The Treasure Island: Fans v Faves co-hosts talk fans, faves and making their new hosting partnership work.
When Treasure Island: Fans v Faves premieres tonight and a new group of castaways wash ashore on a Fijian beach in the hopes of winning $50,000 for charity, they’ll be wrangled by a new hosting duo. This season will see longtime Celebrity Treasure Island fan Jayden Daniels join the show as co-host, teaming up with CTI hosting fave Bree Tomasel. It’s the fan/fave alliance nobody was expecting, but if the show’s shocking supertease is any indication, we’re in for one heck of a ride.
If Daniels looks familiar, that’s because he’s one of New Zealand’s brightest acting talents. Daniels (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Korokī Kahukura, Te Ātiawa) first appeared on our television screens in 2015 as Curtis Hannah on Shortland Street, going on to become one of the show’s most popular characters. He won best actor at the 2020 New Zealand television awards for his role as Mana Roberts in acclaimed drama Head High, and also appeared in The Panthers, My Life is Murder and Whina, as well as Netflix’s The New Legends of Monkey.
It’s an impressive list of credits, and it’s also a long way from standing on a tropical island smacking raw eggs on your head a la Celebrity Treasure Island. Speaking to Tomasel and Daniels on Zoom after filming for Fans v Faves had finished, Daniels confirms he’s a huge fan of CTI, but had previously turned down an offer to appear on the show. “I had this thing where I was like, I’m an actor and I put out so much of myself in a way that people think they know me because of what I’m doing on screen. If I was to be a contestant, I would feel like I’m putting out the other half of me that I’m usually keeping for myself.”
But with presenter Matt Chisholm announcing his departure from CTI, Treasure Island came calling again, and Daniels jumped at the unexpected opportunity to co-host. “Even though I’m Jayden in front of the camera, I still feel like I have the role of host and I’m not putting personal stuff or going through these hardships in front of the nation.” He admits he was apprehensive to follow in Chisholm’s footsteps, having admired the chemistry between Chisholm and Tomasel over the past three CTI seasons. “Knowing how I felt about Matt, knowing that this is how the rest of the country feels about him as well, I said it was going to be a hard shift to accept a new person into that role,” he says. “I was super excited to have this job, but yeah, I was nervous.”
There’s no better time for Daniels to begin his Treasure Island journey, because Fans v Faves is shaking the show’s format up like never before. Eight Treasure Island superfans will square off against eight CTI veterans, and Tomasel reckons viewers will love seeing non-celeb players take on the game. Both fans and faves come onto the island confident they know the best way to play, but it seems this season, nothing happens the way everyone expects it to. “You have the fans coming on who have watched the show before and have all these ideas about ‘this is how I’m going to play it, this is what I’ll do’,” Daniels says. “Seeing that get flipped on its head as soon as they get into the game was quite fun to watch.”
It’s being billed as the most “unhinged” season yet, and on Treasure Island, the hosts are never far from the action. Initially Daniels saw his role as introducing the rules and commentating through the challenges, but he quickly realised that much of Treasure Island’s drama is impossible to predict. “You get there to do the script but it’s live and all the contestants are staring at you. For them, everything’s live in this game, they don’t know what’s coming next,” he says. Those unscripted moments – like Tomasel consoling Matty McLean after he was eliminated in 2019 – are often the most memorable, and Daniels found the best way to adapt was to simply sink into the new role and let his personality shine through.
Daniels was also surprised at how connected he became to the castaways, and how invested they all became in the game. “What stood out after the first challenge was the high of seeing a team win, but then being right there with the team that just lost. I didn’t experience that as a viewer, actually being like, ‘oh wow, we just called that and now this team has lost and they’re dealing with those feelings right here’.” Tomasel promises Fans v Faves will be an emotional watch, and says her favourite part of the show is the castaways’ honesty and rawness as they experience Treasure Island’s highs and lows. “It shows what people go through in everyday life and with the celebrities, you get to see sides that you normally wouldn’t see.”
However far Fans v Faves deviates from the Treasure Island norm, it will always embrace the “silly school camp for grownups” vibe, and Tomasel loves the escapism the show provides. “Adulting is hard,” she laughs. “So to take you out of that world to a place that’s fun and exciting and just a bunch of adults competing at kids’ games for a big amount of money for charity, I think that’s why people get invested.” Four seasons in, Tomasel knows she’s still living the dream by working on a TV show that brings so much joy. “The most special thing is that I get to experience something that not many people do, and I pinch myself every time. I just think it’s the coolest.”
It seems Daniels and Tomasel might be the most enduring fan/fave alliance this season, and they’re fizzing to see the public response when the show premieres. “Going into it I was nervous, and then meeting Bree and feeling all that support I was like, ‘OK, I can do this’,” Daniels says. “When I fall, there’s someone right by my side to pick me up or show me the way.” Tomasel says she’s been thrilled to watch Daniels make the role his own. “To have Jayden come into the new role and be such a genuine, lovely human being, who’s hardworking and passionate about the show, it was so nice to have him there.”
Treasure Island: Fans v Faves premieres on Monday 30 January at 7.30pm on TVNZ2 and streams on TVNZ+.