‘Survivor: Philippines’ Pre-Game Interview: ‘Facts of Life’ Star Lisa Whelchel

Lisa Whelchel (Gordon Holmes)

XfinityTV.com sent me deep into the wilderness on a mission to bring you all kinds of “Survivor” stuff including behind-the-scenes tidbits, pre-game interviews with the cast, insights from “Survivor” host Jeff Probst and Challenge Producer John Kirhoffer, a look at the first Tribal Council, and much more. I’ll be cranking out this goodness daily, so be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute updates on all of this season’s “Survivor” fun.

Name: Lisa Whelchel
Home: Dallas, TX
Occupation: Author, Speaker and a Mother
Tribe: Tandang

Fun Fact: Lisa starred in the ’80s comedy hit “The Facts of Life” alongside some guy named George Clooney.

Gordon Holmes: You look familiar…
Lisa Whelchel: (Laughs) Some of the younger people…I won’t look familiar to them.
Holmes: You obviously played the role of Blair Warner on “The Facts of Life.” Do you think your fame will be a detriment? Will it work to your advantage?
Whelchel: I don’t think it’s going to work to my advantage. But, I hope it’s not too much of a detriment. I think if one person recognizes me it’s going to spread around, but it’s not going to be something I’m going to volunteer. I’m not going to hide it. But I hope by the time it comes out the people will know me as me.
Holmes: The entertainment industry has a reputation for being a cutthroat business. Will growing up in the thick of that help you out?
Whelchel: I think I’m pretty naive when it comes to that. We were very sheltered on the show, I guess because we were kids. And it was different back then in ‘80s. It’s more cutthroat now and I’ve been out of it for so long. It might be a hindrance. I tend to trust people and think people have the best intentions.
Holmes: But that tends to be the opposite of what “Survivor” is about.
Whelchel: I’m not naïve enough to not know that this is a game. But I don’t know if I’ll be naturally good at seeing through agendas that are ruthless.
Holmes: It’s day one. You and I meet on the beach. I say, “Hi, my name is Gordon, I’m a writer for XfinityTV.com.” How do you respond?
Whelchel: “My name is Lisa, I’m from Dallas, Texas. I have three kids who are in college. I’ve been writing books for moms for the last ten years.”
Holmes: And what if I respond, “Do you know my friend Tootie Ramsey?” Do you own up to it?
Whelchel: (Laughs) Yeah, I say, “That was me.”

Holmes: You said you write books for moms. What does that entail?
Whelchel: I’ve written about 14 books and they’re resources for moms, encouragement for moms. Just in the trenches, have someone beside them to encourage them.
Holmes: What do your kids think of mom going on this crazy adventure?
Whelchel: Oh, they’re thrilled. We’ve watched “Survivor” as a family for the past ten years. They know it’s something I’ve wanted to do. And as my youngest said, “My mom’s never been on television in my lifetime.” So, it’ll be fun for them.

Holmes: In your bio it says you’d take a Bible with you on a deserted island. Religion has been a hot-button issue the past couple of seasons. Do you worry that being too outward with your religion could put a target on your back?
Whelchel: I think you run a risk when you’re overly vocal about your beliefs. There are so many negative ties to it, unfortunately. So, I don’t plan to. In my real life, I’ll pray with people and I’ll even pray out loud by myself. But I’m not going to do that on television because it’s too much of a gamble of how it’s going to be perceived.

Holmes: It’s crazy that you’re out here. I love that.
Whelchel: Aww…thank you.
Holmes: It says that you’re psyched to meet Jeff Probst. I’m assuming at this point you already have.
Whelchel: Yes, at final auditions.
Holmes: What do you think?
Whelchel: He’s fabulous. He’s got it all. He’s cute. I like that he’s interested about other people and their stories.

Holmes: You’ve been around the cast for a few days. Let’s hear your first impressions.
Whelchel: It’s hard to tell. I like everybody so far, but I’ve watched the show enough to know you have to cast the evil one, and the psycho, and the one who’s a little off, and the brash one, and the lippy one. They’re in the cast, I just can’t tell which one is which.
Holmes: It’s like poker. If you can’t figure out who the mark is at the table, it’s probably you.
Whelchel: (Laughs)
Holmes: Do you think anyone has recognized you?
Whelchel: I think so. There are a couple of people who are old enough to recognize me.
Holmes: You keep saying “old enough,” but I think “Facts of Life” is one of those shows that the younger generation might be familiar with.
Whelchel: But some of them are really young. Like 18, 19, 20…
Holmes: Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like you’re from the “Brady Bunch” era, but with the Internet those shows don’t go away. I feel like “Silver Spoons” people barely remember, but “Facts of Life” people remember.

Holmes: Do you have any problems lying to people?
Whelchel: It’s not my strategy to lie, or to be evil. But I know to play the game with respect and to honor your alliance, there are times where you cannot answer forthrightly. If someone asks if I’m voting for them, I’ll figure out a way to not answer directly. It’ll still be a lie, though.
Holmes: How about flirting?
Whelchel: No. (Laughs)

Holmes: They asked you which “Survivor” you’re like…you said Colby (Donaldson). What I want to know is, if you could align with a “Survivor” player, who would it be and why?
Whelchel: Russell Hantz, because you have to be ruthless to play the game well. And that is not a natural strength of mine. So, I’d like to align with someone who has a strength that I don’t have. He doesn’t have a social game, so I think we’d make a good team. And given his history, he’d take me to the end and I’d win.

Holmes: Any plans for that big check they’re going to give you in December?
Whelchel: This sounds like a beauty pageant answer…
Holmes: World peace, donate it all to charity…
Whelchel: Well, as a Christian it’s a privilege to give the first 10% to the church. And my brother just started a church in the inner city in California. So, it’d be a joy to give $100,000 to him. And before I left, I read a book called “The God Pocket” that captivated my imagination. You keep a certain amount of money in your purse, then you open your eyes to people who need it. I’d love to set aside maybe 10% for that. Just to give away when the need arises. My daughter is getting married, I’ve got three kids in college. And as far as fun, I’d love the freedom it’d provide me.

Holmes: OK, if there was a “Survivor” tribe made up of Blair Warner, Jo Polniaczek, Tootie Ramsey, Edna Garrett, and…wait…I know this…
Whelchel: Natalie Green!
Holmes: Natalie Green! So close. OK, you’re all on a tribe. Can Blair Warner backstab her way to a win?
Whelchel: No…she quits on the first day because she might get dirty.

Don’t miss the premiere of “Survivor: Philippines” – Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

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