Positive response to Dutch reality series de veraders brought different versions of traitor in several countries, but executive producer Tony Ireland says the biggest challenge for him was making sure the American production stood out in the crowd. Peacock traitor brings together a group of everyday people and reality TV stars in an elaborate murder-mystery competition hosted by Alan Cumming. Perhaps the biggest change in the US series was how the game ended, which led to a shocking finale where the group needed to make a unanimous decision to either trust their fellow finalists and split the money or take another Call for an abolition vote if they believe the traitor is still among them.
Deadline: How has the response been to the series in the US?
Tony Ireland: Oh, it’s been wonderful. It’s been great. The first series is always difficult, even though it was a format that had been tested before, this was the first time we were making it. We united America before Britain. You know, we were trying celebrities and everyday people and all the missions were brand new, so it wasn’t anything that had been done in any other series. We put our heart and soul into it and we were thrilled with the response. And I think people really enjoyed the series because it felt different from other reality shows. It felt like a real game and that’s what attracted me to the show in the first place – that first and foremost, it’s a psychological game and the players are there to play the game above all else, which is exciting.
Time Limit: This is very interesting to watch as there is no easy situation for any player, not even the traitors.
Ireland: As a producer, it was so fascinating to watch the game play out. I thought, ‘Do I want to be a loyalist or do I want to be a traitor?’ If you get away with deceit, it’s whether you want to be in control of everything and know everything or are you willing to let yourself play the game as a loyalist and try and Find out who the traitors are. It was absolutely charming and the American cast really threw themselves into it. At first we thought that people would be sitting and getting to know each other, but they didn’t. From the time they reached that palace, it was all strategy, the game was on and it was very exciting to watch from our point of view.
Deadline: Was it always the plan for the US version to have a mix of reality stars and non-reality stars?
Ireland:yes, and I believe the US version is the only version to do this. The original Dutch version had an all celebrity cast, and then for the UK we went all everyday people. And then for America, we started with everyday Americans and we started playing with the idea that maybe we could add some celebrities and we ended up with a mixed cast, which ultimately, I think Worked really well. Obviously, for our first series, it’s great to have some famous faces in there that bring people to the show. And they were all great sports players. They were all perfect for the game.
Deadline: how did Alan Cumming get involved? I can’t imagine a better host.
Ireland: Well, funny you say that, because that was the only name we had. As the show started taking shape, we were thinking of our location and our theme. we’ve always had knives out as a thematic idea and harry potter, And then we were like, ‘Where better than a castle in Scotland?’ And when we found our beautiful palace in our beautiful location, we were like, ‘Who more suited to host this than Alan Cumming?’ And lucky for us, he was immediately interested, and we had a call with him and we explained the show and he got it right away. We sent him the Dutch version and he liked it. We talked about what character he’s going to be, obviously he’s going to be the host of the show, but he’s also the puppet master. He’s this kind of abusive lord who lives in this palace who controls the game. He cares about the players, but he knows it’s the game and he liked the idea of that role.
Deadline: When you have a reality show like this that is based on a previous series and is taking place in other countries, how do you make it different?
Ireland: It was really important to us. We saw the Dutch version and it was great, but for us, we just wanted to up the production values. It was really important to us that it looked cinematic. So, we’ve got a fantastic series director, Ben Archard, on board because he shares the same passion as us. We wanted to show Scotland – the rolling hills, the castles – it was about upping the game and that was really important to us.
I think the game design itself is great, but one thing we changed was the end game. In the Netherlands, the game ended with a sort of prisoner’s dilemma ending up sharing or not sharing. We felt we could develop something that spoke to the whole game a bit more – Are there any traitors left? That was kind of our main idea. We thought it spoke to the overarching theme of sport. Have you managed to get rid of all the traitors? And that’s when we developed our end game, which is they decide when the game ends which obviously was surprising for the US version of the ending. It was absolutely unbelievable.