“The Mole” gets a new host and season premiere date

We've got the exclusive on the new face of the franchise as well as when all the sabotage returns.

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Entertainment Weekly does solemnly swear we are not trying to sabotage your viewing plans with deception and lies as we drop some big exclusive news about one of our favorite reality competition shows. The Mole will be returning to Netflix on June 28 for another season of action and intrigue as one player will once again secretly undermine all the other contestants attempting to complete missions and earn money for the prize pot.

Not only will there be another completely new cast for the franchise’s seventh season (and second since its 2022 reboot on Netflix) but there will also be a new host.

Related: The 22 best reality shows on Netflix

EW can exclusively reveal that Ari Shapiro of NPR’s All Things Considered will be the new Mole master of ceremonies. It is something of a full-circle moment for Shapiro, who actually applied to be a contestant during The Mole’s original run on ABC over 20 years ago. The 45-year-old now becomes the fifth host of the franchise, following Anderson Cooper, Ahmad Rashad (for two celebrity installments), Jon Kelly (a 2008 reboot), and current MSNBC host Alex Wagner (who oversaw the first season on Netflix). And while Shapiro may be new to the reality TV game, he has friends with experience to lean on, as his cabaret touring partner Alan Cumming hosts The Traitors on Peacock.

EW spoke to Shapiro to get the scoop on how he got the gig and what we can expect from both him and the upcoming season when it premieres on June 28 (with three episode drops over three weeks) — a season he reveals will be set in Malaysia. In pure Mole fashion, we also have some clues as to what is to come in the form of exclusive images.

<p>Courtesy Netflix</p> Host Ari Shapiro on 'The Mole'

Courtesy Netflix

Host Ari Shapiro on 'The Mole'

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, is it true that you actually auditioned for the original Mole?

ARI SHAPIRO: The word is out, huh? The only reality show I have ever submitted an audition tape for in my life was the original Mole, season 2. And I did not get so much as a callback. But I have been a fan of the show since its very earliest days. And so I was thrilled when Netflix brought it back, and I am even more thrilled that now I get to be a part of it. And I just have to say the fact that I've been sitting on the secret for nearly a year now and I finally get to talk to you about it is so exciting to me. I cannot keep my chill.

What is it about The Mole that you love so much?

I love the sense of adventure. I love that it takes place in interesting settings. Each episode takes you to a new location. I love that it doesn't seem unnecessarily cruel, that there's teamwork and puzzles and a mystery to solve, and it always felt like fun. There are some reality shows that you think, “I would much rather watch that than be in it,” and watching them all, it has always felt to me like being in it would just be the experience of a lifetime. And I can now say it was.

So how did you land the hosting gig?

So this is a testament to the power of manifestation. Last year, I came out with a memoir called The Best Strangers in the World. And after it did well, I got together with my team and we had a conversation about ,"What next?" And I said, “It doesn't even have to be something that feels like NPR. For example, I would love to host a show like The Mole.” And one of the people on the call said, “Funny, they are actually looking for a new host." And one thing led to another and somehow that dream seems to have come true.

What is it about the connection of journalists hosting this show with you, Anderson, and Alex. Is there something about the format that lends itself well to that?

One of the things that I thought about as I was having conversations with the producers was that these challenges — and this is a hypothetical example — simulate walking through a minefield. I bring to it an actual experience in hostile environment training, where they taught us how to get out of a minefield.

And so as you're traveling around the world experiencing these spectacular locations and foreign places, I think having a journalist, particularly one who has been all over the world, covering everything from wars to natural disasters to revolutions to political campaigns, gives you a sense of more than just adventure. It sort of grounds it in… I don't want to say gravitas, because the show is fun and it never takes itself too seriously, but I do think it lends an air of credibility that is a nice added dimension to the texture of the show.

<p>Courtesy Netflix</p> Season 7 of 'The Mole'

Courtesy Netflix

Season 7 of 'The Mole'

How would you describe your hosting style compared to other past hosts?

I try to think of it as a three-part role. Part one is camp counselor. “Hey everybody, let's go do something fun!” Part two is mean dad, which is sort of sitting around the table before somebody gets sent home asking tough questions about things that went wrong. And part three is omniscient narrator, where there's a certain aspect of you have to make it clear to people what's going on — and that's to both the players and to the audience at home.

But the thing that I enjoyed most was the camp counselor aspect of it, because so much of what we did really was fun and exciting. I didn't have to pretend that what they were about to do was thrilling. And getting to watch that and be a part of it and talk to them before and after they did it — I loved just following my curiosity and saying, “So what happened? How did it feel? What did you observe? What are your suspicions?”

That speaks to my innate curiosity as an interviewer, as a journalist, and in many instances talking with them about the gameplay was not all that different from interviewing anybody about an experience that we might have them on All things Considered to talk about it.

I remember on the original Mole one time, Anderson Cooper just out there sipping tea as they all ran by. Do you ever pop in on any challenges?

I don’t want to give anything away. But there was one challenge — and this might even get lost in the edit — where they had the option of finding me at a coffee shop, but it would've cost money from the pot. And I was really excited to just be sitting in that sidewalk cafe. I don't know whether it was a deliberate homage to that earlier season. I'm not going to give away what happened, but it did not go the way I hoped it would.

Related: Alan Cumming's most fabulous The Traitors season 2 looks, dissected

I know you're close with Alan Cumming. Did he give you any reality TV hosting tips?

Yeah, his tips included wear lots of kilts and tartan, find a castle, and say "murder" as often as you can. And I graciously accepted the advice and then went in my own direction.

How will your attire compare to it to Alan's on The Traitors?

Slightly more subdued. No veils in my look. I didn't wear any gloves, no tartan at all to speak of.

<p>Courtesy Netflix</p> Season 7 of 'The Mole'

Courtesy Netflix

Season 7 of 'The Mole'

What can you say about the cast of players this season?

One of the things that I love about the group of players this year is that there is a huge range of ages, body types, backgrounds. Everybody brings something to the gameplay that makes them the right person to have on this show, whether it's physical ability or problem-solving ability. But the group of 12 is a very diverse group in every sense of the word. And that was something that I really enjoyed getting to know them over the course of the six weeks that we were in Malaysia.

What else can you say about the season?

I was excited to see one member of the group who I recognized, and I'm not going to say anything more than that, but that was thrilling to have that person there. I think every episode felt to me like a blockbuster movie. And without getting into the specifics, episode by episode, this was not a conversation I ever had with the producers, but it was very clear that, “Oh, this could plausibly be like Pirates of the Caribbean. This could plausibly be like Oceans Eleven. This could plausibly be like Indiana Jones.” And those are my words, those are not the show's words, but it was fun to see episode by episode, mission by mission, the amount of thought and care that went into setting up each one of these worlds that are so different from each other.

Something else that I was very surprised by is that as a huge fan of the show, I always assumed that everybody on set would pretty quickly figure out who the Mole is, and that the mystery was mostly done in the editing room. That could not have been farther from the truth. I did not know who the Mole was. Nobody told me. And there are moments in eliminations where you will see a genuine look of shock on my face, and that is because I was sure the person who just got the red light on their screen was the Mole. So it is as much a mystery to me as it is to the crew, as it will be to the viewers.

So it was really fun for me to play along with everybody else. We would have these conversations on set among the camera people or the sound people or the mission team or the story team: “Who do you think it is?” And because each of these teams kind of had a different insight into part of the totality, they all had their own theories and we would argue over who we thought it was and it was a really fun game to play.

I was going to ask if you knew who it was before filming, and I think that’s much more fun that you didn’t.

I completely agree. Not only because it was more fun, but also because if I had known who it was, I would've been terrified of giving it away. I will tell you, there was one moment, and I'm using air quotes here, where I “figured out” who the Mole was. I sat down with the showrunner, and I said, “Well David, I figured it out.” And David said, "Interesting.” And I said, “That was a very good choice.” And David said, “Just don't let on that you know who it is. Leave a little bit of doubt in your head just for appearances.” I was totally wrong. It was not that person. Even though I said with so much confidence to the showrunner, “I figured it out.”

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