Married at First Sight executive producers feel “proud” to be world-wide industry leaders

married at first sight mafs

EPs Tara McWilliams and John Walsh on the new season and what it feels like to be at the forefront of the industry

Married at First Sight (MAFS) is celebrating its 10th season in 2023, with this iteration marking seven years at the helm for executive producers Tara McWilliams and John Walsh. 

The series, which was based on a Danish show of the same name, began in 2015 with only four couples and nine episodes. Now, the juggernaut airs over a minimum of 30 episodes each year, with 24 singletons navigating the rocky and wild world of marriage, all while meeting for the first time at the altar.

Mediaweek spoke to McWilliams, Walsh, and expert John Aiken about the new season and what it feels like to be at the forefront of the industry.

Since joining the series in season four, the pair have created a unique formula that has paved the way for reality TV, not only in Australia but globally as well.

And even though we have arguably the most successful version of the show thanks to the colourful characters and highly exaggerated drama, the United States and the UK have also adopted the unique format, cementing the producing duo as leaders in their field.

Tara McWilliams feels “proud” to be industry leaders

For McWilliams, who has now stepped up as director of content at Endemol Shine, seeing other countries adopt this configuration is a career-defining moment. 

“I think we’re excited, we’re proud. I think of how many years we’ve been doing this and we still don’t fail to get a bit of a kick out of the fact that we do calls with other countries,” she said, before adding that the pair take on a consultancy role across the globe.

“We’re very proud that we created something that everyone responds to and loves and enjoys.”

love triange

Tara McWilliams and John Walsh

Married at First Sight starts conversations that are carried across the country

For Walsh, the experience lies largely on MAFS being a “conversation starter”, reflecting that especially for some men, the show has been a catalyst for opening up dialogue.

“It’s given men permission for them to talk about their feelings with their wives at home in front of the kids,” he said. “In fact, I think that’s a big contribution to the television landscape, because initially, the women are watching it, and men would sort of be looking in from the back of the room. Now they’re leaning right forward.”

To reiterate this sentiment, Walsh admitted that NFL players, NRL players and “all kinds of people” have emailed them, and they have seen a mammoth upswing in men tweeting about the show – which will only be more prevalent in 2023.

“I think there’s going to be more conversations about men this year,” he said.

During the 2022 season, audiences were confronted by storylines that touched on racism, the distribution of intimate photos on OnlyFans, and the dynamics between two very big personalities, Domenica Calarco and Olivia Frazer. McWilliams believes that it’s the conversations surrounding these ideas that excite people more.

“We don’t just get excited about the fact that they’re talking about an affair or looking to see what happened or the bombshell that was dropped,” McWilliams said. “It’s more about the dialogue, like with the racism last year and the OnlyFans storyline. When you strip away the tabloids, it’s the nature of what’s right or wrong about that situation that gets people talking.”


Jack Millar and Domenica Calarco

Casting in 2023

In terms of casting, McWilliams admitted that they hadn’t really changed how they cast the brides and grooms, only that they look for people who are “different from the previous season”.

However, as Aiken added, there are a myriad of factors that go into finding the right people.

“Diversity, age, culture comes into it all,” he said, while Walsh agreed.

“Diversity is an important thing in casting and there’s really been a shift over the last few seasons,” he said.

This year, we will meet Sandy Jawanda, an Indian woman born in Australia, whose parents are very strict in upholding the traditional values of Indian culture. 

“The inclusion of Sandy was very important to us, we have someone like her represent her community and in the show, and not just her ethnicity, but her story.”

And according to McWilliams, while she understands a lot of parents would be against their child joining the show, for Jawanda it was to a different extent.

“The thing is, with Married at First Sight, we could go out and find exactly the same people that we had last year, and put them on the show, and I guarantee that it’ll be very different to what we got last year. You can think you’re casting something or someone, but the way they respond to being in a show like this, in a bubble like this, you can never predict.”

sandy jawanda mafs

Sandy Jawanda

Looking ahead to the tenth season of Married at First Sight

When asked about what we can be excited about for the 2023 season, McWilliams said it was hard to “pinpoint” just one thing.

“Last year really revolved around an arch rivalry between two women and how that affected their relationships in the group. This year, a lot of the content comes from issues within relationships.

“So it’s less about two people with outside relationships going head to head, and more about the dynamics within relationships.”

Married at First Sight premieres on Monday, January 30 on Nine and 9Now.

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