Even a global pandemic can’t stop the wild machine that is I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here from torturing the poor, unfortunate celebs who sign up.

This year, they’re doing things a little bit differently, including taking the necessary COVID-safe precautions and filming in the rural NSW town of Murwillumbah, rather than the South African jungle. But hey, we’ve got enough scary shit in our own backyard to frighten the celebs with, right?

I recently had a lovely lil chat with host Dr. Chris Brown about the forthcoming season and his dream cast list, which includes honorary Aussie Zac Efron.

How has COVID impacted the way you do things?

We’ve always gone to great lengths to conceal the identity of our celebrities but who would have thought a global pandemic and the use of masks would do all our work for us?

And with the proximity of the celebrity hub that is Byron, they basically come pre-isolated and very accustomed to a diet of rice and beans. It’s very convenient. They’re just not allowed their spiritual crystals in the camp.

Genuinely though, the fact there are so many celebs lurking around Byron should mean sneaking them in and out of the ‘jungle’ shouldn’t be too difficult. Plus if we market it as a spiritual well-being retreat, we’ll probably jag a few names we didn’t expect. For the serious grown up stuff, masks are compulsory on location along with social distancing and daily temperature checks. All crew also receive regular COVID testing.

Has the format changed at all?

Fans of the show will probably notice minimal changes to Africa. Sure there’s the unfortunate quirk of the location that means our treehouse (where we host the show) is much bigger while the jungle camp where the celebrities try to survive is much smaller. The only other noteworthy difference is that camp mates are eliminated through trials rather than the voting system that we’ve used before.

Has it been nice to showcase the scary shit that we have in our backyard?

Not going to lie, it’s been interesting to try and justify the opinion most foreigners have that surviving one night in the Aussie bush/outback/jungle is unlikely. This part of the country really lives up to its reputation for very inquisitive (and occasionally aggressive) venomous snakes and pythons but honestly it’s the size of the spiders and sheer number of ticks and leeches, and their desire to seek out our “warmest areas”, that will really surprise viewers. There is a reason ‘tick’ rhymes with a certain body part…

Who would be your dream Aussie cast members?

I really see the jungle as the perfect place for pop culture heroes and villains along with news makers and sports stars to duke it out for jungle glory. Having said that, I wouldn’t say no to a Hemsworth, an Efron, Kidman or a Crowe and hey, they are already locals to the area so they would fit right in.

Either that, or we just throw a net over Topshop in Byron and see who we get…

I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here premieres on Ten on January 3. The cast list recently leaked via TV Blackbox (you can check it out here). Sadly it did not include Zac Efron, but too late, my hopes are already up.