Jeff Probst, the host of the reality television competition, Survivor, has been a fixture on the show since its first season in 2000. 18 years and 5 Primetime Emmy Awards later, Probst will be hosting the season 37 Survivor: David and Goliath finale tonight. The showdown between the final six contestants (Angelina Keeley, Alison Raybould, Davie Rickenbacker, Kara Kay, Mike White, and Nick Wilson) takes place on CBS at 8pm.
In his personal life, Probst is husband to Lisa Ann Russell and stepfather to children Michael and Ava. Here’s what you need to know about Jeff Probst’s wife and kids:
1. This Is the Second Marriage for Both Lisa and Jeff
Before marrying Lisa Ann Russell, Probst was married to Shelley Wright, a psychotherapist. They were married from 1996 to 2001; after their divorce, TODAY reports he dated former Survivor contestant July Berry from 2004-2008. In 2010, after 14 years of marriage, Lisa Ann Russell and her then-husband Mark-Paul Gosselaar filed for divorce, telling People “They both remain focused on their family and are jointly committed to their children.”
Though reps for the former couple said “there is no third party involved” at the time that their split was announced, two months after her divorce from Gosselaar, The Daily Mail reported that Russell was Probst’s date to the Creative Arts Emmys. According to People, Probst and Russell were married in December 2011, “in front of family and friends in an intimate ceremony at a private Los Angeles residence.”
2. Jeff Has No Biological Children, but Michael & Ava Call Him Dad
According to E! News, Probst got candid about being stepfather to Russell and Gosselaar’s two children on an episode of Larry King Now. Of Michael and Ava, he told King “Well, they were together almost 20 years. 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.”
On the show, he also shared that he doesn’t see them as “stepkids” and that both kids refer to him as dad. He revealed that the kids toyed with what to call him while he and Russell were dating, “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.” Michael was 7 and Ava was 5 at the time.
3. Lisa Was a Model & Actress
According to IMDB, Russell’s first credited acting role was “Girl” in an episode of Saved By the Bell: The College Years, where she met her ex-husband Mark-Paul Gosselaar (who played series regular “Zack Morris” on the show). She is also credited for 1990s roles in A.P.E.X, Twisted Love and Sinbad: The Battle of the Knights. Her most recent credits are for her husband’s The Jeff Probst Show from 2012-2013, on which she worked as a talent coordinator and game show host.
4. Jeff Co-Wrote a Book Series About a Blended Family for his Kids
Gosselaar remarried, too, and had two more kids with his current wife Catriona McGinn, whom he married in 2012; Gosselaar and McGinn, and Probst and Russell, share custody of Michael and Ava. According to The Toronto Sun, when Probst and Russell first got married, Probst searched, unsuccessfully, for fiction books that would help explained blended families to the two young children. When all he and his wife could find were books of the self-help genre, the got the idea to create the Stranded trilogy.
Penguin Random House describes the plot of the first book in the 6-book series: “A week ago, the biggest challenge Vanessa, Buzz, Carter, and Jane had was learning to live as a new blended family. Now the four siblings must find a way to work as a team if they’re going to make it off the island. They’re all in this adventure together–but first they’ve got to learn to survive one another.” The books draw inspiration from the Survivor television series.
5. Probst Is Away From His Family About Four Months a Year for Survivor
In an interview with GQ earlier this year, Probst explained that he isn’t traveling for the show as often as it may seem: “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.” When asked by GQ “What’s the first thing you do when you come home from an extended trip like that?” he said “I walk in the door and I yell,
‘I’m home, I’m home, I’m home.’ And it’s my way of identifying to myself that I’m home. Because I miss it so much and I’m so happy to be home, it doesn’t matter if the kids are here or not, I literally go, [screams] ‘I’M HOME! I’M HOME! I’M HOME!’ And it feels so good. And what’s amazing is, two days later, it’s like I never left.”
Nevertheless, Radar Online reported last year that, according to a source, “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,” to help with their teenage children. The same source also told Radar that “Jeff’s feeling the pressure at home, which makes going away for months at a time filming in exotic locales all the more attractive.”