This story about “The Mole” first appeared in the Limited Series/Movies issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.
There’s a moment in Episode 2 of Netflix’s “The Mole,” titled “Take No Prisoners,” where cable news host Alex Wagner comes into her own as a reality series emcee. Locking her cast of competitors in two separate sectors of a warehouse, she sets the stage for a game that pits the two groups against each other. They have to decide between sitting tight for 45 minutes and winning some cash or pushing a big, red nuke-launcher of a button to get immunity from elimination.
“Once again, you’re locked up, and now you have to choose: Do the time and win the money, or do the crime and win a shot at exemption,” she explains dramatically over an intercom. “Your time starts now.”
Switching off the microphone, Wagner smiles, pushes a lock of hair behind her ear and adds, “Some of my best work.”
Wagner follows in the footsteps of Anderson Cooper, who hosted the original series on ABC from 2001–2008, an endeavor that helped cement him into the household name he is today. Now it’s time for Wagner — who also hosts “Alex Wagner Tonight” on MSNBC — to have some fun as the new face of the espionage competition series.
She gets to travel across the world as the ring leader of a journey that begins in Australia’s historic Daintree Rainforest and sees 12 strangers — one of whom is a sabotaging mole — use their brains and brawn to win money and eliminate each other one by one.
“’The Mole’ is about getting to the facts and unraveling the mystery of who is the mole,” the reboot’s executive producer Chris Culvenor said. “And so I think it’s no coincidence that Anderson Cooper, the original ‘Mole’ host, was a journalist, and many of the hosts from the international versions have a journalistic background as well.”
On top of Wagner’s “journalistic credibility and background,” Culvenor said, she exhibits “that kind of curiosity that’s palpable from the screen.
“That’s the reason why we loved Alex for that role,” he continued. “And the courting process — it was a really quick and easy discussion because she fell in love with our reboot vision and the show itself. What’s great about Alex is she’s so invested in the process, the mystery and the game, and that is the core of ‘The Mole’ host.”
Additionally, one of the main intrigues of “The Mole” — and one of the reasons Culvenor fell in love with the U.S. original and many international iterations — is “the fact that you could not only watch but play along at home” in figuring out who on the cast was lying, backstabbing and keeping money from the grand prize pot.
It’s a core attribute of a “Mole” host: They don’t know who the mole is, either, “so they are working with the cast and working with the audience to help unravel the mystery,” Culvenor said. “They’re not in the know. They know the missions because they’re delivering that information, but they don’t know how the cast will perform in those missions because that is up to the circumstances of the day and whether the mole swoops in or not.”
No spoilers here about the mole’s identity in Season 1, but looking to Season 2, which got an order in February, Culvenor said he’s most looking forward to seeing the new ways competitors plot against each other and solve mysteries.
“What makes Season 1 so interesting is each mole approaches their sabotage strategy in a very different way,” he said, explaining that a mole needs to have “fortitude,” the ability to “withstand pressure” and a “mischievous side.”
“In Season 2, we’re excited to see a new mole provide almost a different blueprint for how to change this game,” he said.
Read more from the Limited Series/Movies issue here.