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: Domenick Abbate
Hometown: Nesconset, New York
Current residence: Nesconset, New York
Occupation: Construction Supervisor
Gordon Holmes: Are you a “Survivor” fan?
Domenick Abbate: Yes. Since its origination. I can honestly say I’ve watched the show since it came out. Some people are late to it and they’ve binge watched twenty seasons over the last two years. I’m one of the few that watched it as it went. Not to say I haven’t binge watched in the last few months to catch up.
Holmes: You’ve recently transformed your body.
Holmes: Does that make you more in tune with your limitations, what your body needs to sustain itself?
Abbate: Yeah, definitely. One of the diets I did was the Ketogenic diet. It’s a high-fat, low carb diet. It teaches you to live off of the fat of the land. Coconut is pure fat. The only thing that concerns me is rice. But fish and coconut…I’d live great. As far as my transformation, the fact that I’ve changed my physiology. I used to sit on the couch and do nothing. Now I work out six days a week, I eat tremendously better. My energy level is there. Whether it’s going to have an effect on me out there? I have no idea. I like to think I’ve conditioned myself.
Holmes: Why do you think you were cast?
Abbate: I ask myself that every day. I see the people I’m out here with. I get why they’re here. I don’t get why I’m here. But, there’s something right?
Holmes: Gotta be.
Abbate: I think that I’m a father, I work in the city, I do construction. Some of that old-school, old-Italian kind of persona. I come from a pretty hardcore Italian family. I have eight brothers and sisters all from the same parents. Family is everything, work ethic is everything. Maybe that has something to do with it? My transformation story, most people are in the best shape of their lives in their twenties. I’m in the best shape of my life in my life now. In my twenties I was a trainwreck. I never touched drugs, but I enjoyed my cocktails. I didn’t mind betting on a horse from time to time. But then you have children and you have to make a decision. Am I going to keep going down this path or am I going to make a move. And that’s what I did.
Holmes: When you talk about work ethic; it’s day two and you’re building this shelter. Meanwhile, I’m sunning myself on the beach. How does the rest of this story play out?
Abbate: In real life, work ethic is critical to me. If the job doesn’t get done, the business doesn’t make money. If the business doesn’t make money, he can’t pay us. Out here, work ethic is important, but I’m not going to hammer people about it. I’m not going to be a supervisor out here. That’s the last thing I’m going to do. I feel like, if someone else with a huge ego wants to take the reins on it? I’m going to sit back and be that person’s number one cheerleader. If you’re laying on the beach? That’s perfect for me. Everyone’s going to look at you and say, “That bum is not doing anything.” And that way they’re not looking at me.
Holmes: Is there anything in your backstory that you’re going to keep a secret?
Abbate: I may just lie about the supervision component. I don’t want them to think I’m a natural-born leader. If anyone volunteers to make the fire, and they can’t get it done…I’m going to let everyone else try first. Once, they’ve exhausted it, I’ll take control and light the fire. I think there’s more reward in letting someone with an ego complete the task without me. Then I come off as someone who couldn’t live without them and their skills. That way, they feel like I’m glued to them. And really, I think I’ll have that person under my control.
Holmes: Have you set any ethical boundaries as far as lying, cheating, stealing, etc.?
Abbate: I won’t go to Varner’s level.
Abbate: But at this point, if someone is out here because of their faith? I’m exploit it. If someone is out here because they’re honorable? I’ll exploit it. I’m going to exploit anything and everything I can.
Holmes: You’re married?
Holmes: Have you two discussed your limits as far as flirting?
Abbate: She did mention, “It must be nice you get to go on this island with all of these hot, young girls.” I don’t know how many times I had to reassure her, not that I need to reassure her, she’s the love of my life. The girls out here are attractive, but I’m not thinking that. I’m thinking about the game. I’m thinking about bringing my wife home money. And even if I find them attractive, I’m pretty sure in a week when I’m dehydrated and exhausted, I’m not going to find them attractive anymore. The whole sexual component would be out of the game. We have a strong relationship. I’ve been dating her for 21 years.
Holmes: That’s awesome.
Abbate: We’re high school sweethearts.
Holmes: You’re in the dark as far as twists and themes. If you had to guess, what do you think they have in store for you?
Abbate: I had one thought on theme and it’s only based on shirts that people have worn. I’ve seen Brooklyn, LA…a couple of East Coast city shirts. The only thing I can come up with is some kind of East Coast/West Coast thing. But at the end of the day, none of that matters. If it’s territorial, it won’t matter because there are idiots in California and there are idiots in New York.
Holmes: Have you been having any “Survivor” stress dreams?
Abbate: I’ve been having a lot of wacky dreams. I’ll be in an episode that has already happened. Or, I’m in my truck and I’m driving down the beach. I had another one where if my wife can’t be here for the family visit, my brother will come instead. I really want my wife to be here, and I had one where we were on the beach together. It wasn’t great, we might have even been arguing in the dream. (Laughs)
Holmes: That’s very rare in the family visit. That’s some Colby Donaldson kinda stuff.
Holmes: She’s going to vote you out.
Abbate: Sounds about right.
Holmes: Alright, I’m going to give you two “Survivor” situations. You tell me which one you would rather deal with.
Abbate: Got it.
Holmes: Align with a Trump supporter or a Hillary supporter?
Abbate: I could care less. A few months ago I would’ve said Trump, but let’s go with Hillary. I had a little faith in him, but if he ever read a book on emotional intelligence, he doesn’t fit any characteristic. He scares the (expletive deleted) out of me. Especially with this North Korea (expletive deleted).
Holmes: Good thing we’re in Fiji.
Abbate: (Laughs) That’s what I said.
Holmes: Steal a vote or eliminate a juror?
Abbate: Steal a vote.
Holmes: Endurance challenge or word puzzle?
Abbate: I’d do an endurance challenge, but overall I’d rather a slide puzzle.
Holmes: Yeah, once you know the trick, they’re not so hard.
Abbate: Yeah, I’ve got that pinned.
Holmes: Align with a racist or a sexist?
Abbate: (Laughs) A racist…there’s no turning back. As a sexist you can kind or work your way back. But once you’re a racist, you’re a racist for life.
Holmes: There’s something to be said for standing in front of a jury and saying, “Yeah, I lied to you. But this dude is a racist.”
Abbate: (Laughs) That’s what I’m saying! I think a racist is the way to go.
Holmes: Voted out first or before final Tribal?
Abbate: Final Tribal.
Holmes: Align with an adulterer or a tax cheat?
Abbate: Align…ugh…I’m looking at the long game. Maybe a tax cheat. These aren’t easy.
Holmes: They’re not designed to be. But imagine that final jury, “This guy is a racist adulterer!”
Holmes: Lose the family challenge or win and decide who to take along?
Abbate: Lose the family challenge.
Holmes: Caught stealing food or idol hunting?
Abbate: Stealing food.
Holmes: Align with a super fan or someone who doesn’t watch the show?
Abbate: Someone who doesn’t watch the show.
Holmes: Dance challenge or karaoke challenge?
Abbate: A gun.
Holmes: What kind of first impression do you think you put out there?
Abbate: We have a lot of stone faces out here. It makes it a tough read. I know the more you give, the more people can take away from it. So, I’m cautious with what I give people. And with certain people I’ve been giving a sense of invitation. A smile here, a smile there. Even though we can’t talk, if something funny happens, there will be a communal laugh. I let them know I’m good. I’m here and I’m relatable. Let’s play together, let’s work together. I think my self-awareness is high. But, you never really know.
NOTE: The cast members do not know each other’s names at this point. I showed Domenick a picture of each of the competitors and asked him to share his first impressions.
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