TVGuide.com: You are an actor/singer/producer.... How'd you end up on a pirate ship hosting this show?
Cameron Daddo: I heard on the grapevine that Mark Burnett was doing a show about pirates. I knew someone in the office at Burnett's [company] so I thought I'd give them a ring. I called my friend and said, "What are you doing?" and he was like, "We're doing this show about pirates and we're looking for a host. Do you want in?" I said, "I'm in." Next thing you know I'm sitting with Mark in the foyer at CBS waiting to meet the CBS executives to do the job.
TVGuide.com: You do have a lot of other stuff going on, so if this show takes off, are you ready to drop everything to go back for a few more seasons?
Daddo: Back to the pirate ship? Are you kidding? I'm waiting for the call to say we're back on!
TVGuide.com: What kind of challenges can we expect?
Daddo: We call them expeditions. Expeditions for a treasure. In most cases they have to jump off a ship and swim to shore, or they'll be instructed to get in their longboats and paddle or row. Once they hit the shore, off they go… through whatever terrain. There aren't a lot of beaches on Dominica. It is very volcanic, so they are dealing with uneven terrain and beautiful pristine water that comes out of the ground. It was just glorious.
TVGuide.com: Did you get to explore the island at all?
Daddo: I did! I saw quite a few of the locations for the expeditions. If I had the morning off, I'd grab my driver and have him show me the island or go on a rafting trip.
TVGuide.com: Is there one expedition we should keep an eye out for?
Daddo: Not really, but there is one that I particularly liked. The crew that is leading gets a bonus for leading. But there were specific sabotage points that they knew they were coming up to. So you want to get to that place first to slow the other people down. There was one sabotage that was awesome. They had to row about two miles to this place called Scott's Head, which was featured in Pirates of the Caribbean. Once they got there, there was an old buoy that had been there for a hundred years, and they had to follow the line of the buoy down and pull a key off it. If you were first, when you pulled the key, it dropped the second key another 10 feet down. So the second crew had to hold their breath and swim down 25 feet. It is not for the faint of heart.
TVGuide.com: Are you into that sort of adventure vacation stuff?
Daddo: [Shakes his head no, then laughs] Of course I am! If I wasn't the host of this, I'd want to be a contestant. It was that much fun.
TVGuide.com: Did the contestants know what they were getting into?
Daddo: Yes and no.
TVGuide.com: Well, this hasn't been on before so it is hard to plot and scheme in advance.
Daddo: That surprised me, actually. A lot of them are avid reality-television watchers. I think they put two and two together and thought, "Mark Burnett, Survivor," and thought it was going to be something similar. A lot of them came in with agendas, which I had no idea about until later. My hat is off to them, because I would be a contestant but I wouldn't have come in with those smarts. I don't watch a lot of that style of entertainment.
TVGuide.com: So did you know what you were getting into?
Daddo: I had an idea of what was coming. This form of work for me was very different. I had to learn a whole new skill set. My learning curve was as steep as the Sears Tower. I had to learn our whole new "Pirate Master Lingo." I had to learn the rules. And it was my job to impart that knowledge to the contestants so they knew what they were doing and could play the game. I had a short time to prepare and it was a new show so we were all learning as we went. It was intense. And then, I'm standing there and the contestants are there and I get one shot at it. You tell them what is going on, fire the gun, and they are off. The excitement of that drew me to the show. It is classic improv. You've got to roll with it.
TVGuide.com: What happens when somebody gets eliminated? Do they walk a plank?
Daddo: They get cut adrift. The captain nominates three pirates to be marked with a black spot. They have to report to the Pirates Court, where they stand trial and defend themselves and make a case to their fellow pirates for their spot on the ship. Their fellow pirates cast a ballot deciding who should stay and who should go. The pirates can also rise as one and mutiny against the captain. The captain can be mutinied against to lose his spot, and he'll be cut adrift, end of the road. When that happens, their journey is over, they climb over the side onto a small raft that is four planks lashed together with rope. They sit on the ocean in the middle of the sea. The captain pulls out his saber and cuts the rope and they float off… never to be seen again.
TVGuide.com: Everyone is living together on this boat. Are there a lot of personality conflicts?
Daddo: There are. Obviously everyone has a very strong personality and the Pirate Master code says that when they find a treasure, the captain keeps half. You can imagine the reaction when I told them that. The first episode, I say, "Count the treasure." It is like 40,000 bucks or something. "Now you need to elect a captain. OK, Captain, Pirate Master code is that you get half." Then you look and they are all like, what? "Now you need to choose two officers. Good, you two take half of the $20,000 that's left. The rest of the money is for the other pirates. Oh, and you're demoted. Take your two grand and go downstairs." If you don't share your money, it is a big issue.
TVGuide.com: Do they get to keep the money for good after each expedition, or can it be stolen?
Daddo: Good question. It is yours and it can't be stolen. It can be bartered and traded. It is used as currency to [build loyalty]. The money is real off the show. When you come to Pirates Court, you bring your money with you, because you might be leaving with it.
TVGuide.com: Could someone with a black mark bribe someone else with cash?
Daddo: Absolutely! And don't think I didn't suggest it! At the end you are after $500,000. What's five grand apiece when you're making sure they don't cast a ballot your way? Do they use it? We will see.
TVGuide.com: Was there someone in particular who surprised you?
Daddo: There was a woman who was not particularly strong on expeditions and not particularly popular with the crew and yet she persevered and the other pirates kept her around.
TVGuide.com: What else are you doing in your non-Pirate life?
Daddo: I'm in postproduction on a film that I am producing, and I'm in preproduction on another film that we are shooting in October. It is an Australian story set in Los Angeles about the life of a pair of ex-patriots. They are married and have been living in the States for a couple of years and they are on a car ride — the film takes place inside the vehicle — and by the time they arrive at their destination, their marriage is over. It's called Passengers, and it's a really good script. I'm producing it and am behind the scenes. And I have a business where I do shade sails. I design and install shade structure. Two days before I left to go to Pirate Master, I was on [Prison Break's] Dominic Purcell's roof putting up two gorgeous black sails on his balcony.
Find more on Pirate Master in our Online Video Guide.
Send your comments on this Q&A to firstname.lastname@example.org.