The nipple ring. The Long Island accent. The crazy voting strategy. Sean Kenniff, the 30 year old doctor turned castaway turned scapegoat, became the island punching bag after he devised his alphabetical (read: nonconfrontational) approach to selecting potential island castoffs. That was just the start of the troubles that led to his ouster. Here’s his exclusive chat with EW.com.
You gave up practicing medicine for this?
Actually, I stopped practicing last October because I was frustrated with the medical world. Neurology is a fascinating field, but I wanted to do more. I write, I wanted to get into television, I wanted to try new things.
How’d you find out about ”Survivor?”
On Oct. 8, I quit medicine. Three days later, I’m depressed, I’m sitting on the toilet reading Time magazine, and there’s an article called ”A Star Is Borneo.” I didn’t even know where it was, but I saw they were filming this show there called ”Survivor’,’ and I thought it sounded pretty cool. My application video was me in my shower, which I’d transformed into a tropical rain forest. I think they liked that I was a neurologist who was into being a little crazy, too.
Is it true you wrote your med school thesis on penises?
Actually, I did my surgical thesis on phalloplasty in female to male transsexuals. I was interested in if a woman wanted to become a guy, how she would go about building a penis.
You may be a neurologist, but a few people on the island — Colleen, Gervase, Sue — seemed to be suggesting you’re not exactly a brain surgeon, if you know what I mean.
Anybody who knows me knows I’m hopelessly dorky. But I have a very good intellectual side. I don’t want to say I’m very bright, but I’ve always scored very well on all my tests — 98th, 99th percentile.
Then how do you explain that alphabet strategy?
It was very well thought out and a good strategy. It certainly wasn’t a numskull idea. Once people think about it, they’ll understand what I was trying to do. The trick was that on face value, it needed to appear as a harmless strategy. But it wasn’t harmless. It was just a strategy.
Were you surprised that people were being so mean about you?
I don’t have a nasty bone in my body, and if you look at the episodes, you’ll see I never said anything negative about anyone. So why would [the others] vote me off the island when there were truly nasty people going around saying nasty things? For whatever reason, they decided, hey, I’m the putz, I gotta go.
Which Survivor do you think was most unfairly portrayed?
Nobody was unfairly portrayed, but Dirk wasn’t exactly as he appeared. The guy came to stay with me in Long Island for two weeks. He’s not what you think he is. It appeared on the show that he was a lot more bible belting than he is. If you talk to him, he appears like a city punk. You’d never think this guy has God in his life at all.
You have one novel you’re shopping around and another in the works. Are either about tropical islands?
No, nobody gets voted off. I mean, really! As if a deserted island book has never been written before. Between ”Lord of the Flies,” ”Treasure Island,” and ”Gilligan’s Island” you need a little ingenuity in life.
Any tips for the next ”Survivor” contestants?
Watch what you say. Know your friends better than your enemies. And eat really well before you go, otherwise you’ll disappear to nothing like I did. I really looked like an Ethiopian famine victim by the end of it.