It’s Challenge season all year ’round. Mark Long, who appeared on the first-ever season of Road Rules in 1995, came up with the idea for The Challenge: All Stars in summer 2020. Less than one year later, he made it a reality. Although he originally planned to host and produce, he ultimately ended up as part of the cast.
“I was producing in the beginning, and I was gathering all the names of potential people that we thought would be great for the series. You’ve got to remember, we were doing this all through a pandemic, so just getting people’s availability to line up was a task in itself,” Long, 49, said on the Wednesday, March 17, episode of the “Watch With Us: Challenge Edition” podcast. “Once MTV and Paramount decided they’d rather have me on their show as a participant rather than hosting, then all of my intellect and all of my, like, looking behind the curtain was eliminated. I didn’t know who the final cast was going to be. I didn’t know any of the challenges. I didn’t know where we were going. I was back in cast mode.”
Long, who was excited to “put the speedo back on,” added that he wanted to show the world that age is only a number — and just because most of the cast is “above the age of being in their physical prime,” they can still compete.
“I thought [host] TJ Lavin might take it easy on us and some of these things might not be as extreme,” the Florida native told Us, hinting at “twists” that the host threw at the cast throughout the season. “Well, let me tell you, just starting from the first challenge alone, I was like, this is real, this isn’t B-list challenges. This is A-plus, and it’s hard. It’s physical. It’s mental. … It’s a roller-coaster ride.”
As for the cast, which includes 22 vets from the shows — some who haven’t competed in 20 years — Long hints that Jisela Delgado from Road Rules: The Quest and Yes Duffy from Road Rules: Semester at Sea may become fan favorites.
Speaking of fan favorites, when the two-time champion first began casting the show, Veronica Portillo, Coral Smith, Landon Lueck and Evelyn Smith were all on the list of potentials — and were all in talks to be on the show, Long said.
“Evelyn was hugely involved in the democratic primary election. She is now gone and started working with them,” he said of the Fresh Meat alum, who reached out after filming wrapped and told him she had heard how great it was and would like to try to join in the future. “Coral is a doula and the timing wasn’t right for her. We tried to make it work.”
As for Lueck, 41, “it was an issue with him leaving work,” but Long has a feeling the Real World: Philadelphia alum be on it if the show continues as well.
“I think once he finds out that the grand prizes is half a million dollars and he probably had a great shot at winning it, I think he’s going to be a little pissed off there,” he shared before noting that for Portillo, 43, there was hesitation because of the culture. “Veronica is used to the regular Challenge that shoots for so long and it does mess with your head. … I think Veronica was used to that filming style and not the negativity, but you know how quick people are with their Twitter fingers on the real Challenge. They go after each other. So I think once she sees how this played out and how much fun people had, I think she might reconsider.”
For more from Long, including why Aneesa Ferreira and Darrell Taylor were included despite competing on Double Agents and what happens when Lavin, 44, gets “disappointed” with one vet, listen to the podcast above. Subscribe to the “Watch With Us: Challenge Edition” podcast for free.
The Challenge: All Stars debuts on Paramount+ Thursday, April 1.