Spoiler alert: This article discusses “Too Hot to Handle” Season 2 in its entirety.
The second season of “Too Hot to Handle” was filled with just as many twists and NSFW situations as the first, as our robot hero Lana worked to prevent as many islanders as possible from frivolous sex in order to find actual love.
Although the season finale revealed French model Marvin as the winner, there are still many burning questions after watching it. Luckily, creator Laura Gibson and executive producers Ros Coward and Amelia Brown chatted with Variety about some of the biggest burning questions about the second season.
What is the casting process like to get people with such high sex drives who are willing to talk about it all of the time?
Coward: We speak to about 1,000 people, and we’ve probably auditioned about 500 of them. So really, it’s reaching out to people that we think look like the type of person that would be kind of fun, gets a lot of sex, and also people apply. And then there’s a big casting process where we talk to them several times, and there are several layers of people that chat to these guys. Ultimately, you’re looking for people that are very open and comfortable talking about their sex lives and their relationships. As with most reality shows, if people are open and relatively unfiltered, you know that they’ll probably be good on television.
And then, of course, it’s about finding a good backstory. So you have to be quite journalistic, you have to know that they have something interesting that they’re going to learn along the way, because obviously, there’s a journey as part of the show, and they’re in a no-sex boot camp. At the end of it, hopefully they’ve learned something about themselves. And for them to be interesting characters, you need to know that there’s a reason why they are the way they are that you can then unpack as the show goes on. So there are layers that you have to find, which involves quite a lot of interviewing. With the casting team, and then the producers, and then the execs and then Netflix looking at the tapes, it’s quite a long process that takes several months.
Brown: Our contestants probably end up having a closer relationship with our casting producers than they do with most other people they’ve met in their lives.
How did you explain the original premise of “Parties in Paradise” [the fake show the contestants thought they were singing up for]?
Coward: It was unbelievably broad. It’s amazing, really, to think that people signed up for a show that didn’t really have a format. But essentially they thought they were partying on islands, they were going to be on a boat and go from island to island, having parties and having the wildest summer of their life.
Did anyone complain to the producers about the bait and switch from “Parties in Paradise” to “Too Hot to Handle”?
Coward: It’s a funny moment, because now we’re on series two, and obviously the penny drops that they’re on a massive show. But if we’ve done our jobs well, which we did, they are so horny, at that point, that they are still devastated. They spent a whole day deciding who they’re going to try and get off with that night. I think probably in series one, it was different. But for series two, it was pleasure and pain. But no complaints.
What is the process for monitoring them at night, in the shower, etc.?
Brown: It took all members of the team, really, because the contestants have been watched 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The process is Lana is always all-seeing and all-knowing; therefore, the the crew are all-seeing and all-knowing.
Gibson: Our footage loggers are writing down everything that’s going on all the time, which happens on all reality shows. But one of them sent an amazing screengrab of her notes from one particularly passionate night and she was like, “This is like the most unique job on TV.”
Coward: It’s always a bit interesting when the producers who’ve been watching and listening give feedback to you over breakfast, what happened that night … sometimes it’s not quite what you want to be hearing about while you’re eating in the morning.
Do you ever go to the cast for clarification to see what actually happened in bed?
Coward: They would usually confess either in their confessional interview, because they can’t help themselves, or when Lana is giving them a penalty. So we don’t always tell you exactly what happens in the final edit, but they usually will say it, so you don’t really have to pull them by the ear to say what happened. They’re pretty forthcoming.
Brown: But I think they’re torn because they’re so in the process as well, that they’re like, “I have to confess. I need to tell them because Lana is watching.” The producer and Lana merge very much to the guys in the villa, which is how it should be. But they’ve become open and honest.
Coward: They believe Lana knows everything and more — it’s a great excuse. And you can just blame Lana for everything.
Brown: But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a conversation between the producers where we’re going, “Is that…?” We’ve got the best sex detectives in the business working on this show.
Did an infraction ever get slipped past you that you only caught after the fact?
Coward: Lana’s never missed anything. Usually what happens is they think that she hasn’t spotted something and they got away with it. And then she’ll hit them with a penalty when they’re least expecting it.
How do you determine the cost of each infraction? Is it one size fits all, or depending on the circumstances?
Coward: So obviously there’s a kiss, and then there’s full sex, and then there’s kind of a sliding in between. Self-gratification is probably on the lower end. But then when it becomes between two people, the money goes up.
Gibson: I think Lana it definitely has a menu, a bit like a a cocktail menu or a wine list, where the prices start low and then just go higher and higher.
Brown: Also circumstances … each story will have a certain circumstance and it depends. Lana can have a bit of leeway based on how much she thinks someone’s breaking the rules, not listening to her, or hasn’t learned, but yeah, the wine list is a good reference.
Coward: But it’s like when you order a wine without the price: They don’t really know. They’re always a little bit shocked when the bill comes.
How do you monitor consent?
Coward: Obviously, they all have that conversation before they go into the environment. They’re all very well aware that everything has to be consensual. And of course, there are people monitoring and watching the whole time. So in a way, it’s kind of the safest place that you could have sex, because there are so many eyes on you.
How did you settle on the amount of alcohol consumed on the show?
Coward: We’re very conservative on the alcohol. We really don’t give them more than one or two drinks at night, and then we stop them. The good thing is you just say to them, “You just want to always look good on camera.” And they often say, “You’re right, thank you very much. I don’t want to be dribbling mess in front of millions of people.” I think it’s quite a heightened environment anyway, so you don’t really need to give lots of alcohol for things to unfold. It’s a bit like an intense holiday romance for everyone.
Brown: It starts at the beginning with the casting. If you’ve cast the characters to fit the show properly, then you don’t need alcohol to create your stories. That’s why the costs are there. They are there to learn and go on the journey, which is a genuine thing with “Too Hot to Handle,” it’s not just people thrown into a house. The brilliance of the show is that there’s something to be learned and people can grow from it.
What is a day like for the islanders? How do they spend their time?
Coward: They’re woken up by Lana, and they don’t have their meals on camera. So they’ll go to breakfast off-camera, and then they’ll be given about an hour to go and exercise because, obviously, they have amazing bodies that they want to maintain. And they’re pretty busy. If they’re not filming with the big cameras they’ll be filming on the rig, or they’ll be filming b-roll for the show. They’re usually kept quite busy with the stories of the show that they’re involved in, and if not, they’re sunbathing, or they’re gossiping in the dressing room. They really spend hours and hours and hours putting makeup on, taking it off, trying on new outfits, checking themselves out in the mirror.
Brown: I am shocked at how a group of people can make such a little amount of clothing take such a long time, especially with the sizes of their swimwear. How is that such a long process?
Gibson: I think there could be a whole college course on analyzing the swimwear in “Too Hot to Handle” and what it means and how it reflects their emotions.
Did you run worst case scenario drills in case the contestants say, “Screw it, we don’t care about the money at all”?
Coward: No, because Lana was smart and always one step ahead. If no one cares about the money, she uses the carrot and stick method. She will punish, and if that doesn’t work, she will reward. So she brings the watches in with the green lights, and that’s a good reason to stick to Lana’s rules because you might get a date and then you might get to kiss someone. So if you don’t care about the money, but you care about your connection, or you care about getting some action, then you abide by her rules to get the prize, as well.
How do you determine main cast versus those who drop in midway through?
Gibson: They’re bombshells, I think they kind of need to be. [Season 2’s] Christina is just a fantastic bombshell to throw in. There’s a cast at the beginning, you’ve got your cast of characters, and then the bombshells come in and you’re not quite sure what they’re going to do as a viewer, if they’re going to ignite certain fires.
Brown: You can’t cast those bombshells in those late arrivals until you’ve got your main cast. It’s not like you do everything at the beginning, because you need to know who you’ve got first before you know what is needed to create a bombshell. And it could be a mix of lots of things. It could be a certain type. It could be someone where maybe humor is a bigger thing, because that’s what’s going to rock the boat a little bit. So it’s definitely a process that comes afterwards, because you need to know what you’ve got story-wise and character-wise in order to change things up a little bit.
Coward: Also, you try and pick someone that has a really big journey to go on. They’re probably more rebellious than the other ones. Because of that, those grenades are there to test, but they also have to go on the experience.
Do you know in advance when you’re going to bring the alternates in?
Coward: We are pretty reactive on the show in order to get the best stories. So you’d know roughly when you want them to come in, but you might hold them back by a day. Because you’re waiting for the right moment. Or it might rain and then you’re like, “Well, that will look terrible. Let’s put them in tomorrow.”
Were there unique challenges with casting internationally? Any visa nightmares?
Coward: I mean, certainly within COVID times, we had to get Marvin out of France quickly before he was locked in. He had to come to the U.K. first, but a week or two before we could then fly him out to Turks and Caicos.
Brown: It just depends, and visa rules change regularly as well. So it’s case-by-case. On paper, “Too Hot to Handle” is probably the least COVID-friendly show, as we’re trying to get people from all around the world. But at the same time it was managed very well.
Coward: Obviously someone like Larissa coming from New Zealand … it took her about 36 hours to get there. So she went to great lengths to come to a show that wasn’t the show it turned out to be.
Do you keep condoms everywhere / easily accessible? I know they’re seen in the private bedroom once…
Coward: Yes. They’re told that there is protection and they know where to find it if they need it.
What were some lessons you learned from Season 1 to Season 2?
Coward: Definitely the final — it’s very different. Some people felt that Season 1 had a disappointing end [when the cast split the prize]. There was a logic behind splitting it, because it was about them all going on their own journeys, and therefore, they deserve to all share the money. But we also liked the element of competition that it added towards the end, when we told them that not everyone would win the money, because they all have to up their game.
All episodes of “Too Hot to Handle” season 2 are now available on Netflix. The series is produced by Thames and Talkback (Fremantle labels).