The challenge for any show after 16 seasons is finding ways to keep it fresh and to mitigate problems that arise. “Project Runway” Season 16 had a real disaster on its hands when one of the contestants was booted from the show for cheating.
But executive producer Sara Rea explained how they took this potentially fatal scandal and turned it into one of their best seasons.
“You put it on camera. If you can at all, put the disaster on camera. Because you make your problem entertaining,” Rea told TheWrap’s Matt Donnelly on Thursday. “This season we had a big cheating scandal, and I was like ‘s— what do we do?’ And we just turned the cameras on. Roll on everything, we rolled behind the scenes, and we had such strong on-camera talent that they can manage those things when the train jumps the rail. The biggest rule is, keep all the drama on camera. Use it to your advantage.”
Rea spoke on TheWrap’s Emmys Outstanding Reality Competition Panel along with “RuPaul’s Drag Race” executive producer Fenton Bailey and “The Challenge” star Johnny Bananas at the Landmark Theatres in Los Angeles. Bananas, whose real name Johnny Devenanzio, agreed that such scandals on reality shows make for the best drama. And he would know.
“She [Rea] said there’s cheating on her season. That’s all I do,” Bananas said. “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying on my show. Anytime I can find a loophole, production hates me. You almost have to have the list of rules, and then the Bananas rules. This guy’s going to find some weird, janky way of figuring out this challenge that we haven’t. Why didn’t we think of that?”
“Project Runway” has been renewed through Season 18, and Rea said all of this drama has ultimately helped the show’s longevity.
“The show perpetuates itself. There’s people now in Season 16 who said, ‘Hey, I can be a fashion designer.’ And they had never thought of that,” Rea said. “Do we feel the pressure to reinvent to keep it going after so many seasons? Yes. We start every season with, ‘Let’s produce it like its our last,’ because if we don’t, we have to find new surprises. We always have to evolve it. We don’t have to change it, but we have to evolve it, because the audience is going to want something a little different.”
Watch TheWrap’s full panel discussion above, and check out Rea’s comments at the 23:36 mark.