Believe it or not, WE tv’s Love After Lockup wasn’t pitched to the network by an outside production company but instead was generated by its own employees as part of an annual internal “pitch fest.” The concept for the show — which revolves around couples meeting their potential future spouses for the first time outside of prison — was difficult to cast but is very much real.

WE tv president Mark Juris told Reality Blurred, “TV shows are difficult to produce on a good day,” and this was especially complicated since inmates might not get out or their release date might change. For two of the six Season 1 couples, that’s exactly what happened. But Mark said the network embraced it. “That’s what makes it interesting and real. We’re with the people when they discover they’re not getting out of prison.”

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Casting producers reached out to prison groups and other sources, but their range of possibilities was limited to people who’d met while one of them was in prison, and, of course, was getting out soon. The inmate also had to be “relatable” — so “not a mass murderer,” Mark explained, people “who’ve changed, who’ve learned, so we could see their transformation as well.”

When it came to safety for the cast and crew, Mark revealed that he actually wasn’t too concerned. “I don’t think it’s any different from any of our shows. As with any relationships, we’re capturing what’s really happening and capturing real life. There are many explosive moments in many shows, so we’re always very aware of that, so we go into every show with security and safety in mind, because you never really do know what or when anything is going to happen when you’re doing reality TV.”

Although the season is already wrapping up, we haven’t seen the last of the couples. Johnna and Garrett, Andrea and Lamar, Mary and Dominic, Alla and James, Angela and Tony, and Scott and Lizzie are in talks to return for Season 2. “It’s something we’re talking about. These stories are really fascinating. At the finale, we’ll say where the couples are now: some are together, some are not.” Can’t. Wait!

Love After Lockup airs Fridays at 10 p.m. EST on WE tv.

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