We have enormous respect for the brave souls who compete on Survivor, but let’s face it, the CBS hit reality series would be nothing without its host, Jeff Probst. For 38 seasons, the guy has been snuffing contestants’ torches and hilariously belittling them during challenges—always dressed in some variation of the same button-down shirt—and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
But the polished host who grills people at Tribal Council has another side to him. He’s also a family man who’s been married to wife Lisa Ann Russell, a former model and actress, since 2011. Together, they’ve built a blended family with Russell’s ex-husband and their two kids.
Here’s what to know about Jeff Probst’s wife, Lisa Ann Russell.
Jeff Probst and Lisa Ann Russell got married on Dec. 5, 2011.
A spokesperson for the couple told People they tied the knot in a small ceremony at a private residence in Los Angeles. At the time, Probst was 50 and Russell was 40.
It was a second marriage for both of them; Probst’s first wife was a psychotherapist named Shelly Wright, whom he wed in 1996 and divorced in 2001, the year after Survivor debuted. Russell was formerly married to Mark-Paul Gosselaar—yes, of Saved by the Bell fame. They had two kids together, Michael and Ava.
In 2012, he talked to Larry King on Hulu’s Larry King Now about splitting custody with Gosselaar.
“They were together almost 20 years,” Probst said of Russell and Gosselaar, according to E!. “They had a long marriage and they raised these two young kids. They raised them with the kind of love that—the kids they see me, and he’s now remarried, his wife—they just see us as two more parents.” (Gosselaar married Catriona McGinn in 2012.)
Probst doesn’t have kids of his own, but it sounds like he’s tight with Russell’s—in fact, they even call him “dad.” It was something they started experimenting with before Probst and Russell got married.
“They were playing with it,” Probst told King. “Sometimes it’d be dad, sometimes it’d be Jeff, dad two, sometimes it’d be D-2. But when we got married, when this ring went on my finger, Michael looked up and said, ‘dad,’ and I could tell that he knew now that this big thing was official and it was real.”
As a guest on Rachael Ray, Probst referred to Michael and Ava as his kids. He elaborated by saying: “We’re a blended family, so they are technically—not technically, they are my stepkids—I think of them as mine, which is crazy, but then they have this other family…but I always have to remember they have a dad.”
Jeff Probst once joked about voting Lisa Ann Russell off Survivor.
Just before Survivor: Blood vs. Water premiered in 2013, Probst was asked by Entertainment Weekly if he’d vote his wife off the show, if they were playing together as a married couple. (That particular season of Survivor featured pairs of family members playing together.)
“It depends on the situation,” he said, “but absolutely.”
He said he would definitely do it if the two of them made it to the final four, and voting her out meant guaranteeing another vote in his favor from the jury.
“I would definitely put one of us on the jury to ensure one vote,” Probst said. “Because I’m 20 percent of the way there already!”
He continued, “What I would do if it was my wife and I down to the final four is we would both be assessing every scenario and we would, I think, probably come to an agreement that either given the jury you will be better at swaying them, or I will be.”
Did Lisa Ann Russell want Jeff Probst to quit Survivor?
For a second, it seemed like Probst’s presence on the show could be at risk. Back in 2017, a report from Radar Online alleged that Probst’s wife, Lisa Ann Russell, wanted him to quit the show and spend more time at home. (Filming Survivor means being on location in a remote corner of the world for four months out of the year.)
“Jeff loves his crazy job and the very peaceful home life he goes home to when he’s not shooting, but his wife Lisa wants him home permanently,” an anonymous “insider” told the outlet at the time.
But hold the phone! The following year, in a GQ interview, Probst pointed out that actually, he spends a good amount of time at home.
“The biggest misconception is that I’m gone all the time,” he said. “And that’s because Survivor is on almost all year round but we shoot the show in very concentrated periods. Each season shoots for 39 days. If you’re there a week early, it’s like 7-8 weeks for each shoot. So over the summer, I’m gone almost four months. But that’s it. Then I’m home.”
What’s more, other evidence suggests Russell’s family is down with Probst’s globetrotting ways. In that Rachael Ray interview, Probst talked about how much fun Russell’s kids have had on location with him.
“They love Survivor,” he said. “Kids love Survivor because it’s this adventure. That’s what I see in them when they’re on location.”