Whether you’ve been a fan since season one or, like us, discovered the show during lockdown as the perfect escapist reality TV watch, chances are you are already obsessed with Below Deck. And if you have yet to give in to your friends’ Whatsapp recommendations to start streaming the seafaring reality show immediately, you’re about to get hooked quicker than a lobster becoming a Michelin star charter yacht dinner.
Following the friendships, fights and frisky fraternising of yachties - the crew on luxury yachts - and the demands of the uber rich guests who charter them, Below Deck is the best reality show on telly right now. Yep, we said it.
The much-anticipated season 8 just premiered on reality streaming service Hayu - and, naturally, we’re in for more drama than ever. But what fascinates us just as much as the show’s storylines, is the actual making of our reality TV faves. So, we caught up with the inimitable Captain Lee, and returning fan favourite Bosun Eddie Lucas (who we last saw in Season 3 after THAT hookup with Rocky) to find out how the show is really filmed. Here are the behind the scenes secrets you don’t see on TV…
Captain Lee was not originally supposed to be the show’s captain
“I wasn't really prepared to be on a TV show. It all happened accidentally, because I wasn't supposed to be the captain,” Captain Lee reveals. “Alex [Season One] was supposed to be the captain - that's who they hired. For one reason or another, it ended up being me. But I didn't audition. If it hadn't been dumped in my lap I never would have done it.”
“Having said that, I wouldn't trade the experience for anything because it's really been truly remarkable,” he adds, having been an OG cast member since the very first season.
Eddie’s Season 3 rendezvous with Rocky changed the way the show is filmed forever
“It's been a learning process. Each year we find a better way to do things,” says Lee. “Remember when Eddie got caught in the laundry room? Well, we never used to have cameras in there, because, let's face it, there's not a lot of action in there… until that season. Now we have cameras in the laundry room. The show morphs each year.”
“I can be very sneaky,” says Eddie. “They didn't have anything on me until she felt slighted by me and decided to come out about it. That's fine, I made a mistake, through and through on my part. The way I handled it was a mistake,” What was he thinking, thinking that he could hide the secret affair from the camera crew filming their every move? “I don't think thinking was really what I was doing at all, in any sense,” he admits.
The crew don’t necessarily work on luxury yachts when they’re not filming the show
Eddie works in the less glam world of tug boats when he’s not on TV. “I don't have too much experience working on luxury yachts while not being filmed,” he reveals. “But the ones I have worked on which weren’t part of the show, were not too different. There's always going to be drama when you're living so close to everybody. That's just a way of life. The difference is that on Below Deck, there's no privacy whatsoever. The only privacy you ever have is when you're using the bathroom. That can be taxing to the psyche, so can wear you down a lot faster than being on a normal yacht.”
There are more people involved in the show than you might realise
“I think it would surprise viewers to know the amount of people it takes to produce the show that they never see,” says Lee. “We have a complete production office. As soon as one day of filming ends, the footage is shipped off right away to start working on post production. I think we ended up shooting some 45,000 hours of film, and that gets condensed down into 900 minutes of actual TV.”
The charter guests are always up for being filmed because they’re chosen specifically by the production crew
“They plan the guests that are coming on board,” explains Eddie, when we ask about whether this high-paying guests mind about having their luxury hols aired for our enjoyment (and horror). “I'm sure there are guests that have not liked how they've been shown, but it still surprises me - you know you’re coming on a television show, so if you act like an idiot, that’s on you.”
“On Season One there was this guest called Johnny Eyelash. He would constantly walk around in a filthy bathrobe. I don't think it had ever been washed,” recalls Eddie, of the only guest in Below Deck history to have their charter cancelled, “They found drugs in one of the [group's] things, so I would have to imagine that after those guests watched that episode they probably felt pretty stupid about how things kind of turned out for him. But embarrassment is something that goes hand in hand I think with being on Below Deck!”
There are hours of hilarious outtakes just waiting to be turned into a bloopers special
“When you have a really good season, there's a lot of fun stuff that you can't possibly show because of time constraints,” says Lee, of the reams of footage which is left out, “I would love to see a two hour bloopers special. The footage is out there. Somebody’s laughing at it!”
Captain Lee’s most embarrassing moment never made it to TV
“There's one thing that I'm glad nobody caught on camera, and that was when I fell coming out of the shower,” reveals Cap of the unseen moment, “I have marble floors in my bathroom, with this little postage stamp of a bath mat. I'm not exactly small, so I stepped out, missed the bath mat with my wet feet, and slipped. I was bouncing around my bathroom like a ball in a pinball machine.”
The only time the cast aren’t filmed is when they are “on ice” between activities - but sometimes drama unfolds there, too
“If we’re moving from one part to the next - let's say we're on a night out, and we're moving from the yacht to a restaurant - we might get iced for a second. That means no more talking to each other, because the cameras have to move positions,” explains Eddie, “There was one time in Season One where we were at an ice stage and Ben and I were roughhousing and messing around. Ben was going, ‘Mate I'll f*ck you up! I'm gonna get you!’ And I was like, ‘I’m too fast for you man!’ I think he knows karate. He made a move and I tried to get out of it really quickly, but he grabbed a chunk of my hair and the whole thing just came right out. He had this clump of my hair in his hand!
“I’m pretty sure I had a bald spot and it was bleeding, but we were cracking up about it.” Sudden bald spots aren’t good for continuity, though: “We got yelled at by production.”
Yachties have always been getting up to mischief on the high seas - it’s only now that we get to see it
“Before the advent of smartphones, you never saw any of this stuff,” says Lee, who himself didn’t start working in yachts until his mid-30s, “when any error is going to be caught on film, it's going to be magnified. I'm glad I got my fun before the advent of the Internet!”
The show makes the cast ribbing material for other real world boat crews
Before his return this season, Bosun Eddie had swapped the white glove service of luxury yachts for the grit of tug boats. “The only real similarity is that they’re both boats,” he explains, “It’s pretty hilarious to see a bunch of tugboat workers to all be sitting down in the galley watching Bravo together.” Of course, they’re fans for a different reason too, “They love it because they can make fun of me about it. They send me jabs all the time. They're really supportive of me and it's all fun to them… but they also think I’m so lame.”
“I'll be recording a Cameo or something, and my captain will be yelling at me from like down in his room, ‘You’re flat, Eddie! More energy!”
Covid impacted the filming of Season 8
“It didn't really affect us until late in the season this year,” explains Captain Lee to Cosmo, of Covid halting filming on the new season, “We were close to being finished before it really had an effect on us. Then it was just a matter of getting things all bundled up in the proper fashion so that everybody could make the transition to go home.”
Always ready with a catchphrase, Cap has somehow managed to make the pandemic sound adorable: “I call it the Pandy. When they finally reopened our gyms and I could go back to my exercise routine, I was relieved that I could get rid of my Pandy pounds.”
All seasons and every episode of Below Deck (including the new season 8) are available to stream and download in the UK & Ireland now.
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