International romance, countless couples and a ticking clock?
No wonder 90 Day Fiancé is reality TV gold. The record-breaking TLC franchise has become a "universe" with over 20 spin-offs, including fan favorites Happily Ever After?, Before the 90 Days and The Other Way. 90 Day Fiancé has introduced the world to Big Ed, Darcey Silva and scene-stealing Angela Deem, plus educated (sure, we'll call The Learning Channel educational!) about the K-1 visa process.
But of course, not every 90 Day couple lives in matrimonial bliss. Hence, the addicting Discovery+ series 90 Day: The Single Life, which returns for season two today, Friday, Nov. 12 with a new crop of singles looking for romance after heartbreak. Former controversial stars like Jesse Meester, Stephanie Matto, Debbie Johnson and Natalie Mordovtseva bare all on screen as they seek out new partners—with plenty of new drama.
Below, TLC's senior vice president of production and development Alon Orstein pulls back the curtain on the 90 Day franchise to answer all our burning The Single Life questions.
E! NEWS: First, what sparked the initial concept behind 90 Day Fiancé and did you anticipate the show to be such a huge hit?
Alon Orstein: I've been on 90 Day Fiancé since the very first season going way back. I don't think any of us anticipated where we would be today. I think that we all had a lot of excitement around the project, going back to when it was first pitched to my boss Howard Lee. We were all super psyched about it. We thought it was incredibly fresh. We knew it was going to be successful, but I don't think we imagined the universe it is today.
E!: What does a typical day look like for a 90 Day producer?
AO: It's very busy. We are working hand-in-hand with our partners at Sharp Entertainment, who are into a lot of the nitty gritty in terms of schedules. It's everything from looking at casting to getting reports from the field, looking at cuts of the shows, shaping the creative, collaborating with them on pre-production planning, certainly dealing with issues as they arise, whether it's COVID-related or not. It's always interesting. It's what we say here as it might be a little hectic every once in a while, but you will never be bored working on 90 Day Fiancé.
E!: How do you come up with ideas for spin-offs?
AO: It was very much a natural thought process. There were openings in the stories. Happily Ever After? was the first one. We're doing 90 Day Fiancé and we're watching people come to the U.S. on the K-1 visa, but their relationships continue after the end of our shoot cycle. They're trying to get their footing in a new marriage and still trying to figure out what makes each other tick. That story goes on, so that was a natural continuation and extension of the franchise.
Similarly, we started looking at the initial meetings: How did these folks meet from different countries across the ocean? And Before the 90 Days was born, we were like, ‘Wow, wouldn't it be cool to do the prequel to this and really go back in time and show how these folks are meeting for the first time?' Similarly, with The Other Way, we started thinking about what the reverse looks like. We've been focusing on the Americans here but what's it like to go to another country and leave everything behind? These were all natural openings within the journey that made a lot of sense to follow.
I think in regards to The Single Life, it's a very similar situation. The majority of our couples are still together, but there's obviously, like any relationship, some of them don't work out. We found ourselves looking at some individuals who were single again. These are people we've come to know and love. What's it like to pick up the pieces and move back into the dating world again?
E!: So what is the casting process like for The Single Life?
AO: First and foremost, people need to be ready to get back out there. Not everyone necessarily is; we want to respect each individuals' timetable. But it has to be someone who's ready to get back out there and start the search again. Along those same lines, they need to have relevant ongoing stories, and they absolutely have to fulfill the most important prerequisite of any 90 Day Fiancé series and that is continuing to be honest, continuing to be 100 percent transparent and open about all the aspects of their relationships and their romantic lives. It's also critical that we have a good mix of subjects, both storylines, age, sexual orientation, life experience. Those are the kinds of things we want reflected in any new season. In regards to the individuals, we think we have a great group of singles here. We're super excited about the upcoming season.
E!: Darcey landed her own series Darcey & Stacey, while Chantel Everett and Pedro Jimeno have The Family Chantel and so many fan favorites are back on The Single Life. How can you gauge when you have a breakout 90 Day star on your hands?
AO: For The Single Life, we have Debbie, that is such a fresh opportunity for us. She was very prominent obviously in 90 Day Fiancé and Happily Ever After?. But this is the first time in essence we're taking a secondary character and a mom and exploring their single life. She's a widower, she really hasn't dated since her husband passed away. She is the oldest person to ever be on a 90 Day franchise. To us, that was just such an incredible opportunity to be able to track her story.
In regards to Jennifer Tarazona and Jesse, this is the first time we've ever seen a couple that wasn't even on the same season of 90 Day Fiancé. These are two individuals who've come together and actually formed a relationship, so for us, they were kind of a no-brainer.
AO: I can't speak to anything that's on the horizon, but suffice it to say, we've had about 20 spin-offs now and we are constantly thinking about fresh, big, new opportunities within this space. There will be some stuff coming down the pipeline, for sure.
E!: Lastly, for all the die-hard 90 Day fans out there, can we ever expect to see the most shocking O.G. couple Mark and Nikki back on TV?
AO: I think my answer to that is not every couple returns for subsequent seasons.