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: Donathan Hurley
Hometown: Phelps, Kentucky
Current residence: Kimper, Kentucky
Gordon Holmes: You were very specific that your name is not Jonathan, it’s not Donovan. It’s Donathan.
Donathan Hurley: That’s correct. And I’ll give people a slide one or two times. It’s just a pet peeve. I’ve dealt with it for many, many, many years. (Laughs)
Holmes: You’ll let it slide one or two times, but that third time…watch out.
Hurley: (Laughs) Yeah. That’s why I have the nickname “Don Don.” That’s easier for people to remember.
Holmes: Are you a “Survivor” fan?
Hurley: Yes, super.
Holmes: For how long?
Hurley: Since I was young, ten. My grandfather watched the first couple of seasons. I wasn’t really into it though, until 2006. I had a friend and she watched it. I cheered and danced when I was in school, so a lot of the time I was gone when they aired. But, I’ve caught up with all of them thanks to CBS All Access.
Holmes: What kind of dance? Cheer dance?
Hurley: I was a cheerleader. The first male cheerleader in my entire area. Dancer too…only guy. And I did hip-hop dance.
Holmes: So you’re part of a team, learning complex choreography. To me, that says that you’ve got to be good at following directions, doing what’s right for the team, dealing with different personalities.
Holmes: That seems like it’d help you on the show.
Hurley: Just being from Eastern Kentucky is going to help me. (Laughs) There’s a bunch of conservative people and I’m…not. I’m definitely someone who just broke free. I came out at the age of 13 as gay. And, I’ve definitely had to maneuver my way socially through the area. Through cheer and dance, that helped. It made some people love me and some people never did give a (expletive deleted) about me. But, that’ll help me in the game.
Holmes: What’s it like growing up as a homosexual in Kentucky?
Hurley: It’s tough.
Holmes: I mean, not that it’s necessarily easy anywhere.
Hurley: (Laughs) Of course not. It’s getting better, but when you get out to those rural areas, the Eastern Kentucky Bible Belt, it’s tough. From a young age I’ve always had a strong mentality. I’ve never really backed down from anything. I’ve always been honest with myself and who I was. I just wanted to share it with the world, whether they liked it or not.
Holmes: Good for you, sometimes it’s hard to be yourself.
Hurley: Thank you.
Holmes: I was going to ask why you think you were cast, but I think I know. You seem like a good-natured, interesting fellow, I’m excited to see you play this game.
Hurley: (Laughs) Thanks.
Holmes: Is there any part of your backstory that you’re going to keep a secret?
Hurley: Hmm…I’m not going to be so open about taking care of my grandmother. I feel like after Jonny Fairplay, anything with the grandma I want to stay away from. Maybe if I get to the final Tribal Council, maybe I’ll pull a Jeremy. Hey, this is the main thing why I’m here.
Holmes: Fairplay ruined it for everyone. You can’t even have a sick grandma anymore.
Hurley: (Laughs) I know!
Holmes: Now Jonathan…damnit.
Hurley: (Laughs) That’s one.
Hurley: I’m joking.
Holmes: No, no. You set up the rules as clear as day. If I hit that third one, you let me have it.
Hurley: (Laughs) I’d never do you like that.
Holmes: I appreciate that. Have you set any ethical boundaries for yourself?
Hurley: I think Varner taught us all a lesson not to cross that line. (Laughs) I’m definitely not going to go that far. But, I’m definitely going to lie. I’m going to cheat and steal. It’s “Survivor” and I may only have one chance to play. Why not go out there and give it hell?
Holmes: Any boundaries as far as flirting?
Hurley: I’ll flirt! Look at all of these beautiful people! I’m not the most attractive, but I’ll be in there.
Holmes: Is there a boyfriend back home that’ll be upset if you’re cozying up to someone?
Hurley: Oh no. I’m single. There aren’t any men where I’m from!
Holmes: You’re in the dark as far as twists, themes. Any guesses?
Hurley: I don’t think we’re doing a “Millennials vs. Gen-X.” We’re all a little young. Who knows? You’ve got to go with the flow. I’ll take it day-by-day.
Holmes: Alright, I’m going to give you two “Survivor” situations. You tell me which one would you rather.
Holmes: Align with a Hillary supporter or a Trump supporter?
Hurley: Trump supporter, I can probably get right down into the mix with them because I’m around them all the time. I can play both, really. I’m a liberal.
Holmes: Steal a vote or eliminate a juror?
Hurley: Steal a vote, you never know when you’d need it.
Holmes: Endurance challenge or word puzzle?
Hurley: Endurance, I’m not really the strongest guy, but if it’s a balance one, I bet I could do pretty damn good.
Holmes: Yeah, your dance background would serve you well.
Hurley: I’m the graceful type.
Holmes: Like an elegant swan.
Hurley: (Laughs) Yes.
Holmes: Would you rather align with a racist or a sexist?
Hurley: Oh God…that’s a good one. Lord, none of them. But I guess a racist because I’m around a lot of them. I’m not in that mix, I’m open-minded. I’d hate to be associated with either one of them.
Holmes: Voted out first or before final Tribal?
Hurley: Final Tribal! You get the whole experience.
Holmes: Align with an adulterer or a tax cheat?
Hurley: A tax cheat. Maybe I’ll align with Richard someday.
Holmes: (Laughs) Well played. I didn’t realize there were right answers, but apparently you found one. Lose the family challenge or win and have to decide who to take?
Hurley: Win and decide who to take.
Holmes: Caught stealing food or idol hunting?
Hurley: Idol hunting.
Holmes: Align with a super fan or someone who doesn’t watch the show?
Hurley: A super fan because we’d be on the same page. And someone who doesn’t know the game might get off track.
Holmes: This last one is a waste of both of our time, but I’m going to ask it anyway; dance challenge or karaoke challenge?
Holmes: Really?! You’re a dancer!
Hurley: I can burn karaoke up. I was always told I can’t sing, but I love entertaining. But in seventh grade I wanted to be a part of a musical and they said, “You’re not going to be in this musical, you’re too flamboyant. You can’t really sing.”
Holmes: Umm…I’ve done some musicals in my day and being flamboyant has never been a problem.
Hurley: (Laughs) But when I was a junior they had this competition based off of “American Idol.” They went to each school in the region and if you won at your school you got to go to the regional competition. I tied for first against a hell of a singer and got to go and perform at the regional competition and it was like a big middle finger to all of them.
Holmes: What kind of first impression do you think you put out there?
Hurley: Probably weak cause I’m small compared to most of these guys. They might think I’m a hillbilly. Hopefully they think I’m a nice guy.
NOTE: The cast members do not know each other’s names at this point. I showed Donathan 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