Mark L. Walberg Discusses The Best Parts Of Hosting Temptation Island - Exclusive Interview

If you love reality dating shows, it's hard to beat the drama of "Temptation Island." The premise of the show is that a group of couples go to Hawaii, and in the beautiful beach setting, their relationship is put to the test. The couples are separated and surrounded by singles to see how committed they are to each other. It's a wild concept that produces many messy, heartbreaking, and even some heartwarming moments.

With Season 4 of "Temptation Island" set to premiere on March 16, 2022, the host of the show, Mark L. Walberg, sat down for an exclusive interview with The List. During our conversation, Walberg shared what it's like seeing all the drama unfold behind the scenes, why he likes hosting the show, and why he gets so invested in the outcome. Walberg also discussed what's made his long-lasting marriage a success and if he and his wife would ever go on "Temptation Island" themselves.

What takes Temptation Island beyond a guilty pleasure

What do you think it is about "Temptation Island" that draws viewers in?

Oh boy, I think a couple of things. I think one, for a reality viewer that likes a good, messy, crazy, guilty pleasure, "Temptation Island" looks like that on the surface and delivers, but it also connects on the level that we've all been in relationships. When we have a good relationship, we know how hard it is to have one, and if we have a bad relationship, we can relate to what that's like, too. Even though it is a reality show and it's messy and crazy and all of those things, I really think it's very relatable, so that might be what people resonate with.

What do you consider your most important task as the host of the show?

Well, there's what I consider my most important task and what has become my task. My task is to host the show. That's really it and that was always my purpose, but the only way I know how to do any of the work that I do on TV is to be as authentic as I know how, and to be engaged and enrolled. I have the stance of, if you guys chose to come here and you want to go through this process, then I am an advocate for you leaving this island in a better place than when you came. While I don't have any degree or I'm not a doctor or a therapist or anything like that, I am somebody in the conversation, and I'm willing to have a conversation with people that I have grown to like and love. Any questions I have or any advice or personal experience I could share is all part of having what I think is an honest conversation, and that's the role I try to fill.

Why he gets so invested in the show

Do you find it difficult to stay unbiased when you're giving advice or helping in any way you can?

I don't know that I stay unbiased. Here's where it's at for me. I meet these four couples who, to me, I meet as four couples, but they become immediately eight individuals, and I meet them on the beach that you see on TV and by the end of that first day, I really, really grow to like all of them very much and hope to be part of their journey in a positive way, even if it means saying things that they don't want to hear or sitting with them when they see things, or we see things together that they don't want to see.

Mostly, my job is to ask the questions of how you're feeling, what's going on with you, but I can't help but interject my thoughts sometimes because it's a conversation, and it's really free form ... I'm not biased in the sense of picking one over the other, but I'm biased in the sense that I'm rooting for all of them. I'm not completely objective. I'm enrolled in their journey with them.

Do you think being invested like that has helped you while you host the show?

It's really the only way I know how to host any show is to [be] fully invested. This one has a little bit more consequence to that investment. It's very emotional and very real, and it's different than a game show where I'm invested in having fun and hoping that they win a prize. I do think that it's key when hosting any show as a broadcaster or journalist or anything that you do, [is] to be invested in the subject. That's a choice I make. I say to them right off the bat, "I'm 100% with you on this ride. You chose to come here. I could tell you how I feel about that if it was wise or not, as a guy who's lived a little longer in a relationship, but you're here now and so whatever you see and whatever you do and whatever you hear, I'll hear it with you, and we could chop it up."

The behind-the-scenes view of Temptation Island drama

What do you find to be the most difficult aspect in that role?

Well, it's really difficult to see people you care about — and I care about them pretty quickly — witness things, or experience feelings that are painful. Growth and love can be painful, and certainly, I would much rather make jokes and have fun and things like that, but that's not how this show goes sometimes. That's uncomfortable, and I don't enjoy that by any means. I don't like to see anybody have pain, even if I know that it's part of growth and will inform the next level of your definition of what a love relationship is, which is what I hope for. It's still not fun, that part.

When the viewers see it, it's all condensed into a way that makes sense. What is it like kind of seeing all that drama behind the scenes?

It's shocking often, and it's interesting you say that because, when we're doing the show, I see them when I drop in to tell them they're going to have a bonfire or if there's a vote off or date selection or something like that and the other times are bonfires, which you see in these eight minutes, five minutes, however long they get edited, but they are hours long, and we're really talking, and so to then see what happened before and after and what's said when I can't hear them talking to themselves really blows my mind sometimes. My wife and I watch it and go, "Oh my God, I had no idea."

I could probably know more about what's going on than I do. I get a briefing, I get an understanding of what's happening, but I choose not to get too in those weeds because I [would] much rather [join] their experience at the bonfire with them when it happens, and then we'll go wherever we go, conversation wise.

The best part of hosting Temptation Island

Do you watch the show as it comes out, kind of with everyone else?

Because we shot this a long time ago, and there were things that we had to take care of between the time we shot it, and it aired, I have seen some advanced episodes, but not all of them. I've seen maybe six or seven episodes, and no, I really don't know everything.

Do you enjoy that process of reacting in real-time at the same time fans are watching it?

Yeah, if I weren't on it because it's really hard to watch myself. I don't enjoy that so much. I also don't like to see the stuff that reality viewers really love to see, like the messy, guilty pleasure stuff makes me really, really uncomfortable, so I don't particularly care for that part. I do like the gushy stuff; I like that ... The things that my wife and I really resonate with is when we see the growth someone goes through, see them have an epiphany, and that being when it is one that is empowering, that's something we really love. The rest of it, I watch like a viewer and [go], "Oh my God," a lot.

What's been your favorite thing about hosting the show?

There are so many answers to that. One of my favorite things is the staff and crew that I work with. I know it's a cliché to say, but we really are this big family, and there's a vibe amongst us doing this show where people are pretty invested. That part is, from a work standpoint, something that — I've been in the business a long time, and I can count the times I've had that experience. Very few times. That part I love.

I also love my executive producer and how we work together. Trifari (Williams), she's brilliant, and we see things eye to eye a lot, and she's a great person to inform me and guide me and also follow me, and we do that very well together. That's really beautiful.

I also really love meeting the people on the show. As much as I, in real life, avoid any confrontation that I can have as best I can because I don't like it, especially this year, I really loved how earnestly these eight people attacked this, and I don't mind rolling up my sleeves and getting a little dirty with them and talking about real stuff. When something I should say, or something they should say, or [when] we come to [something] together [that] makes a difference, that's, for me, the payoff. Again, I'm really trying to host the show in the most authentic way that I know how.

What are the benefiits for couples going on Temptation Island

Do you think there are any benefits for couples who go on "Temptation Island?"

Yeah. There are all kinds of benefits from the surface, which is all the influencer stuff. That they're going to be on TV and people are going to spark to them and whatever their next chapter in life is, can be enhanced by that fame or following. There's also, like I said, it's not a scientific process. It's not what I would suggest for people going through problems in their relationships. I would suggest a family therapist, and I would suggest at the very least sitting and talking to one another about it. 

For those people who choose to come here, and I say this at the beginning of the show almost every season, I don't know why ... There's what you tell me is the reason you came here. "We have issues with our relationship. He's too much of that. She's too much of this. I wish it was this." And I'd say, "Look, if that's the reason, that's cool, or if your reason is simply to become a verified person on Instagram, that's cool too." The path to both of those successes are the same thing, honesty and authenticity. That's what people respond to.

I don't know that this is the best way to get to an answer in your relationship, but it does force you to ask questions about yourself that, even though in this format on TV in front of millions may not be advisable in real life, there is some truth to that. They come to some things. I have kept in touch with many of the people who've been on past seasons, and who they are now is not who they were when I met them. Many of them are, I think, a lot stronger people and have a better definition of what a [loving] relationship is.

The secret to couples staying together on Temptation Island

Do you think there's any secret to the couples who go through the show and stay together?

I don't think there's a secret. It's not a gauntlet you run. I think certain couples, two things can happen, right? One is, you realize that the little things that you thought were your problems in your relationship, when you go through this extreme experience, those problems suddenly become petty, and you realize that you reevaluate and it's not that big of a deal, and the bigger things matter and then you grow stronger together. Or also, another way that things get stronger is that somehow this process ... might force you into looking at things about yourself that you want to change and grow, and then you become for your partner and they for you, something stronger. That's the good side. 

The other side, which is also good, I guess, is that you're forced ... I think most people in a relationship who are having problems look at the other person as the problem a lot and what happens on "Temptation Island" is, you separate from that other person. You cannot work on them or control them. All you can do is look at your stuff, your own stuff. In that, a new definition of what a healthy [loving] relationship is can happen.

To that end, I think it's cool when that happens, and sometimes it's messy and not good, and people don't grow, and it's painful and hurtful, but I'm always looking at everything that happens to you, happens for you. Even those things inform you, or at least one of you, to either move on or stay or redefine or protect yourself, create some boundaries. All these things can come out of this, and very few of them have to do with the actual [loving] relationship. It has to do with who you are as a person in all of your relationships.

Would he and his wife ever go on Temptation Island?

You've mentioned your wife [Robbi Morgan Walberg]. You guys have been together for a long time. Is there any advice you think couples on the show could take from your relationship?

I really don't try to use my relationship as a model of anything. What works for us works for us, and what I share at the bonfire is what I've learned from her often. She gave me a quote that I put in the show. It may have gotten cut out, but it was something I said at the bonfire, and I have thought about it a lot since, and it's a quote from Ram Dass, who was a spiritual leader who's passed away who lived in Maui, where we're shooting. Robbi gave me the quote, and I probably misquoted, but it's basically, "The only thing I could do for you is work on myself, and the only thing you can do for me is work on yourself." That's a very simple truth.

When I'm shooting the show, my wife is with me on the island because she's the only one who really knows me and can separate my truth from my bulls***, right? I always use her to say, "Did that land what I said? Did I miss something?" She'll often say, "Yeah, I thought you were going to say this, and you didn't." We are in that conversation a lot.

I really don't use my relationship as an example of anything. My relationship is a very long one, which means that we've had to battle quite a bit over lots of things because life is messy. That's why when I say stuff at the bonfire, it doesn't come from a PhD. It doesn't come from having gone to school to learn this. It comes from a rough and tumble, beautiful relationship that I have and what I feel like I've learned, or at least I can share, and you can make your own decisions of whether it's worth it or a load of crap.

Would the two of you at any point have considered going on "Temptation Island?"

There's no way in hell. We engage in conversation that's really intimate and really deep and really confrontational and really honest all the time, but I don't think we would've done that. I don't think there was a time in our life when we would've chosen to do that in a public forum. Robbi is a very private person, that's my wife, and I tend to be really private. I love doing the work, but I don't particularly need to be famous at all. I'm happy to be working.

What reality TV show would they go on?

I guess you wouldn't because you said you don't want to put yourself out there [in that way], but if you guys were to go on a reality TV show together, whether it's a competition or anything, what kind do you'd think you want to do?

It's really funny because who we are, we probably would ... Not "Temptation Island," but that self-reflective, self-explorative conversation is something that Robbi really loves, and I have grown to love as well, and we do that a lot. Maybe home renovation. She's got really adorable design eyes, you can see with all this cute stuff around me. I like to build stuff for her, mostly because when I take on a project, that means I don't have to do any of the other chores. I'm on a project. I've never thought about it like that. 

She would love for me to go on "Dancing With The Stars." I think she would love for us to be partners on "Dancing With The Stars," which isn't the format, and I would make her lose. She's great, but I suck. That would probably be the show that she'd want us to go on.

I think you guys would be great. They can make an exception for the next season.

Well, she was the original person killed in the original "Friday The 13th," and she has been on Broadway and TV and movies. She's really, arguably, far more talented than I am. I happen to be on TV right now. If we were "Dancing With The Stars" partners, we would probably win because we like to kill it together.

"Temptation Island" returns for Season 4 on Wednesday, March 16 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on USA Network.