‘Love Undercover’ EPs Wanted to Change the Reality Dating Show Fame Game With an ‘Amazing Reversal of Power’

As more reality dating shows blast contestants to influencer fame, “Love Undercover” EPs Alycia Rossiter and Sonya Wilkes wanted to change the game for fame-seekers.

“Dating shows are things where no one admits it, but they’re coming on it for fame and love … We always pretend they’re not coming for fame, we pretend they’re coming just for love,” Rossiter told TheWrap, adding the Peacock series aimed to layer the desires for love and fame all in one.

“Love Undercover,” which is produced by Beyond Media and is now streaming on Peacock, follows an elite group of international soccer stars as they shed their identities — and fortunes — as celebrities and go on a U.S. dating journey. Guarded with new, average working- and middle-class identities, the soccer players date American women under the guise of an international dating show, mixing fame chasers with those who have experience being in the spotlight for quite some time.

“Even though they were the ones that signed on the dotted line to be famous and hiding their fame, [the men] were more surprised, I think, than the women that signed up to date men and found out that they had been part of a ruse that they had never requested to be part of,” Rossiter said, noting the rude awakening facing the players as they entered the civilian dating pool.

While the show landed five soccer stars — including Premier League stars Jamie O’Hara and Lloyd Jones from the United Kingdom and Ryan Babel from the Netherlands, as well as Mexican players Marco Fabián and Sebastián Fassi — casting was anything but seamless.

“The casting of this was incredibly challenging and we had to do it in really unconventional ways,” Wilkes said. “Typically you get a talent booker, you get a casting agency — that was never going to work here because two worlds are colliding — the sport world and the entertainment world.”

As Wilkes and her team hustled to utilize every connection they had to find interested contestants, Wilkes noted the players overall were not only up for the adventure, but were also keen on dating without their connection to fame and wealth.

“They had experienced, I guess, the downside, and they’d lost trust — some of them had more than others — but they did question what people wanted them for,” Wilkes said.

After selecting players who had been “coasting on their soccer fame,” according to Rossiter, the celebrities’ worlds were turned upside down as they entered an isolated dating pool where they were judged solely on their looks and personality by the American women.

“I had this secret dream the men would have trouble gaining the affection and attention of women, and they would feel what it was like to walk in regular sneakers and not necessarily be the top choice in the bar like they are in their real lives,” Rossiter said.

Almost immediately, an “amazing reversal of power” happened as the social experiment kicked off with several women choosing which man they were most attracted to. Jones, for instance, became a hot commodity among the women despite being a relative newbie when compared to the soccer legends sitting beside him.

“Every girl was asking the young hottie out even though his paychecks, his World Cup status, and his experience on the field was nothing compared to the others,” Rossiter said, adding that Jones “felt crazy weird getting more girls than his idols.”

The irony continued as Fabián, who could be considered the show’s most notable soccer player, especially among Los Angeles’ Mexican soccer fans, didn’t initially attract the same interest as his younger counterparts, and was later recognized by several fans at the Universal City Walk prior to meeting a date, who remained in the dark about his fame.

The date was one of several close calls the production faced as passersby recognized the players in the elevators of the high-rise apartment building where the men were staying, with Rossiter joking, “Don’t do a show about famous people undercover in a high-rise — that is my advice to everyone else that does it after us.”

As the soccer stars dated around to find their ideal match, “Love Undercover” hinges on the big reveal of the players’ true identity to the woman with whom they’ve felt the strongest connection — mimicking a journey the EPs compared to Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s superstar relationship.

“We wanted the combo of Taylor back when she was in the bleachers and Taylor now that she’s the captain of the cheer squad,” Rossiter said of the grand reveal, referencing Swift’s “You Belong With Me.” “We’re giving her her Travis and we were hoping that he would love the girl from the bleachers.”

“Love Undercover” is now streaming on Peacock.

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