Entertainment Weekly has your first look at six of the contestants that will be competing on the next season of Survivor: San Juan del Sur — Blood vs. Water. Like the previous Blood vs. Water season, San Juan del Sur will bring in pairs instead of single players to compete for the million dollars. The one difference is that this season will feature no returning players. However, there are a few doozies among the cast of newbies.
Controversial former baseball relief pitcher John Rocker will be playing along with his girlfriend, spray-tan business owner Julie McGee. Rocker pitched for the Atlanta Braves in the 1999 World Series against the Yankees. But later that year, Rocker became embroiled in controversy when he was asked in a Sports Illustrated article whether he would ever consider playing in New York and was quoted as saying, “I’d retire first. It’s the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the 7 train to the ballpark looking like you’re [riding through] Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It’s depressing… The biggest thing I don’t like about New York are the foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?”
Does Rocker worry that other contestants will hold that article against him if they recognize him out on the island? “Not really,” he told Entertainment Weekly on location in Nicaragua the day before filming began. “I see these folks that I’m getting ready to play this game with as very similar to the 13 years of professional baseball that I played, and the teammates that I played with. Some of my biggest supporters after that SI debacle were my current and past teammates.” (See a clip from our interview with Rocker and McGee in the video player below.)
Other familiar faces joining the new cast are twin sisters Nadiya and Natalie Anderson, who played two seasons on The Amazing Race, including the most recent Amazing Race: All-Stars, in which they were the first team eliminated. “I think this is a couple of notches up from The Amazing Race,” says Natalie of making the jump to Survivor. “You’re taking away the human basics and the things you yearn for the most, which is comfort and warmth and food.”
But sister Nadiya points out they also will have to work on their social game. “Literally, we don’t care what anybody thinks about us in real life,” she tells EW. “With the exception of our parents, like, nobody’s opinion matters to us. So we kind of do our own thing disregarding what anybody else thinks about it. As long as I’m okay with my decision and Natalie’s okay with it and my parents are okay with it, we kind of don’t care. So we have to make the extra effort.”
The third pair EW can reveal consists of Broadway boyfriends Reed Kelly and Josh Canfield. Kelly has appeared on stage in the ensembles of Wicked and Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, where he also played “Debut Spider-Man” and villain Swiss Miss. (He also appeared as a model on the cover of a 2012 issue of Time magazine.) Kelly compares his partner to one of the most famous people to ever play Survivor: Facts of Life star Lisa Whelchel. “She was so great with the way she played,” says Kelly. “And the way she carried herself in the game was from such an honest place and a place of faith, which is very Josh, so I think that would be a great person to compare him to.”
Survivor: San Juan del Sur will kick-off on CBS with a special 90-minute premiere at 8 p.m. on Sept. 24, and the rest of the cast will be announced later today. To see clips from EW’s video interviews with the first six contestants, just click on the video player below. And for more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.