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
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?
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.
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?
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.
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