.

“Now I feel like we’re back at that place where we have different people on screen — different body types and genders, all brilliantly represented.”

ITV has been praised for the diverse cast on its reboot of Big Brother, which launched two weeks ago after a five-year hiatus.

It will be competing with Survivor in that prime-time reality arena.

Joel said: “I think they’re on very different channels and I feel like it’s exciting for reality to have both at the same time.

“It is really exciting to have Survivor back but in many ways you just have to wait for things to go full circle again.

“You have to wait for it to become nostalgic, you can’t bring things back too soon.”

Gameplay and alliances

The elephant in the room is, of course, that the first two series of Survivor failed to catch the imagination of audiences her in the early Noughties despite the enormous successes in Australia and the US.

So why does Joel think it failed to spark here first time round?

He told Radio Times: “Compared to Big Brother it felt too ‘unBritish’ at that point in time — it’s very much about gameplay and alliances. It was the other way round in America.

“Even though it feels like we’re late on the scene in the UK, Survivor was basically the first reality show, and now we’re well-versed in gameplay.

“No offence to any other shows, but we want something a bit more interesting than people just sitting around having a beer.”

It sounds like viewers can expect plenty of drama.

The camps, primarily made out of scavenged material, were hit by a severe storm and contestants suffered various injuries during the tough challenges.

Joel added: “It is mad in these tropical places — it’s like beautiful sunshine and then suddenly it’s the most epic rain you’ve ever seen in your life, like thunder and lightning.

"We don’t want any injuries to happen,but you’re putting them in a really perilous place in a really extreme scenario, so injuries are going to happen.

“In the latest Australian version, there’s this person who breaks their collarbone and they have to go home.

"It’s absolutely mad, incredible.

“Luckily, we didn’t have anything that big, but yeah, it’s dangerous.”

Joel will be tuning in to Survivor with his wife from the comfort of their home.

The pair, who have hit podcast Never Have I Ever, have been facing their own challenges of late after becoming first-time parents.

Joel said: “I was so worried Hannah would give birth while we were away filming so I’m happy that didn’t happen.

"Now we have a new baby in our lives, alongside my other baby, Survivor!

“Nothing can prepare you for being a parent . . .  It’s so difficult, isn’t it?

"I’ve been reading all of the books and listening to all of the podcasts. I hope I’m going to be a good dad.”

He added: “Hannah has actually become a superfan of Survivor — she’s binge-watched the whole series.

“I’ve always loved the show so to make any first series of any show is difficult, even if it’s made in Elstree Studios, in London!

“So to make it in the middle of nowhere, across the other side of the world, was an insane task, and I think that’s why I’m so proud of it.

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“Survivor being good is such a relief!”

  • Survivor launches on BBC One and iPlayer on Saturday at 8.25pm.

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