After two very popular seasons of Catfish on MTV, everyone's a little less gullible. But as hosts Nev Schulman and Max Joseph learned while filming the show's third season — which BuzzFeed has exclusively learned will premiere on May 7 — there are still catfish stories to be told.
"We think that it's good news that, ultimately, it has been harder to find stories this season," Joseph told BuzzFeed, "because people are smarter about getting catfished."
But just as catfish targets are becoming more aware, the catfishers themselves are stepping up their game. As Schulman put it, Catfish is widening its scope in Season 3, with the weekly stories no longer restricted to the territory of online crushes.
"A lot of the stories that we're investigating and dealing with this season are about more real-world catfish," he said. "[The catfishers] involve real people, and connect them to each other and get physical things to happen — people to go places, money to be sent. It's not just the romantic catfish anymore. It's really about the many different ways people can, when they put their minds to it, manipulate and take advantage of other people in the real world using the internet."
If this season sounds darker, that's because it is. Just filming in winter, Joseph explained, gave Catfish a colder aesthetic that worked well for the stories they were uncovering.
"These aren't all romantic stories," he said. "In some of these instances, people have catfished an entire town. There's also a lot more cyberbullying this season as well, and people who are using catfish profiles for a lot of different motives, not just to seduce people and fall in love with people, but also to use them and to turn people against each other."
While Schulman was once the optimist to Joseph's cynic, at this point, they admitted they're both less hopeful than they once were. But Schulman refuses to give into negativity.
"Human beings continue, despite their better judgment, to put themselves in situations where the odds before them are low, and they know that," he noted. "Even getting what they want is a stretch. But they're still willing to put themselves out there, and they're still willing to go for it ... I remain hopeful for human beings but have become more and more skeptical of internet relationships."
"Spoken like a true Nev," Joseph countered. "That was a real Nev answer."
Laughing at each other's expense is part of what keeps things light for the two hosts, who this season encounter some of the worst, most remorseless people they've ever faced. And, of course, their playful back-and-forths are also a treat for viewers who can't help but notice the homoerotic undertones in Schulman and Joseph's relationship.
Will there still be room for flirting in a season this heavy?
"You put me and Max in a room together, there are gonna be sparks," Schulman joked. "There's just nothing you can do about it."