Netflix did it again: Too Hot to Handle is the latest binge-worthy reality TV show everyone is talking about. The series follows a cast of bikini-clad 20-somethings in a luxurious beachside villa with the prospect of finding true love. But there's (of course) a twist: No sexual contact of any kind is allowed. If you, like us, already binged all eight episodes and are eager for more, we gathered all of the behind-the-scenes information we could find about the show. Ahead, the most surprising facts about Too Hot to Handle.
According to producer Laura Gibson, the cast members were none the wiser about the sex ban before Lana, the show's virtual assistant host, broke the news to them. All the producers told the cast was that they would be in a tropical location for one month, they could win a prize, and dating was involved.
The bad news wasn't dropped on the cast until 12 hours after they arrived, giving ample time for the singles to get to know each other. Within two hours, the cast was already discussing who they fancied in the group.
If the cast can withstand a month abstaining from any sexual practices of any kind (including kissing, sex, and even "self-gratification," as Lana put it), they'll receive a $100,000 prize. For every rule break, money gets taken out of the pot.
The producers then took their sex ban idea and formatted it like the hit reality series Love Island, which has aired in the U.K. since 2015 and now has a spinoff in the U.S.
The idea of a global cast was enticing for Netflix because it suits a broader audience. Producer Louise Peet says the international cast was perfect because "hookup lifestyles are very common globally. This isn't just a problem that's in the U.K., it's not just a problem in L.A., it's not just a problem in New York, it's worldwide."
Netflix's production team set up south of the border in Mexico. Specifically, in a beachside villa in Punta Mita, Mexico. The crew spent up to 29 days filming the first season in April 2019.
...But it's pricy! According to Trip Advisor, it costs approximately up to $15,600 a night to stay at the seaside villa. "Netflix executives were like, 'Find the most beautiful place in the world…Show us the place where the A-list of the world could only afford to go,'" Gibson told OprahMag.com about how they picked the house.
Instead, there was an AI device called Lana, inspired by Amazon's Alexa, that would communicate with the cast—and listen in on them to gather personal data. You know, the usual.
Actress and comedian Desiree Burch is the Too Hot to Handle narrator. "You wanted the [narrator] to almost feel as if she was watching at home and commenting on it and sort of taking the mickey out of people a little,” producer Jonno Richards told People.
There's a reason why she has a posh British accent. "We definitely chose a Mary Poppins-esque, non-judgmental British female voice. Just for the authority and lack of judgment that we hoped would come across," Peet told People.
The show's producers received thousands of applications for the dating show. Of their final picks, Peet told Oprah magazine, "They fit the bill in terms of their habits, in terms of their love lives, and their commitment phobia."
"Sexy, sexed up, and charismatic" is what producers were looking for when they were casting the show, according to Netflix.
In fact, many of the people who ended up being cast didn't even apply to be on the show. We can thank their thousands of followers for them making their way onto our TV screens.
The singles were all 20-somethings for a reason. "As an older person, I knew that I would always go for the cash, but I know that my 19-year-old self would have gone for the sex," Gibson told Oprah magazine.
Unlike some reality shows, where the liquor is flowing, producers on THTH made sure the contestants were drinking in moderation. "They limited us to two drinks a night, and they had to give them to you," cast member Bryce Hirschberg said on the Hollywood Raw Podcast.
To get the cast to focus on their relationships—and keep them from spilling any drama!—they weren't allowed to communicate with the outside world. Producers took away their phones before filming started and there was no internet at the retreat. (Sounds a bit like Love Is Blind.)
Every time the singles engaged in behavior that broke the sex ban, the prize money decreased. "We felt that $20,000 for sex was big enough, but it was those middle ground things that were a big debate. We eventually settled on $6,000 [for oral sex], but I think that was a bit cheap, as well," producer Vikki Kolar told The Wrap.
Yes, it was someone's job to make sure that even in the middle of the night people weren't breaking the rules. “We had to keep an eye on them, didn't we? So there was no self-gratification in the middle of the night! That was someone's job as well," Peet told People.
"We had, honestly, the best spying, pervy producers we could possibly find. Just kidding! So we just got them to listen—if there was anything suspicious going on in the middle of the night, they would have to be listened to by our transcribers, or our producers, who, unfortunately for them, had to start deciphering what different levels of breathing meant. I.e., was it an innocent trip to the bathroom, or something else?"
Those black straps around cast members necks or waists? That's a mic pack. The cast wore mics at most times during the retreat. "Obviously, we weren't filming in the bathrooms, but we were listening all the time," Richards told People.
One exception? The cast was given some time off from the camera for group dinners each evening and they were allowed to turn off their mics, too. "We'd take our mics off, but we'd all be together. You can't talk about all the drama,” Harry Jowsey told Oprah.
According to Hirschberg, there was no fee to appear on the show. "The way they pitched it was, 'Oh Bryce, you're going to make a ton of money after this anyway. You're going to get a ton of exposure,'" Hirschberg said on the Hollywood Raw podcast.
One of the ways the cast members bonded with one another was by sleeping in one co-ed bedroom, which meant sharing beds with your castmates. The reason behind this? "They've got to see each other in the raw,” Gibson told Oprah magazine. David Birtwistle said, as a result, he slept on the floor a few nights.
The show allowed contestants to touch one another—they just weren't allowed to let it turn into "heavy petting," which was forbidden.
"The workshops actually are rooted in something. They are about trying to break down barriers and help people grow," Richards told People. Contestant Chloe Veitch says that the yoni puja workshop helped her most of all: "Doing the challenge, like, really empowered me into thinking, 'I'm not going to feel like that anymore. I need to respect my yoni, I need to respect myself,'" she told Elite Daily.
In episode four, the contestants were given watches that lit up green when they were allowed a break from the no sex ban, as a reward for establishing a deeper connection. "It couldn't all be the stick. It couldn't all be punishment—there had to be a little bit of carrot, a little reward," Richards told People.
The show is set up intentionally to make sure the audience is unaware of how many days have passed by. "The process was the most important thing—that's why they were there, not to make it to day three and then get evicted or not get evicted,” producer Charlie Bennett told People.