Below Deck creator and executive producer Mark Cronin admitted that deckhand Andrew Sturby from Below Deck Season 2 completely changed how producers vet crew members. Sturby was an eager worker but lied about his experience. Captain Lee Rosbach reluctantly fired Sturby when he dragged the crew down. Cronin told Showbiz Cheat Sheet that Sturby’s firing was a watershed moment for production because it demonstrated why hiring capable crew members was paramount to the show.
‘Below Deck’ casting: Producers look for experience, especially on deck
The Below Deck cast is vetted professionally and psychologically before they are approved for the show. “From being able to handle being a yachtie,” he said. “And that’s most important probably on the exterior that you have deckhands that can actually handle the boat. Because these are the crew of the boat.”
“In the earlier days we were a little more blind,” he said. “We had hired people who had no real reason of being there at all. Sturby is a famous example of that. Because of Sturby, we now check all references. Everybody’s gotta give us three references of boats they’ve worked on. We check those pretty carefully. In terms of being a yachtie, that is much more checked over than it used to be.”
He said the show is now filled with more qualified yachties. But as with Mzi “Zee” Dempers, producers like to give newer yachties a shot too. “We’ll still have a green person,” he said. “But when I mean green, they’ve only worked on one other charter boat.”
“We don’t pull people out of farms anymore and put them on the boat,” he added.
‘Below Deck’ crew members go through a psychological evaluation
Cronin shared how the crew is evaluated, especially when it comes to being able to handle the glare of being on reality television. Beyond dealing with seeing themselves on TV, crew members often find that fans will be overly vocal in their opinions on social media.
“In terms of being sane enough to handle a reality television show, and being filmed 24/7, and seeing the results of that on TV, that’s a strong test of somebody’s confidence and moral capacity,” he said. “So yes, they go through a pretty extensive psychological evaluation. It’s both written and in person. Or at least a Skype evaluation of, like, what kind of person are you. And are you the kind of person who could be a threat to yourself or others?
‘Below Deck’ producers take the vetting process very seriously
While most Below Deck crew members have no issues on the show, some behaviors shocked fans and other crew members. “That’s not an easy game,” he said about determining if someone is fully prepared to handle the stress of reality television. “Predictive psychology is not an easy thing.”
“But between the background checks, the interviews,” he continued. “And the written answers to, I’ve heard it’s like 300 questions. I think we’ve done pretty well at keeping a mentally healthy cast. And that’s our job. That’s true of all reality shows. Everybody gets vetted pretty carefully these days.”
This article is part of Showbiz Cheat Sheet’s multi-part series based on an exclusive interview with Below Deck creator Mark Cronin. In 2013, Cronin developed the series, which follows the secret lives of yachties who serve the rich and famous. The “upstairs/downstairs” series documents what really happens with the crew professionally and personally, “below deck.”