“The Biggest Loser” trainers have seen their share of the drama that quitters have created over the years, and it's been tough for them to train those who probably shouldn't have been cast in the first place.
But when the weight-loss competition kicks off its 15th season on Tuesday, fans should expect to see fewer walkouts and more actual competition.
That's because this year, the trainers took matters into their own hands. For the first time in the show’s history, Jillian Michaels, Bob Harper and Dolvett Quince helped select the contestants.
“I think (us having a say in who’s cast) is going to make a big difference,” Michaels told TODAY. “In any other reality show, whether they’re helping somebody sing or helping somebody model, the coaches have been able to select who they believe they can help. We’re going to help somebody completely overhaul their physique and their self image, and yet for 14 seasons we’ve never had a say!”
Last season was particularly rough for Michaels who, by week five of the competition, had already seen four of her five contestants leave the ranch.
“I had an entire team that quit on me in five minutes! I got all of them,” she explained. “Everybody was like, ‘Oh, Jillian is so mean!’ but it’s like, no, I just got all the ones that quit in five minutes.”
“It’s all about getting the right people,” Harper told TODAY. “You’ve got to cast the show in the right way. We have really good people this season. But you also have to remember: You can get the best people with the best intentions, but they are coming in addicts. They’re food addicts.”
This season certainly has its share of unique contestants, including “American Idol” winner Ruben Studdard, Olympic weightlifter Holley Mangold, “average mom” Jennifer Messer and Rachel Frederickson, a Los Angeles-based voiceover actress. The 15 contestants are an eclectic mix.
The trainers were quick to point out, however, that they did not have a say in every contestant’s casting.
“There were a few that made it through, based on network decision, that I wish had not,” Michaels revealed. “I specifically said ‘no’ but ... here we all are. So the same people are still quitting, so it’s obviously not me! By the way, they’re the ones I said no to (for casting)! The great news is, even if I get one of the quitters, I’ll get four that are right. Last season I only had one — one!”
All three trainers say they’re really impressed with the group of contestants they selected.
“We have a really good group of people,” said Harper. “More so than (in) past (seasons), I would say. I’ve been pleasantly surprised, especially (with) the girls. In the first couple of workouts, a lot of these girls really made me smile.”
For the most part, the contestants say they are more focused on losing weight and changing their lives than playing games or worrying about the $250,000 prize money.
“I think the cast decides whether or not they’re going to have that drama,” said contestant Matt Hooper, a Massachusetts retail manager who postponed his wedding to be on the show. “The people that walked out before ... I don’t think that’s going to happen this time. We all have our own motivations for being here, and as long as your motivation is stronger than opinion, you’ll stay as long as you can.”
Contestant Bobby Saleem said he’s more focused on himself than what everyone else is doing.
“Honestly, the 15 of us are really great, nice people,” he said. “Never say never, but if (game play) were to happen, that’s not something I’d be really concerned about. In the end of the day it’s about who’s losing the weight. I have my own individual responsibility to myself to lose a certain amount of weight so I won’t fall prey to game play.”
“The Biggest Loser” season 15 premieres on Oct. 15 at 8 p.m. on NBC.