Roaming around a luxe Scottish castle and playing a murder mystery game with twenty fellow celebrities might sound like a dream gig, but in reality, it's tougher than it looks. On The Traitors, contestants must not only compete in taxing physical challenges, but they also engage in rigorous mental strategizing and scheming in order to become the last player standing and earn up to $250,000.
On the Peacock hit, 21 players compete to figure out who in the house is a "Traitor" and who is "Faithful." The Traitors, hand-selected by host Alan Cumming, typically convene in the night to choose a player to "murder" and eliminate from the game. Meanwhile, Faithfuls work together to unmask and banish the Traitors. If that's not enticing enough, the show is rife with scheming alliances, shocking twists, and an all-star cast comprised of Survivor alums, Real Housewives, and Big Brother contestants.
As with any reality show, contestants must follow a strict set of rules to ensure the game goes off without a hitch. And a lot happens on set that we as viewers know nothing about—until the stars spill. So before you pack your bags and head to the Scottish countryside, read on to get all the behind-the-scenes tea and see if you'd have what it takes.
Contestants don't get to decide their status.
But season 2 marked the first time players were able to sit down with Alan to plead their case on whether they'd be deemed a Traitor or Faithful.
And they don't always know how many Traitors are among them.
Season 1 star Cirie Fields revealed to E! that players were told there could be between three to five Traitors.
Players aren't allowed to sleep in the castle.
And neither is Alan.
The host said that while he has a large changing room where he sometimes napped during production, he also had to leave the castle every night.
There's a limit on how much the celebrities can drink.
Although contestants are often spotted with a drink in hand (a glass of wine contributed to a massive plot point in season 2!), Season 2 star Ekin-Su Cülcüloğlu told Entertainment Weekly that they're only allowed one drink a night.
The show almost took place on a ship.
"My first idea was to do it on a ship in Australia, and if somebody had to be out of the game, he or she had to jump into the water and swim to an island, but then I thought it would be too difficult to produce," creator Marc Pos told Variety. Although filming the entire series on a boat was too tricky, there have been several water-themed missions thus far.
Players can't go wherever they want in the castle.
But producers told Parade that they decided to expand the set to allow for extra scheming in Season 2, opening up the kitchen and an outdoor terrace, in addition to the library, the billiards room, the bar, and the roundtable room.
Filming hours are unpredictable.
Season 1 star Arie Luyendyk revealed that most players would be lucky to get around six hours of sleep a night. "It takes probably an hour for your brain to kind of shut off," he told US Weekly. "You're there for so long and it's one of those things where we probably started at 8 or earlier and we probably were up till about 12 to 2 in the morning, depending on if you're the Traitor or not, because the Traitors had to do their thing after the whole day was finished."
Recruiting a Faithful usually comes at a price.
If the Traitors recruit a player, they must forfeit that night's murder, running the risk of keeping Faithfuls who might be onto them.
Every player is assigned a welfare team member.
"They're checking on you at all times," Season 2 player Mercedes Javid said on the Just Sayin' podcast. "They're so cheerful and professional. I felt taken care of at all times." Fellow castmate Ekin-Su recalled an instance when she cried "overwhelming tears" to a welfare team member.
Strategizing happens in an unexpected place.
According to Season 1 contestant Rachel Reilly, the car rides to and from the missions were the best time to coordinate plans with fellow players. "You're separated and nobody can hear what you're saying," she told Reality Blurred. "In the castle, you have to whisper."
The Traitors must commit to lying.
When players become Traitors, they must agree to the Traitors' Oath, which reads: "Do you commit to lie and deceive throughout the game? Are you willing to murder your fellow players every single night? And, do you vow to keep your identity and the identity of your fellow players a secret?" Should players break this oath, they could be removed from the game.
Faithfuls can lie too.
For example, viewers recently learned that players are not required to reveal if they're in possession of one of the coveted immunity-granting shields, as seen during a shocking Season 2 power play.
Contestants must forfeit privacy.
"There's microphones everywhere, there's cameras everywhere, and it's a bit like Big Brother," Ekin-Su told Entertainment Weekly.
They're even monitored by security guards at night.
"Its a massive military operation each night to get the Faithful to bed in individual rooms and get the Traitors back out to have their meeting," producer Mike Cotton told Variety. He said the process was necessary in order to preserve the "secrecy of the Traitors." Seasons 1 and 2 cast member Kate Chastain told Vanity Fair that there were security guards in place to ensure players never left their hotel rooms.
Cast members are banned from hanging out with each other at the hotel.
"You're not supposed to talk about the game when the mics aren't ready or the cameras aren't on, because if we say something that's important and it's not on camera, they can't use it on the show," Season 2 player Dan Gheesling told Business Insider.
One Season 1 contestant tried to sneak out of his room.
It was all in good fun though! "I did try to sneak out of my room to leave notes… I was trying to have fun in the moments where you weren't supposed to have fun," Reza Farahan told Digital Spy. "I would leave notes under people's doors that said, 'I know what you did last summer, signed The Traitors.'"
There's a lot that viewers don't see.
Arie told US Weekly that production edited out "a lot of below-the-belt stuff" from the roundtable discussions, as it was deemed too mean and ultimately too distracting from the game's events.
Players must give up their personal belongings.
"When we got off the plane, I was like, 'Oh you're taking our phones, right?'" Mercedes recalled on Just Sayin'. "No, they take everything — all of your communication, your chargers, your watch, your passport, your wallet, your money."
Alan has to follow rules too.
"The host is not there very much, and has to be careful not to manipulate the game, influence viewers, or spark doubts within the minds of contestants who are in their bubble," creator Marc told Variety. "But when they're there, they have to be kind of a friendly yet intimidating figure."
Season 2 casting was very different.
Although Season 2 is stacked with a star-studded cast of reality stars and bold personalities, Season 1 included an even split of celebrities and civilians. "There was a bit of an interesting dynamic, especially the first few days. And then I feel like after the first few days, it was just business as usual," Arie told US Weekly. He also shared that an early departure of a celebrity castmate proved to everyone that everyone was on an even playing field.
Contestants can't enter the breakfast room without permission.
Viewers know that the breakfast scenes are always full of tension as players gather to see who was murdered the night before. To build suspense, staffers toy with the arrival order to prevent players from drawing patterns that could give them insight into who might be a Traitor.
Players aren't allowed to research each other.
In fact, they aren't even given the chance. Casting director Deena Katz said that contestants have no clue who is on the show before arriving in Scotland. "You don't want them to be able to research each other or talk to each other or form alliances before," she told Time.
But they're given a cheat sheet and a journal to take notes.
According to Season 2's Sandra Diaz-Twine, each player gets photos and information about their fellow contestants, as well as a journal. Sandra even shared a sneak peek of the notes she used in her attempts to decode who was a Traitor on an episode of the Reality After Show podcast.
Contestants can be replaced.
In Season 1, cast member Amanda Clark-Stoner exited the show due to what Alan called "circumstances beyond her control." She later shared that she had tested positive for COVID-19. Amanda wasn't the only one to have her Traitors journey end due to COVID. When Kevin Greene tested positive on the first day of filming, producers ultimately decided to have Kevin exit the show and re-filmed the entire first day with actress Geraldine Moreno taking his spot. (Some even speculate that Geraldine's late arrival made her an outsider among the rest of the original cast.)
And they can quit.
For some players, the show can take quite the toll. Arie walked away during the first season and Deontay Wilder bowed out of the second. "I don't know how much more I can go on," Deontay said on the show. "My heart. I can't do this no more."
Players must have some serious stamina.
"On The Traitors, they just throw you in," Season 2 contestant Janelle Pierzina told Entertainment Weekly. "Every single day you're filming and you're just in the moment." For some, this made things difficult. "Long days of missions, round tables, having to emotionally be on point at all times – and if you’re ever very tired, like me, and kind of lose a little bit of mental sharpness, you’re off your game," Kevin Kreider told ScreenRant.
Contestants can't promote their own brands.
Season 2's Shereé Whitfield told People that producers said she was not allowed to wear clothes from her own brand, SHE by Shereé, while on camera.
Players can make repeat appearances.
Loyal viewers were shocked to learn that Kate Chastain was returning to play again in Season 2. Deena told Time that the decision was easy. "It's an interesting dynamic to bring somebody back now after people [on the show] have formed relationships, especially if you bring someone back in the middle of the game that knows how to play the game."
Producers can't influence contestants behind the scenes.
"When you're doing the interviews and you're talking about, let's say other castmates or the missions, you're never led by the producers doing the interviews," Arie told US Weekly. "It's completely organic and I feel like that makes it so cool because it really is all about the gameplay."
Players must take personality tests.
Mercedes said she had to complete a 600-question psych evaluation before competing. A producer told Variety that the tests contestants take allow producers to "see attributes that might make someone a good liar or particularly deceptive."
Cast members must be willing to spend a lot of time at the castle.
Although filming in the Scottish Highlands was "stunning visually," Season 1 contestant Brandi Glanville told USA Network that it got old after a while. "I was excited to do the challenges to get out of the castle. Like even if you're in a castle you want to get out."
But the conditions aren't ideal.
Although many contestants are no stranger to less-than-ideal climates after stints on Survivor, several players have commented on how cold the castle is. "If they did get the heat working, it would probably be a little bit better," Season 1's Cody Calafiore joked to Reality Blurred. (Maybe that's why they don't sleep there!)
Players have to prove their physical strength.
"We had to do a swim test to see if we were capable of completing the mission," Arie told US Weekly. He also revealed that some contestants who knew they might be weaker in the physical missions would make strategic alliances to protect their place in the game.
Couples are allowed—but they aren't given special treatment.
Season 2's Larsa Pippen and Marcus Jordan made headlines for being the first couple to compete on the show. Despite their bond, the duo had to sleep in separate rooms and were not allowed to communicate with each other, just like the other contestants. Larsa told People that despite the strict rules, she was able to let Marcus know she was thinking of him—with a banana that had "I love you" written on it.
Producers have to be very stealthy.
"We put 150 or 200 scarecrows in a field, but that's on the castle grounds, so we have to be careful with the logistics of bringing the cast in so they don't see that, or they don't see our burial plot, because that gives away what's coming," executive producer Sam Rees-Jones told Variety.
Contestants should always keep their eyes and ears open.
Rachel said that after the Traitors were selected, one cast member began acting incredibly different compared to the way they were behaving on the train ride while heading to the castle. "It was very obvious to me," she told Reality Blurred. "I could tell there was a difference in the way he acted toward me, the way he was a bit standoffish and didn't want to work with me." She ultimately used this intuition to target this Traitor.
Even producers find the show 'terrifying' at times.
"We set up the rules of the game, and then we just let them play it, which is really good and also terrifying at times because you never know what’s going to happen," executive producer Mike Cotton told Variety. The rapid filming pace is designed to keep players' heads in the game.
Everyone is fair game for the casting directors.
That includes a former member of British Parliament (John Bercow)! For the seasons comprised of reality stars and public figures, Deena told Time that while she made sure to choose contestants who "know that it's a game to play," she also sought to cast players who had out-of-the-box qualities. "It's like putting together the best dinner party possible with people that you don't expect together."
After all, the cast mix is what makes the show so captivating.
"Bravo people were more like, 'Oh, okay, let's create something really funny here,'" Janelle told Entertainment Weekly. "Or they would just really hone in on something to just make good TV. It's a nice mix of competitive people that are trying to win the game and then people that are just trying to last as long as they can because they want to make their fans happy."
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