Ahead of the show's return with new episodes Wednesday, June 12, Schulman spoke to TV Insider about a season of firsts that includes new locations, catfish with criminal backgrounds, ghosting, and more.
Plus, he discusses the guest co-hosts joining him on the road, how he thinks online interactions have evolved on the show and the popularity of the term catfish in everyday vocabulary.
This season is being considered a season of firsts — what should fans expect?
Nev Schulman: There's a technical answer to that, which is obviously because we have some new guest co-hosts, and because we went to some new places, there's some sort of fun firsts in that regard. But really, I think what made these episodes particularly interesting and what really kind of gave us the idea to call this a season of firsts is that we were surprised every time we did an episode.
Obviously, I've made a lot of episodes of the show, and I've seen a lot of situations that are very similar to other situations. But genuinely, this season... I don't know if it was something to do with the planetary alignment or maybe just a sort of changing of a generation of people who are using social media in new different ways... but we saw some really wild things that we've never seen.
Everything from reaching out to someone to have them come and meet us and then kind of having them just totally bail on us and not connect with them. We had a lot of weird things happen after episodes where we like to follow up with people and usually they will, and in this case they didn't... but we also had stuff that where we discovered things about people that was genuinely like wildly shocking, whether it had to do with criminal background or just a very complicated situation that we never dealt with before.
It's hinted that the season premiere episode includes a catfish with a criminal background. Do you have a protocol on how to approach individuals like that?
That actually happened on a bunch of episodes where the question kind of came up like, can we do this? Is it safe? Not just for us but for the people involved. [It's] a conversation I'm happy to have, and I think it's healthy and good, but there was a lot of situations that we found ourselves in this season that we'd never dealt with before. So, we all kind of had to scramble and figure our way through it.
Kind of like changing the rule book?
Yeah, exactly... That's exactly what it is.
Kamie Crawford features as a co-host in the premiere, what other guest co-hosts should fans expect to see?
We definitely zeroed in on some of the ladies who had co-hosted previously that we liked... but also kept it open for some new, fresh faces. So, one thing that I'm really excited about is just that every episode that anybody does after the first one, they get more comfortable. They get more confident. And so I love that I got to bring back Tallulah [Willis] and Kamie.
Elle [King] came, who I totally adore, who has a very profound sense of self-expression and emotional intelligence that is evident in her songwriting, but also in person. I had a great time with Kimiko Glenn, who I obviously admire as an actress-singer-performer, but who's also just a ball of light energy that makes the show fun to watch.
I did a few episodes with Justin Combs, who I didn't know much about going into it, but turns out to be a just wonderfully, sound, polite, sweet guy. So, just for me personally to meet new people and to work with them and to just sort of pick things up from them and reimagine the situations because I'm kind of looking at it through their eyes.
Does looking at it through their eyes give you a fresh outlook on the show?
Bringing new co-hosts on definitely resets the energy. And all of the sudden, not only am I in situations for the first time with someone — in some cases who I don't even know, so I'm getting to know them. They're getting to know me. We're both figuring out how we interact on the show, and then we're thrust into this complicated mystery situation that we have to figure out together. So, it makes the experience feel very new. But also, everybody brings a different skill set and a different emotional background to the show.
Have you noticed any shifts in the cases that you've been covering in recent years prior to past seasons?
Since 2012 to now, we've all become so accustomed to, comfortable with, and I think addicted to our phones and social media. There's I think a very real noticeable sort of psychological change that's happening in our — I say "our" but more specifically younger people's — brains as they grow up on and mature using social media and communicating the way that they do. Social interaction has changed... we've redefined it.
And so as a result, the show has evolved with that, and I think one of the things that I've noticed is it doesn't matter. I think we're all now more vulnerable, which is why it keeps happening. Everybody always says like, "I can't believe people are still getting catfished in 2019, like that seems so foolish," but I think it's actually more common or easier to happen now because our levels of insecurity have gone up... Just the way that we connect with each other as human beings has changed.
We're spending more time online interacting with more strangers and I think as a result of that, we're feeling less and less genuine, real connection. So if we get a little bit of it on the internet from a stranger, it's that much more tempting and enticing.
It certainly seems harder to discern the genuine from the fake online nowadays.
Right, but I don't even think people care anymore because we just sort of all assume everybody's fake.
Right cause who's really themselves on Instagram, anyway? We've all kind of accepted a level of artifice and presentation that it almost feels like, well they might be lying to me, but I'm also kind of lying to them, so it's fine, whatever. You know what I mean?
Definitely. It's just the levels of lying that people deem acceptable that's interesting.
Yeah, the line has definitely blurred.
How does if feel to know that Catfish has become a part of everyday vocabulary?
It feels weird. Literally every time I see a major newspaper headline about someone getting catfished, it's crazy. I can't believe that's just the word for [it]. I mean, it's a pretty all-encompassing [word] at this point, too. Like basically anything that happens on the internet where someone is deceptive is called catfish now which was not our initial intention in using it to name the film, but it's pretty wild. [It's] definitely something that I'm constantly somewhat baffled and impressed and giddy about.
Catfish, Season Premiere, Wednesday, June 12, 9/8c, MTV