How Does A Person Actually Get Selected To Appear On Love Island?

Hattie Crisell meets the men who cast Love Island.

Contestants enter the villa

by Hattie Crisell |

The sixth series of Love Island – and the first ever to be shown during winter (though filming will take place in sunny South Africa) – is just around the corner; I can’t be the only person who can’t wait to shut the curtains
 on 12 January and immerse myself
in the activities of tan-loving, thong-sporting 20-somethings
 who just want to crack on.

This time around, Caroline Flack has stepped down as host after an assault charge following an alleged row with boyfriend Lewis Burton, provoking much speculation about how her replacement, Laura Whitmore, will fare.

In reality, though, the success of the series depends squarely on who the islanders are – and the casting process has always been somewhat mysterious.
Last series, it was reported that out of 36 islanders, only six had applied of their own accord; all the others had been approached by ITV or put forward by an agent

Intrigued as to how it works, I head to ITV headquarters to meet executive producer Mike Spencer and series producer Lewis Evans, both of whom have been involved with the show since the first series in 2015. I vaguely expect them to be cynical TV overlords, pulling the puppet strings of the nation; instead, I find that they’re more like Love Island superfans, as invested in the gossip as the rest of us.

‘I remember watching Camilla [Thurlow, in 2017’s series],’ says Mike at one point, almost misty-eyed. ‘You saw someone who let you a little bit into her past and slowly let her guard down. I remember watching that first date she had with Jamie [Jewitt], and they bonded straight away on their favourite authors. I had goosebumps. I was like, this is real love happening in front of us!’ Camilla and Jamie, happily, are still together.

Both Mike and Lewis have spent their careers in casting – Mike was part of the team who discovered TOWIE’s Gemma Collins – and they confirm that they’re actively trying to pick out good potential couples. ‘People need to fancy each other, and you’re looking at who can connect with everyone and just be fun from the outset,’ says Lewis. The producers predicted the sparks between Cara De La Hoyde and Nathan Massey, 2016’s winning pair; they also had Jess Shears and Dom Lever down as a likely match in 2017. Both couples are now married with kids.

‘Other people, we’ve gone, “Oh my god, 100% these two are going to get together!” – and they haven’t,’ admits Mike. Though everyone can describe their ‘type on paper’, chemistry is a complicated thing. ‘That’s why it comes back to personality, and that’s why we need to make sure that everyone who goes on is willing to be open and in touch with their emotions,’ says Lewis.

The producers are keen to set the record straight on one thing: regardless of whether someone’s been scouted for the show or simply logged on to the website, everyone goes through exactly the same application process. They start by submitting a form and a video online; Yewande Biala, who is currently rehearsing for Ireland’s Dancing With The Stars, did this in January last year. ‘On previous years, I’ve heard that people have done crazy stuff,’ she tells me. ‘But I literally got a ringlight, put my camera in it and just spoke for a minute. I feel like sometimes people overthink it, but it’s so important to be you, and trust that being you is enough.’

People need to fancy each other, and you’re looking at who can connect with everyone and just be fun from the outset.

She got a call a month later for a chat, then was invited to a casting day (which are held around the country), and then filled in an in-depth questionnaire about her love life. After that came a ‘fitness to participate’ assessment of mental and physical health
– which was made more rigorous by ITV last year after the deaths of two former islanders – and a sit down with the four producers. Yewande was told two weeks before the series began that she’d be going in, but those who have jobs with longer notice periods are usually told earlier.’

It’s a long-winded process, and no one jumps the queue. Amy Hart, who applied off her own back but also had an agent
who recommended her, tells me she went through the same thing. She describes heading into London for her casting appointment wearing a leopard-print dress and hat, and finding herself on an early morning commuter train. ‘I didn’t know whether I was dressed appropriately,’ she recalls. ‘Then everybody stared at me on the platform and I was like, “Oh, I am, yeah.”’

As for the islanders who are scouted by ITV, the producers explain that social media plays a part – but having showbiz experience or a high Instagram following isn’t a prerequisite for getting on the show. 2017’s Chris Hughes lived on a farm, they point out. ‘The first time he came to London was for his audition,’ says Lewis. They also find potential islanders in clubs, shops and local news stories; Camilla was spotted in an article about her work as a bomb disposal specialist. ‘You can see some amazing people, but they’ve got to come in and meet us and have a good personality,’ adds Lewis.

Neil Dobias is an agent who’s had some luck with suggesting his clients for the show – most recently, 2019’s India Reynolds. ‘The competition is obviously manic,’ he says. Last year’s show was reported to have had around 100,000 applicants, and Neil points out that appearing on it can open up serious financial opportunities later, in the form of brand partnerships or further TV work. ‘With some shows, you can have a client go on to it and they will earn nothing off the back
of it. But Love Island’s just – I can’t fault it. They’re so clever in the way it’s formatted; I’ve never seen a show so powerful.’

When I meet the producers in December, the line-up is already finalised and the islanders are packing their bags. ‘I’ll give you all the names,’ says Lewis, but sadly this turns out to be a joke. ‘We’ve got some really exciting people coming through, though,’ says Mike, and genuinely, they look as excited as I am.

Love Island returns at 9pm on 12 January, airing every night on ITV2

READ MORE: Laura Whitmore Will Replace Caroline Flack As Host Of Love Island

READ MORE: The Grazia Guide To This Year's Love Island Contestants

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Marcel Somerville

In completely brand new information - Marcel was in the 90's band Blazin Squad. WE KNOW RIGHT. He's so modest about that sort of thing.

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