Chris Haston/NBC
Dan Snierson
September 08, 2011 AT 09:04 PM EDT

Your wait for weight-loss is almost over: Season 12 of The Biggest Loser debuts Sept. 20 (NBC, 8 p.m.). Expect a few changes when the show returns, from the taskmasters (goodbye, Jillian Michaels, Bret Hoebel and Cara Castronuova; hello, new trainers Anna Kournikova and Dolvett Quince) to an updated gym, to the theme of the season, which groups contestants by age. EW spoke with exec producer Todd Lubin about the upcoming action, which also includes an elimination twist.

On the “Battle of the Ages” theme

“There will be three teams: people under 30, people in their 30s and 40s, and people 50 and over. We put the question of ‘Does age matter?’ in this weight-loss world to the test. We’ve had a 63-year-old at-home winner. We’re having a lot of fun with that. Young people may be able to lose the weight faster just because of their body chemistry, but they don’t have nearly the discipline nor do they recognize the opportunity to get their life back, like someone in their 40s might. So in some ways, I don’t think it’s an advantage to be younger. We’ve proven that the older folks actually keep the weight off better than our younger alumni, for the most part.”

On two notable contestants

“Antone Davis is a first-round NFL draft pick from the ’90s. [Davis, 44, played for the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons from 1991-1997]. He’s an incredibly lovely guy. He got really, really big. And I think he’s doing this not just for himself but for all the NFL guys who wish they could get back [in shape]…. [Sixty-three-year-old retired payroll supervisor Bonnie Griffin] has been through all the trials and tribulations — she’s been through Katrina, which wiped her house out, and her husband died recently. But she just has the heart of the champion. She was going to be here, no matter what.”

On this season’s second-chance twist

“The first day, they run a mile, which they’ve done before, and then [host] Alison Sweeney announces, ‘By the way, there’s going to be a marathon at the end of this season,’ which we’ve done before. But she says, ‘It’s not just going to be the final four running it. It’s going to be all of you. So no matter when you’re eliminated, you’ll have a chance to run this marathon at the end. If you win the marathon, you’re automatically a finalist on the show.’ I don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but it’s certainly exciting for people who do get eliminated, because they know they have a goal to get themselves back in the game.”

On Kournikova’s qualifications

“Obviously she doesn’t have the experience that Bob or Dolvett does, but she’s a certified trainer, and it was extremely important for us that she had that credibility. But mostly she’s drawing on her tennis experience as a professional athlete: She was No. 1 in the world in doubles and she was No. 8 in singles. But more importantly, she came from very, very little in Moscow and that’s the stuff we never really knew. She had nothing, and she’s very proud that she was able to achieve what she did. It’s funny because people say, ‘She’s a girl who didn’t reach her potential,’ and she’s like, ‘Look, I’m not even that good of an athlete. Trust me, I reached my very fullest potential.’…. You’re going to be blown away by how sincere she is, how intense she is, how focused she is for these folks. She’s totally dedicated to the point where she’s getting Bob back into the gym. At one point she breaks down in tears, just because she’s so moved by the stories. None of it is fake.”

On how Quince’s training style differs from Kournikova’s

“Dolvett is like an Army drill sergeant. He does a lot of: ‘FOUR! FIVE! KEEP IT UP!” Anna is more of a whisperer: We’re going to keep doing this until your legs fall off. You’ve got to figure out what your favorite training method is.”

On why the show did not bring back Hoebel and Castronuova for this season

“With Jillian leaving, it was like, ‘We really need to establish a new focus.’…. We were thrilled with [last season] — that was the hard part. We really liked them. They did a good job. But the show needs to continue to evolve, it needs to continue to get better, smarter, sharper, faster.”

On Oct. 4’s NFL-themed episode, which features such players as Saints QB Drew Brees, Broncos QB Tim Tebow, and Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson

“Instead of having them just show up and be like, ‘Hey, what’s up? Football’s great!’ it was like, ‘All right, guys, $5,000 to your charity!’ So the players were actually going after the [contestants in a football throwing challenge.] That was a blast. And then they came for the Last Chance Workout. Tim Tebow is just a star – the girls were swooning.”

Read more:

‘Biggest Loser’ to feature Drew Brees, Tim Tebow, and Eric Dickerson for NFL-themed episode — EXCLUSIVE

Anna Kournikova joins ‘Biggest Loser’ as celebrity trainer for next season

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