Zeke from Survivor: Game Changers on living with the legacy of Russell Hantz
When it comes to Survivor, Zeke Smith is the resident mystery man. That’s because he and Michaela Bradshaw came back to Fiji just a few weeks after their Millennials vs. Gen X season finished to play again in Survivor: Game Changers (premiering March 8 on CBS), and due to that timing, the 18 other contestants had never seen them play. Jeff Probst has already revealed what the other players were told about Zeke and Michaela, but the next question is: How will the two newbies handle the mystery and uncertainty that surrounds them and could make them targets?
We asked Zeke whether people not having a scouting report on him helps him or hurts him in the game, and he mentioned the shadow of another former player in the same situation looming over him. Watch the video above and read the Q&A below to see what the mustached wonder had to say about all that and more. (Also make sure to follow @thedaltonross on Instagram to see exclusive on-location photos, including one of J.T. casting his pre-game vote for whom he’d like to vote off first.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So how hard is to come right back and play two straight seasons?
ZEKE SMITH: I’m playing a couple of weeks out of my last season. You know, it’s not that hard. I would say I’m in great shape to play Survivor again. My mind never really left the island. I went back to New York. I ate a lot of food. I slept a lot. I managed not to break my nose but came very close. I had an incident with a sledgehammer. It involved stitches. But everything’s fine. I think if your mind is ready to play Survivor and if you love this game as much as I do then you don’t need more than 12 hours, a burger, and a margarita to turn around between seasons.
Is it a good thing or bad thing that people know nothing about you?
Look, I think it’s a mixed bag that people know nothing about me. I would say the biggest hardship that I’m going to endure is that I’m going to live with the legacy of Russell Hantz over my shoulder because there are only two people prior to Michaela and myself who have done the back-to-back turnaround: It’s Malcolm and it’s Russell. And I certainly don’t look like I was brought back for the same reasons that Malcolm was brought back, now do I? So I’m going to need Ghostbusters to come and bust that ghost for me.
But I do have the advantage that there is no warm-up period for me. I was just out here playing. I’m ready to go. And everyone else here is dangerous. Like, Tony is tremendously dangerous, Sandra is tremendously dangerous, Cirie is tremendously dangerous. Everyone is dangerous for their own reason and I think that unknowability factor might just get obscured by the threat levels surrounding me.
What did you learn from last time?
I learned that it’s important to always have fun, that I’m playing my best when I’m having fun. And for me, that typically means playing big and playing aggressive. And that’s the best way to play Survivor.
Whom do you want to align with out there?
I want to play with Cirie. Cirie is one of my Survivor heroes. The idea that I am out here playing Survivor with Cirie really geeks me out and I need to keep it under wraps because I’m so stoked to play with her. One of my philosophies about Survivor is that it’s important to play with people who think like you think, and I think that Cirie and I might think about Survivor in the same way because I learned a lot about Survivor from watching Cirie play.
Also on that list of people is Aubry. I really liked the symbiotic relationship she had with Cydney in Kaoh Rong, a season I watched, like, 10 days ago, by the way. And also on that list is J.T. Now, J.T. makes me a little nervous, because we all know the last time J.T. played Survivor, he had some not great run-ins with Russell Hantz. But I think if J.T. can get rid of that post-traumatic stress disorder and see me more as like his Stephen, more like his buddy from Tocantins, then J.T. and I could be a pretty dynamic duo.
What will people make of you when they meet you?
I think what they’re first going to see is I’m a pretty goofy guy with a pretty R-rated sense of humor, and hopefully everyone’s fine with that. Because not everyone always is. Look, I’m a friendly guy. I like to make lots of relationships, ‘cause I like options. And, you know what? If somebody wants to blindside somebody, I’m typically on board for that.
For more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.
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