Mark Long Has a "Big, Huge Ultimate Plan" for The Challenge: All Stars and He Told Us All About It

Mark Long answered all of your burning questions about Paramount+'s The Challenge: All Stars, including why some fan-favorites are M.I.A. and revealing his epic ultimate plan for the franchise.

By Tierney Bricker Apr 01, 2021 10:00 AMTags
Watch: Why MTV's "The Challenge" Stars Keep Coming Back

Never underestimate the power of The Challenge godfather.

Last summer, Mark Long, a fan-favorite and two-time champ of the MTV reality series, started the "We Want OGs" campaign, pushing for a series that would bring back some of the most infamous cast members for a nostalgia-fueled competition. Now, less than a year later, The Challenge: All Stars has officially premiered on Paramount+, with 22 vets of The Real World and Road Rules returning to the playing field—including the now-49-year-old Mark, signature bandana firmly in place. 

While some of the cast members have not even appeared on TV in well over a decade, the competition is still fierce, the personalities remain just as dynamic and the ties are stronger than ever, fortified by years of friendship, hardened by resentment. Sure, the hangovers have arguably gotten worse, but these OGs can more than hang in the genre they helped bolster. 

Check Out the Cast of The Challenge: All Stars

In honor of The Challenge: All Stars premiere, we hopped on the phone with Mark to get the godfather himself to answer all of our burning questions about the Paramount+ limited series, including how he lured back some of the franchise's most memorable faces and his ultimate plan for the series. Spoiler alert: It's epic and the current Challenge competitors should definitely be watching their backs.

E! News: Can I just tell you what a delight watching the premiere was? It was so nostalgic and reminded me of watching the show when I was in high school.
Mark Long: You just hit the nail on the head. That's why I knew this was going to be so huge because I was the guy running home from football practice in high school watching The Real World in my parents' living room because it was super-cool. I think when people watch this it brings them back to that time in their lives when there were no worries really, it was super happy, there was no f--king coronavirus and all the other stuff. It just makes you feel good. Like, I still get psyched when I hear the Beverly Hills, 90210 music, you know what I mean? So it's the same kind of vibe and I think that's why people are going nuts, even over the trailer. It's insane.

Juan Cruz Rabaglia/MTV 2021 Paramount+, Inc., E! Illustration

E!: Before watching the first episode, I was really curious to see what the tone would be considering how intense and competitive The Challenge has gotten in recent years. It used to feel like adult spring break and now actual Olympians are competing. What did you initially envision the vibe of All Stars being and how does it compare to what it ultimately came to be? 
ML: It's funny because I initially thought we could all come back and thought that production might take it a little easier on us, but it was almost the exact opposite. It's a f--king real Challenge. But do we have as many explosions and, you know, faces that are computerized built on the wall? No, but I don't want it that way. I want the '90s dance parties, I want the OG pajama parties mixed in. Is it competitive? Yes, but I want to keep that feel of the true OG All Stars group. It's definitely a nostalgic feel to the show, the music is f--king great. It brings you back to high school or junior high, wherever you were, and you're like, 'I remember these people, I grew up with these people. Is that Ruthie [Alcaide]? Is that Beth [Stolarczyk]? Oh my god!'

E!: Seeing Yes Duffy back on my TV screen literally made me shout "yes, it's Yes!" When you were initially reaching out, what was the general pitch and was the most immediate response usually a "hell yes" or did you need to do some convincing?
ML: I said, "I'm working on putting something together. It's not sold, but if anyone's going to f—king do this, it's going to be me. You don't have to give me a yes or a no, but would you be open to an OG Challenge that we would shoot for two to three weeks, so it's not taking you away like the normal challenges of nine to 10 weeks, which we can't do at this moment?" Everyone was like, "Hell yes, sign me up and three weeks, I can try to make that happen."

I wanted to show that just because we are getting older and some of us are dads or moms, it doesn't change the fact that you're not dead by age 40. If anything, it will show you that we still have a lot to offer and the personalities are still there. Some of the gripes are still there. It's an awesome feeling and I think people are going to identify with that that are our age now.

See Chris "C.T." Tamburello's Transformation on The Challenge Over the Years

E!: Initially, you wanted to call the show The Challenge: OGs, but it obviously evolved into All Stars. What do you think of the difference between those terms when it came to casting the show? 
ML: I kind of fought for OGs because I just liked the term, it's cool. I think it switched to All Stars because, let's be honest, everyone loves the show, but there's always that one person that's like, "Why do you call it All Stars? Such and such hasn't won one challenge." I think in terms of how we're using the word All Stars, these are people who are All Stars whether it was their personalities or that they were memorable characters or they had epic moments. That's how we're using the word All Stars. If we were going by most wins it would be me, Johnny [Bananas], C.T. [Tamburello], whoever the hell has won the most.

I wanted to use that term lightly in terms of All Star. It let us bring back some of these people that haven't been there in a while but they don't have to be totally OG in terms of 20 years ago. For instance, Jemmye [Carroll] is the girl that hasn't been on recently, but is she truly considered an OG? Probably not. Is she memorable? Yeah. So my goal moving forward is to always have 90 percent of the cast be like a wow factor. Like, "Wow, I can't believe Yes is back," or, like, "I can't believe Beth is back." Those people have been gone for years, but you do have to sprinkle in an Aneesa [Ferreira] because she is an All Star, she is an OG. She hasn't won and maybe she'd get a better shot that are more her temperament and OG-style, who knows?

Paramount+/ViacomCBS/MTV Entertainment Studios

E!: When the cast was announced, it was such a great mix. There were people we hadn't seen in decades, really strong physical competitors and then some cast members who have competed more recently, like Darrell Taylor
ML: As you will see, not every day is tug of war…it's definitely not the Mount Rushmore of, like, strength, but these characters are memorable. They are bringing something that only they can bring. Teck [Holmes], for example, he's such a funny guy and he's so different and unique. He is the comic relief, he doesn't give a s--t. People might think, 'He hasn't really been around, how is he an All Star?' Well, watch the season and tell me you didn't love Teck. Just wait. I want to keep that theme of Real World/Road Rules only as much as possible. I have a big, huge ultimate plan that is going to be epic if it comes true.

E!: Are we talking for season two or several seasons down the road?
ML: This is my ultimate plan. We do many seasons of the OG, many seven or eight seasons and then what you have is the most epic OG vs. new school Challenge. It's the Super Bowl of Challenges. It's me against Fessy [Shafaat] in a f--king Hall Brawl. It's the ultimate Challenge that people will lose their minds over. That's the ultimate evolution of where the All Stars Challenge is going to go, but we are going to stand on our own for a while. We have plenty of personalities to do it.

Karen Epstein Photography 2020/MTV

E!: Fessy has been talking a big game on the current season, Double Agents, recently calling out C.T., which fans found a bit odd considering he hasn't won a Challenge yet.
ML: It's like, dude, win one. We get it, you're big and you're a competitor but win one! If you notice, whether you're new school, old school, no one remotely newer has won, period. It's Johnny, It's C.T., it's Ashley [Mitchell]. None of them have won. It's like, keep your mouth shut until you have your resume built. Just because you're on the show doesn't mean you're a badass. Earn some championships, it's the truth.

It's like, dude, win one, we get it. You're big and you're a competitor but win one! If you notice, whether you're new school, old school, no one remotely newer has one, period. It's Johnny, It's CT, it's Ashley. None of them have won. It's like, keep your mouth shut until you have your resume built. Just because you're on the show doesn't mean you're a badass. Earn some championships, it's the truth. 

Of course, Fessy can say what he says because he's twice as big as anyone. He can't say that to me because I'll look him right in the eye. I'm not smaller than him. Listen, if it creates a little friendly competition between the shows, I think that would be fun. I love the mutual respect. Cory [Wharton], he reached out and was so thrilled, Devin [Walker-Molaghan] reached out and was so thrilled for me. These are some of the young guys that I actually enjoy and have a good relationship with. It's good to have that support both ways. It's great to have that, but it's also great to have an underlying tone of maybe in three or four years, we have the ultimate Super Bowl of this thing and see who can really toot their horn.

E!: From your lips to Challenge god T.J. Lavin's ears!
ML: He'd love it. T.J., by the way, literally after the season, he went, "Mark, I've been doing the show for years, this is the most fun I've had on a Challenge probably since I've started." I said, "T.J., I'll see you in season two," and he said, "You f--king better." I mean, everyone, even T.J. is hyped. He does so many, it was probably a breath of fresh air for him, too.

E!: Some people noted the absence of personalities like Johnny Bananas, C.T. and Wes Bergmann. Was that because they are still so present on The Challenge?
ML: The more C.T.s or Bananas we get for the first season, the more it kind of defeats the purpose of what it is. I'd rather Teck have CT's position in this one. I'd rather have Yes be in Johnny Banana's thing. But I will say this, Johnny has been off now a season and I've had conversations with him. He's told me he'd be thrilled to be part of a season two or three. Don't be surprised if you see someone that is more current, like a real real player in season two or three because I think it's definitely open. 

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E!: I wanted to do some rapid-fire questions. Who was the first to sign on?
ML: Syrus [Yarbrough].

E!: Last to sign on?
ML: I believe Jemmye.

E!: Who was the most difficult to convince to do the show?
ML: No one! None of 'em!

E! Who has changed the most?
ML: --t, that's a good question. Oh, Arissa [Hill].

E!: Who has stayed the same?
ML: Derrick [Kosinski]! One hundred percent.

E!: Who surprised you the most?
ML: Jisela [Delgado].

MTV; E! Illustration


E!: Who was the most ready to compete?
ML: I want to say Darrell.

E!: And the most ready to party?
ML: Big Easy, a thousand percent.

E!: Who would you consider your white whale, the competitor you most want to see return in a future season?
ML: I want to get Landon [Lueck].

E!: And which cast members make your Mount Rushmore for The Challenge?
ML: Bananas is up there. I'd like to put myself up there. When they look back at the history books, my biggest shining moment will probably be pitching this show from out of the blue and having it be picked up. It was a lot of work that no one saw, so I'd want to be up there, if we could. Definitely CT. I'm going to say Aneesa, she's just gotta be. And Coral [Smith].

E!: Finally, you initially intended to just be a producer on the show, but ultimately became a cast member. What does that mean for you in future seasons? 
ML: I do want to do more seasons as a cast member, but eventually  will shift into more of a producer role. I want to compete some more and then maybe produce more and, of course, I gotta come back for the epic Super Bowl of all events. Come on.

E!: It needs to happen. We're manifesting the OGs vs. new school event. 
ML: I pulled it off once, I can pull it off again. Never doubt the godfather!

The Challenge: All Stars' premiere is now streaming on Paramount+, with new episodes dropping every Thursday.