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TV's First Sexually Fluid Cast, No Privacy and 1 Shared Bed: Secrets Revealed About Are You the One?

Showrunner Jeff Spangler spilled on the MTV reality dating series' groundbreaking new season and revealed how the matchmaking process works

By Tierney Bricker 26 Jun, 2019 11:00 AMTags
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"These were stories we needed to tell and why not do it on this show?"

Are You the One? is set to break barriers in its season eight premiere tonight on MTV when 16 sexually fluid contestants enter the house with the hope of finding their perfect match, making it the first reality TV dating competition show in the United States to do so. 

In case you are sleeping on one of reality TV's most delicious guilty pleasures, here's a quick breakdown how it works: 20 sexy singles, 10 guys and 10 girls, are plucked from their lives to live and date while living in the same house—drinking and fighting and kissing, oh my!—as they attempt to find their perfect match that has been pre-determined by matchmakers. If they get all the pairings right by the end, they split $1 million.

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TV's First Sexually Fluid Cast, No Privacy and 1 Shared Bed: Secrets Revealed About Are You the One?

In its previous seven seasons, the perfect matches were always male-female. But everything is about to change in season eight, as the 16 singles all identify as fluid, meaning there are no gender limitations in finding the perfect match. Like MTV said: come one, come all.

The decision to do finally do a historic season with an entirely fluid cast was an easy one for showrunner Jeff Spangler, who told E! News he started noticing a trend during the show's arduous casting process.

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"I have the advantage of having interviews of hundreds and hundreds of young people that are in the dating pool and I feel like my Spidey-sense was going off when we started having more and more young people that were describing really what seemed to me, like, 'Hey, when I'm dating a girl, this is how I am in a relationship. But when I'm dating a guy, this is how my relationship is.' That didn't just happen once or twice or three times, but started happening quite a bit with both sexes."

Always on the hunt for interesting stories that haven't necessarily been told on AYTO? or reality TV before, Spangler explained, "What we realized is we have a generation of daters that were stripping away the labels and not wanting to be put in a box and to do it their way. That was inspiring."

While AYTO? will be telling "new stories" that viewers have never seen on the show before, it's still going to feel like the same show, with lots of partying, hookups and tears.

"These are just young people looking for love, just as they've been every season," Spangler said, though he did say the season eight cast came into the house with a lot of "depth."

"A lot of this cast had to deal with coming out to their friends or family or their own comfortability about where they stand sexually," he explained, adding there's a wide range when it comes to that comfortability and experience: "[There are] Cast member for the first time on the show they're coming out to cast members that have known they've been bisexual for years."

And there was one unexpected shake-up to the show's usual format that Spangler didn't anticipate before filming started.

The other thing that's interesting and puts a little more pressure on them is they walk into that house and there's half of that house that can be their friend," he said of previous seasons where the perfect matches were only male-female. "They didn't have to do the romantic dance with them and with this cast, they walk in and every single person is a potential match. So there isn't necessarily safe harbor from the stress of figuring out who your perfect match is and catching feelings. it was a interesting pressure that was put on them."

It seems the friend zone just got a lot more crowded.

To find out how AYTO?'s matchmaking process really works and how legit it really is, as well as get info on what goes on in the house that viewers don't get to see, we asked Spangler all of our burning questions about TV's most underrated guilty pleasure. So step into the truth booth and find out what we learned, like why pen and paper isn't allowed in the house...

How They Cast the Show

To find the prospective perfect matches (who are all 21 or older because, if you've seen the show, you know they drink. A lot.) AYTO? conducts an intense nation-wide search, with Spangler saying, "We leave no rock left unturned."

We've had quite a bit of traffic in terms of people wanting to be on the show, fans being on the show, people who I think see themselves in the cast and want to be on the show. It's fantastic to have lots of options and hear lots of different stories and have people who can represent every corner of the country."

As the show has grown in popularity (and the post-show opportunities have increased), the number of applicants is now in the tens of thousands per season, but Spangler noted they do recruit a lot of potential contestants, usually by going to bars or through social media. 

Or, as season six's Tyler said during his Reddit AMA, "someone hit me up and was like hey you want some money and go to paradise... easy reason."

A thousand-page questionnaire and some light interviewing later, you make it to the casting rounds, which is where the process really kicks into high gear, with only about 100 people making it to this extensive process.

In addition to a personality test, interviews with the producers and matchmaking experts, psychological testing and profiling, a background check, there will also be interviews with your family, friends and exes to really get to know you. 

Sure, looks and the ability to narrate and speak in interviews is important, the show is mostly interested is representing the audience and telling new stories. "What is it that they bring to this house that they can share with each other and learn from each other?" Spangler said. 

Intense Matchmaking Process

So you are one of the lucky 20 to make the cut to the matchmaking process...how do they find your perfect match?

They use all of the information they learned about you from that exhaustive final round of casting, especially the psychological aspects, with a team of people using the data to pair the singles.

"There is no singular voice, it is a stew of options and tests, because there are compatibility tests," explained Spangler, making the comparison to eharmony's matchmaking process. 

Aside from the producers, the line-up of experts includes licensed marriage therapist and a holistic psychologist.

House Rules

The first (and really only) rule of the AYTO? house is no contact with the world outside of the AYTO? house.

"I think one thing that is an interesting piece that's never really discussed that much but is a reality that these kids have to deal with is they have just left home, they have no contact with family, friends, and more importantly, social media, e-mails, phone, Internet, and so for the first time in their lives they really are hitting the pause button and just being them," Spangler explained. "So those are rules. Contact with the outside world does not exist. The only people that you can interact with are the people you're living in the house with and our producers."

Also like The Bachelor, production keeps the kitchen pantry stocked with a bunch of food, as the cast is mostly cooking for themselves, so producers are aware of dietary needs.

The only time they get food made for them is "if they're doing a big match-up ceremony and they're out late, we'll sometimes have food catered when they get back to the house," Spangler revealed.

Unexpected Contraband

Aside from their phones, there are two surprising items that the cast does not have access to during filming: pen or paper. Why? So they can't try and figure out the matches using math...at least not using the usual materials. And also because it'd be a snoozefest for viewers.

"We don't allow any paper or pens because it's super boring to see people sit around and draw grids all day. But they still manage a way to work things out -- like using vodka bottles to represent the guys and toothbrushes for the girls and all that," Devlin revealed in 2014. "The problem is when match gets in the way of the heart -- you see NO matches."

Cameras Everywhere

Unlike other reality shows, Are You the One? keeps cameras in the bathroom, meaning there's really nowhere private to hook-up without being caught, which is why viewers get to see so much, um, action doing down. 

"the only place without a camera is inside the refrigerator and I don't think two people can fit in there ;)," Devlin revealed. "It's AAAALLLLL caught on video. And yes, sometimes in strange places."

As for the decision to have the cast sleep together in one giant bed, executive producer Tiffany Williams told EW in 2014, "There's no better way to get to know somebody. It's the ultimate slumber party."

Long Nights

The show is generally filmed over the course of six weeks, with a match-up ceremony taking place around every four days, giving the contestants just a few days to hang out and try to figure out their perfect matches. 

While they usually make up the last 10 minutes or so of an episode, the filming process for the matchmaking ceremonies usually takes the longest. "Those b--ches take forever," Tyler said on Reddit.

One reason for the delays? "We have a guy that cleans them between every lock in," Devlin revealed of the machine the couples scan their hands on to lock in their match. "He loves his job. Very talented with Windex."

"Everything takes a lot longer then it looks on TV. It's actually astounding how much work goes into production if you've never seen a production team in action," season six's Shad said during his AMA. "But everything in the storyline is in order so challenges are during the day early in the week and then matchups are at night at the end of that respective week. Some of those match-ups could range anywhere from 2-5 hours."

And the dramatic pauses before the beams light up were even more drawn out for the cast, with Shad revealing, "They would vary the timing between the beams to add to the suspense I'm assuming. Sometimes beams would come on after 20 seconds and probably the longest pause between one beam ignoring that time felt like it was in slow motion was 4-5 minutes."

They are pretty damn bright, too, as he added, "when they hit you right in the eye I thought I was going to go blind."

During his own Reddit AMA, Devlin revealed the one issue that comes from the beams: "The only problem is when one of the lights burns out while we're filming."

Keeping Secrets

After the perfect matches are set, the list of people who are given that top-secret info is really short, with only the showrunner and co-executive producer being privy to that information on set.

And it's "not so much that we're worried someone's going to say anything, it's that we want them to follow the stories based on what's actually going on," Spangler explained.

If a producer keeps asking you about a certain person during your interviews or the camera tends to focus on another contestant when you're in the thick of drama, it may start impacting your thought process and who you might go for. 

I don't want people to be directed anyway and I don't want them to be stymied in anyway, even if it's not their match, great, steal them!" said Spangler. "It's important to keep those matches under our hats because ultimately story's gotta be king."

Offering Help

Since the first season, there's always a psychologist on-hand for anyone who needs counseling or asks for help, but in season eight, the show will introduce Dr. Frankie, a relationship expert who works with the singles to help them become better daters and navigate the drama, poor choices and reoccurring patterns in their relationships. Look for Dr. Frankie to also help the contestants identify the current dating trends, like ghosting, benching and stashing, and test just how willing they are to fall into the trends.

"She's definitely great at relationship advice," Spangler said, explaining that she was brought in just as much for the viewers' benefit after producers kept hearing the same feedback. 

"A lot of people wanted to have more takeaway from the show beyond what's going on with these kids and their relationships," Spangler explained. "What are the little nuggets of information that I, sitting at home watching the show, can take with me in my dating life? This was the opportunity to hopefully be able to give those little nuggets to the audience because they were craving it." 

Success Rate

Truth (booth) time: AYTO?'s success rate, much like many other reality dating series, is not great. However, there have been some success stories, including one perfect match that has withstood the test of time and television drama: Perfect match Ethan and Amber from season one are married with two kids, and they are the only confirmed match that has made it work post-show (so far). 

Season two's Curtis and Jenni are also still together, even though they weren't a perfect match. Ditto Clinton and Uche in season six and they're holding strong two years later. Season seven non-perfect match Cali and Thomas also chose to be together after filming ended.

 In season five, Hayden and Gianna decided to be together despite not being a perfect match, going on to have a child before breaking up in 2019.

"Whether they're perfect matches or not, I'm happy they're finding love!" Spangler said.

Given its ever-growing alumni pool, many contestants from different seasons have ended up coupling up: season four's Cam and season five's Caroline, season five's Mikala and season six's Joe, season five's Ozzy is dating season seven's Nutsa.

Are You the One? season eight premieres tonight (Wednesday, June 26) at 9 p.m. on MTV.