Not even a pandemic can stop The Challenge.
MTV’s bats–t competition series is back for more brawling and backstabbing with its brand-new Double Agents season. Premiering Wednesday, Dec. 9, at 8/7c (with a special preview airing Monday at 8), the cast of rookies from America’s Got Talent, Are You the One?, Survivor, Big Brother and more are itching to prove they’ve got what it takes to bank their fair share of that hefty $1M prize. (View the full cast list here.)
Unfortunately for them, 19 savage veterans stand in the way — and they aren’t going down without a fight.
Filmed entirely in Iceland, it took multiple quarantines and heaps of COVID tests to get Double Agents safely off the ground. “We were tested three times a week, our temperatures were taken twice a day, and all of production wore masks and shields, so everybody was safe,” series staple Aneesa Ferreira told TVLine ahead of the season’s launch. “We had a COVID team, with nurses in full PPE on standby. They were very, very careful. I can’t believe they even pulled it off.”
Ferreira is back in action this season for her 14th (!) shot at glory. Despite competing since Season 6’s Battle of the Sexes in 2003, the former Real World: Chicago roommate has yet to secure a win, but this time she’s coming to snatch that cash with new strategies in mind, and a ride-or-die ally by her side. Ahead of the premiere, we talked to Ferreira about how she’s playing the game differently, gender inequality in reality-TV and the media, and what keeps her coming back for more, even after all these years.
TVLINE | What were some of your first impressions of the rookies. Who were you watching out for, intrigued by, etc.?
It’s almost like [the spinoff] Champs vs Stars. You have these people that you’ve never really seen perform, but you know they are good at what they do outside of The Challenge… like Lolo [Jones], she’s an Olympian, and Lio [Rush], he’s a [former WWE] wrestler.
My best friend warned me about Natalie [Anderson], and said she was awesome on Survivor. If you can make it there, you can do anything. Granted, our challenges are a bit more difficult. But I know that Natalie had won, so coming in and looking at her body type, she’s a CrossFit coach… she was a big threat to most of the girls. But when we got there, the majority of the women were strong, so it wasn’t even the rookies, per se, but just not knowing what people were capable of because there were so many new people.
TVLINE | Speaking of the newbies, what’s your take on the series adding cast members from Big Brother and Survivor, among others? Has it changed dynamic for you, as a player?
I think it does change it because we had been working with the same people — or at least I have — for almost two decades, so I know their antics and what they’re up to. Then you get these new people. Can you trust them? You don’t know how they play. Then you’ve got to go back and watch their seasons of whatever they were on. It’s so much more work. Even for someone who’s seasoned, I still never know what to expect. But with the kids from the UK, culturally I get a different experience. It’s refreshing to have new people come in, and knowing that I’ll be on my way out soon, these are the people who will be around trying to make good television.
TVLINE | In an Instagram clip, you mentioned needing to get Wes [Bergmann] and CT [Tamburello] out if you wanted a shot at the final. Why were they some of your targets, and who else was on your hit list?
I didn’t have a hit list. I just looked the cast and was like, “Who has won before and who have I been on a show with? And who have been the common denominators when I’ve lost?” Last season, Wes kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I know he can manipulate people, especially the rookies, and I knew that they had a lot of numbers this season. Looking at him, he’s definitely a threat. And CT, he’s good at this game. He can stir the pot without doing much.
I talked to Leroy [Garrett] and Kam [Williams] prior to going. Leroy and I have been playing this game for so long, we just want to win. We both have always helped out our friends and have done these super selfless things for the sake of others because that’s how we are, and it has gotten us nowhere. I think we’re both coming into this game trying to play it differently because every other way hasn’t worked. This isn’t even personal. This is like, “OK, Aneesa: What have you done the past few seasons that hasn’t helped you. What has hindered your progress? Let’s eliminated a couple variables and see how that goes.” Or at least try to.
TVLINE | Who else were you happy to see on this season?
Tori [Deal], 1,000 percent. Tori is one of my closest friends. Our spirits stand together. It sounds cheesy as s–t, but it’s rare. You get a few friends on this show, if any. Real friends, that you love and that you trust, and I consider her one of them. Having a real ally going into this show — and she’s an ally in my real life, too — but somebody I feel safe with, someone I can call my No. 1 and trust…. This game feels different already.
TVLINE | Can you dish about any cool new Double Agents twists?
You know I can’t spill! It’s definitely extreme and it’s definitely sneaky. Psychologically, this game is crazy.
TVLINE | The show has certainly been amping up the intensity every. single. season.
I don’t know how they do it, but they do!
TVLINE | Can you tell me a bit about The Challenge‘s first official podcast that you’ll be hosting? What can fans expect?
All the things I can’t answer now, I can probably answer on there. The [podcast] episodes will [be released] the day after the show, and we’re going to be able to tell you guys what happened that you didn’t see. Behind-the-scenes stuff, interviews with castmates, superfans and producers, what goes into making a challenge location, how they tested the challenge…. Plus, we’ll be taking questions from people via Instagram and Twitter. We want to give you the inside scoop on all the stuff that goes down. We’re gonna give it to you straight, no censors! [Laughs]
TVLINE | What does the future look like for you? Will you keep doing Challenges?
I’m not sure. I have one more semester of school, which is looming over my head, but I’m hoping to do one more. We live in an ageist society when it comes to television and media, and women age out faster than men. It’s always like, “Well she’s over with, she’s too old,” but I’m like, “You guys never talk about Darrell [Taylor] or CT or Wes or Johnny [‘Bananas’ Devenanzio] like that,” who are relatively the same age I am.
I’m showing women at home that you may have gained a couple pounds and your metabolism slowed down, but you can still get s–t done and be a badass. Once you get over 35, you don’t have to sit down and die. If anything, your drive goes up. I want to show people that they can do it, that it can be done, and that’s the biggest thing for me now. Even when I was younger and doing all the things that scared me half to death — and even concerning mental health — I really had to push myself and The Challenge pushes me to see what I’m able to accomplish. If it continues being a healthy thing for me and they have a spot for me, I’ll go back.
TVLINE | What would a Challenge win mean to you after all these years?
You’ll have to watch… maaaybe! [Laughs] It would mean the world! It really would just be validation for all the years of hard work.
TVLINE | But no really, can you tease us with anything?
I’m not teasing anything! You’re gonna have to watch and see how messy this one gets.