‘Survivor’ Castaway Wendell – ‘I’m Not the Devil, I’m Not Russell Hantz’

“Survivor: Ghost Island” (CBS)

QUICK NOTE: The good folks at XFINITY sent me deep into the Fijian wilderness to bring you an exclusive look at “Survivor: Ghost Island.” While I was there I conducted interviews with “Survivor” host Jeff Probst and the entire cast. I also captured exclusive photos and other behind-the-scenes tidbits. So, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute updates.

Name: Wendell Holland
Age: 33
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Current residence: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Occupation: Furniture Company Owner

Gordon Holmes: How does one make the jump from lawyer to furniture designer?
Wendell Holland: I went to Penn Law, right in Philly. And then I was clerking for some judges in Philly, in civil court, then in family court. And my last judge retired at the right time when I had started this side hustle of furniture making. I made my own bed because beds are super expensive. And whenever people would come over, they’d always compliment the bed. So, I thought maybe I could sell this thing. I put it on Craigslist and it sold very quickly for $500. That was good for a law clerk. So, I made a few more beds and sold them. I was making more money with this side business than I was clerking for a judge. So, I started really making and selling them, then expanding to other things like tables, bars, and whatever you could think of.
Holmes: Jeez, Wendell…how many people are seeing your bed?
Holland: (Laughs)
Holmes: If my career involved getting people to come in and look at my bed, I’d be broke.
Holland: No, it was Craigslist at first. But now it’s Instagram, the company’s name is Beve. That’s a childhood nickname of mine. And the company’s page is BeveUnlimited.
Holmes: Do you deliver to West Chester, PA?
Holland: Yes, I do! A good friend of mine ordered something for there recently, but I had to go to some island for something.

Holmes: Why do you think you were cast?
Holland: I think I wanted it and I got after it for a while. I’ve been a superfan for about ten years. Since season 18 I’ve been a superfan. I’ve watched all the seasons since 18 numerous times. I haven’t watched the first half of the seasons. I’ve watched 16. I’ve applied many times, I’ve gone to castings.
Holmes: Why do you hate seasons one through seventeen?
Holland: It’s not that I hate them. I just started at eighteen and when the producers gave me the green light a month of two ago, I started at season eighteen because the game has evolved so much and strategy has changed so much. People aren’t sticking to the Boston Rob alliance, it’s voting blocs now.

Holmes: Is there anything we should know about you that’s not in your bio?
Holland: I graduated pretty high in my class in undergrad. Then got into an awesome law school. So, I’m probably a lot smarter than these people expect. They might think I’m just the creative black dude, an artist or a musician. And yes, I am an artist, but I’m smarter than they might think.
Holmes: Are you going to keep all of the law school stuff to yourself?
Holland: I’ll say I’m a freelance furniture designer. That way I don’t have a business, I’m not an established person. If someone contracts me to build a piece, then I build it for them. Which is kind of what I do.

Holmes: What are you going to build around camp? I’d imagine you could put together a sweet set-up.
Holland: Obviously the shelter, I think I can evolve it a little bit from the sideways V that you normally see. I’m thinking of a chair, a table, maybe a cornhole board to keep people happy.
Holmes: I would not vote out a man who brings cornhole to my beach.
Holland: Exactly! I just have to figure out how to build some beers and everyone will be happy.

Holmes: Have you set any boundaries as far as lying, cheating, stealing, etc?
Holland: I’m willing to lie, cheat, and steal. I have morals and I’m very secure with them. But if you look at anyone who comes back, they always say they should’ve played tougher, their friends tell them they shouldn’t have been the church person. I do have certain boundaries though. I’m not the devil, I’m not Russell Hantz.
Holmes: You’re a handsome fella, what about flirting?
Holland: I’d prefer not to flirt.
Holmes: Is there someone back home who’d get mad?
Holland: Yeah, I have a wonderful girlfriend.
Holmes: She turns on CBS a year from now, she would not be happy.
Holland: Oh yeah, and her mom and sister, my parents will hate me. Nah.
Holmes: Some people are like, “My wife and I have a deal.” My wife would kill me dead.
Holland: (Laughs) Yeah.

Holmes: You’re in lockdown now, but people smile and wink and whatnot. Are you doing any of that?
Holland: I’m smiling at everybody. If anyone asks me to be in an alliance, I’ll say, “Yes.” I’ll make promises everywhere. That blonde girl and the Incredible Hulk dude, it seems like she follows him around. So, if that’s a showmance, I’ll get one of them out of here early.

Holmes: You’re in the dark as far as twists and whatnot. Any guesses?
Holland: I was thinking CBS wouldn’t do Dems vs. Republicans. That’d be too much for CBS right now. When we were in our individual boats coming out here, if those are the tribes, it looked like I was in the nerdy people boat. And the beautiful gladiator people were on the other boat. So, if it’s strategists vs. people who’ve never watched the show…that could be it. That big guy that I…don’t love him…he came out here with no flip flops! He came to Fiji with no flip flops! He was sitting next to me at breakfast and he said to the producer, “Uh…I don’t have flip flops.” And I was like, “Is this fool crazy?!” It might be people who are intelligent vs. boneheads who don’t bring flip flops to Fiji.
Holmes: That’s kind of a long subhead.
Holland: We’d need an acronym or something.

Holmes: Alright, I’ll give you two “Survivor” situations. You tell me which one would you rather.
Holland: OK.
Holmes: Align with a Hillary supporter or a Trump supporter?
Holland: Hillary, because I’m a democrat and the stuff Trump has been saying and doing? I’m not a fan.
Holmes: Steal a vote or eliminate or juror?
Holland: One is during the game…the other is after. I’ll eliminate a juror.
Holmes: Endurance challenge or word puzzle?
Holland: Puzzle…I got a good score on my LSAT. Part of that is games and puzzles.
Holmes: Align with a racist or align with a sexist?
Holland: As a black guy, I’d have to unfortunately say sexist.
Holmes: Voted out first or voted out before last Tribal?
Holland: Last Tribal.
Holmes: Align with an adulterer or a tax cheat?
Holland: Hmm…I think the tax cheat might be more strategic in the game. I think anyone can cheat on their wife. I think that’s some scumbag stuff to do. But, I think I’d align with the tax cheat.
Holmes: Lose the family challenge or win and have to decide who to take with you?
Holland: Win and have to decide.
Holmes: Is your girlfriend coming out?
Holland: My dad.
Holmes: Is he a fan?
Holland: He’s a fan of his son. I’m a fan of him, too.
Holmes: What does he do?
Holland: He’s an attorney. I’m kind of doing something he doesn’t want me to as far as furniture building and going on “Survivor.” But I appreciate all of the sacrifices he made for me. So, thank you dad, come out here.
Holmes: Caught stealing food or caught idol hunting?
Holland: Idol hunting.
Holmes: Align with a super fan or someone who doesn’t watch the show?
Holland: Someone who doesn’t watch the show, they can be a goat.
Holmes: Dance challenge or karaoke challenge?
Holland: Karaoke.
Holmes: Same here…well…if they had my songs.
Holland: (Laughs) True.

Holmes: What kind of first impression do you think you make?
Holland: I think people think I’m a likable guy. I think that playing that middle-ground guy will be good. I’m not that big gladiator guy. I’m more like Tyson. I’m not huge, but I can get out here and win some challenges.
Holmes: I think there’s something to be said for not being an alpha.
Holland: Here’s the thing, I was captain of many sports growing up. Homecoming king…
Holmes: But, you don’t need to be. That’s the difference.
Holland: Exactly. You don’t want to be, especially at the beginning. Don’t be that guy. Lead from within the trenches.

NOTE: The cast members do not know each other’s names at this point. I showed Wendell a picture of each of his competitors and asked him to share his first impressions.

LIBBY

Holland: She’s probably a beauty queen or something. I think she likes the big strong blonde dude that I don’t particularly like too much.

ANGELA

Holland: She seems older like me, probably in her thirties. She’s very fit. Probably someone I can work with.

CHELSEA

Holland: That’s Miss “Game of Thrones.” She looks like a character. She reads the book. But, she doesn’t smile much at me. I don’t know if I can work with her.

JENNA

Holland: She doesn’t seem like a super strategist. She could be a goat. You bring her along. I think she’s doing coloring books and stuff.

GONZALEZ

Holland: She has a bunch of tattoos…pretty girl.  I don’t see her as a super strategist or a physical threat. So, she could be a goat or she could go home early.

STEPHANIE

Holland: This girl is a human highlighter. She wears a lot of colors. She has a lot of expensive workout gear.  She’s a happy person. She has a good aura. She could be strong in challenges.

MORGAN

Holland: This one reminds me of Kim Spradlin. This lady is probably older like me, not one of these twenty year olds. Very composed. Walks around with a Louis bag and some Tory Burch socks. She seems very secure in herself. She seems like a serious threat. I’d like to work with her early, then get her out before the top five.

LAUREL

Holland: She seems like a Michaela type. She’s taller and stronger and she has some trunks for legs. I think she’ll be very good at challenges. There’s a nerdy dude out here, and she laughs at his jokes.  So, I think she could be nerdy too. We could get along.

KELLYN

Holland: She is warm, friendly, she smiles. I’d like to work with her.

DESIREE

Holland: She seems cool. She’s got style. I could work with her or not work with her. I call her Amber Rose because she’s got the short blonde cut.

BRADLEY

Holland: This guy…I don’t know if he’s a gay guy or not. It doesn’t matter to me. I was on a boat with him earlier today and I thought I could certainly work with him.

BRENDAN

Holland: This guy has all the muscles in the world that you haven’t seen before. He’s got muscles in his back. I don’t know what’s going on in his head. I’d like to get him out early.

CHRIS

Holland: I don’t like him. I’ll sit with him, he won’t look at me or smile. I smile at everyone I see. He seems like a douchebag.

SEBASTIAN

Holland: I call him Captain Jack Sparrow. He looks like a creature out of the ocean. I just want to know him and know his story. He has a fish tattoo on his ankle. He wears flip flops that have fish on them. He’s probably a surfer, but he’s probably a super strong swimmer.

WENDELL

Holmes: How about this guy?
Holland: Is that Childish Gambino?
Holmes: (Laughs) I almost wore a “Community” shirt today.
Holland: That’s the winner of season 36 of “Survivor.”

 

JACOB

Holland: That is my fro bro. Fros R’ Us. We’ll have the fro alliance on lock.

JAMES

Holland: He is a robot. He walks super erect. He’s always sitting straight up. He has a stone cold look on his face. He’s probably a super smart guy, an athlete. But he scares me because he’s so robotic.

MICHAEL

Holland: Probably in his twenties. He’s strong. He’s one of those gladiators out there. But, he’s not the hugest guy. Might be a military guy. I can work with him.

DONATHAN

Holland: This guy seems kind of nerdy. He might be a super strategist. Kind of a Zeke. I could work with him.

DOMENICK

Holland: I’m going to work with him. He reminds me of Russell Hantz with his stature. He’s shorter. Looks like an Italian dude. The whole process I’ve been getting vibes from him that we’d work together and be an odd couple. Russell Hantz and Childish Gambino. I don’t think people would see that coming.

Don’t miss the season premiere of “Survivor: Ghost Island” – Wednesday, February 28, 2018 at 8 pm ET.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

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