Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Brice Izyah wants the show to be a utopia instead of a microcosm
With Survivor filming for seasons 41 and 42 indefinitely postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, EW is reaching back into the reality show’s past. We sent a Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire to a batch of former players to fill out with their thoughts about their time on the show as well as updates on what they’ve been up to since. Each weekday, EW will post the answers from a different player.
Survivor has always billed itself as a microcosm of society. But Brice Johnston (who now goes by Brice Izyah) from Survivor: Cagayan thinks that may not be the right approach. “Survivor is often referred to as a microcosm of society,” says Brice, “and this is frequently utilized as justification for limited representation of minorities. Who says it needs to be a microcosm of society? Why can’t it be a utopia? I’d love to see seasons exploring how Survivor changes when you increase representation of BIPOC, members of the LGBTQ+ community, etc…. Survivor, like society, is often a numbers game. I’m very used to being 'outside of the numbers.' I would love to see more people of my demographic start the game off with a more level playing field, while also seeing the multiple facets of people like myself being properly portrayed on screen.”
These are the issues reality competition shows will have to deal with in the wake of increased recognition about the stacked deck that some competitors face due to a numbers game that inherently works against them. (It’s also one that Da’Vonne Rogers recently discussed with EW when it comes to Big Brother.) This is an issue dear to Brice’s heart, which is why he helped launch the Survivor Diversity Campaign and has been talking with CBS to install some changes moving forward.
But Brice can also look back, and we asked him to do just that as well in his Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire. The master of the purple pants shares some juicy intel about his all-too-brief time on the island, including things we didn’t see on TV. Read on for the full scoop!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you’ve been up to since appearing on Survivor.
BRICE IZYAH: Since Survivor, I’ve been busy as a quarantine bee and done my best to make strides in my career while staying connected with the Survivor community. Last year, I partnered with Rob Cesternino and the RHAP podcast network to start the Purple Pants Podcast and was recently lucky enough to celebrate its one-year anniversary. In conjunction with that, I’ve been producing my line of Survivor “Zaddy” calendars, and the 2021 calendar is available now!
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
My proudest moment from Survivor would probably be something that was never even shown. During the typhoon or whatever storm we endured, our shelter, much like the Brains tribe’s, was an absolute mess. It left us with a lot of questions regarding our shelter and survival, but I was able to lead the charge and help get a new shelter built. It made me feel like I was not only surviving, but also playing the game hard and having a great time. Coming in as the first openly gay black male, I was worried about those traits giving other players a different, potentially negative perception of me. In that moment, I didn’t feel like I was seen as the “gay player” or the “black player,” I simply felt like a “Survivor player.”
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
Not voting for Morgan in the round I went home. Jefra told me prior to tribal that Alexis was voting for me and that the votes would be split on Morgan and me, but I let my emotions and trust with Jeremiah get the better of me when I could’ve thrown a vote on Morgan and sent her home 3-2-1.
What’s something that will blow fans’ minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?
People, including my own tribe, couldn’t believe that I saw LJ finding the idol in the water on our original tribe! During the typhoon, many of us sought shelter at the well for much of the day. Out of boredom, I went to the water and saw him as he found the idol. I told my tribe, but nobody believed me.
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
I’m pretty indifferent about it. A lot of what was shown of me was my snarky side, which was absolutely present, but I was also working hard consistently around camp and felt like that was overlooked. While I wish more of that was shown, I understand I was only there for three rounds of play and that there were other players that were far more critical to the outcome of the season and a lot of stories to show.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
Seeing as I wasn’t in the game for very long and enjoyed a nice pre-merge trip to Thailand, there wasn’t a whole lot of culture shock coming back to the U.S. However, certain things, such as being nice and warm inside on a cold, rainy day instead of soaking wet outside in my purple pants, were no longer taken for granted.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
No, I never regretted going on the show. I always felt super blessed to be provided with such an epic experience, despite it not fulfilling the dream of winning. To this day, sometimes I still can’t believe I was a part of the greatest show on television.
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?
I speak with J’Tia the most as we’re not only great friends, but also recently partnered up to launch the Survivor Diversity Campaign where we created a petition that aims to increase BIPOC representation both on screen and behind the cameras. We were recently fortunate to work with CBS to help create some changes that will be implemented in upcoming seasons, hopefully bringing the show we absolutely love to new heights!
Do you still watch Survivor, and if so, what’s your favorite season you were not on and why?
Yes! I haven’t missed a season since I was on the show. One of my all-time favorites was Gabon. I thought it was hilarious and would have loved to play with the dynamic trio of Kenny, Crystal, and GC. In addition, I also love Ghost Island, because it brought me and my best friend Wendell together, and it was amazing watching him snatch the winner’s crown!
Who’s one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
I really would’ve loved to play with John Carroll. Ever since I played, he’s been a huge mentor and supporter for me. Simultaneously, whenever we play games together (like Sequester) we get super competitive and I would love to beat the pants off of him in Survivor to prove once and for all I am the better competitor! Also, Cirie has always had such a special place in my heart, although she would probably absolutely destroy me in Survivor. She’d tell me to jump off a bridge and I’d ask “How high?”
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
Survivor is often referred to as a microcosm of society, and this is frequently utilized as justification for limited representation of minorities. Who says it needs to be a microcosm of society? Why can’t it be a utopia? I’d love to see seasons exploring how Survivor changes when you increase representation of BIPOC, members of the LGBTQ+ community, etc. Survivor, like society, is often a numbers game. I’m very used to being “outside of the numbers.” I would love to see more people of my demographic start the game off with a more level playing field, while also seeing the multiple facets of people like myself being properly portrayed on screen.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
Does a spider weave webs? Bish, hell yes I would love to play again! I’m ready for Survivor: Unfinished Business.
Strangers starve themselves on an island for our amusement in the hopes of winning a million dollars, as host Jeff Probst implores them to "DIG DEEP!"