Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Julia Carter on why diversity in casting matters
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.
I met Julia Carter a few days before filming on Survivor: Edge of Extinction. Her huge personality was matched only by her huge smile. The stupid little iPhone camera I use to record my pregame interviews loved her, so I could only imagine what would happen when real cameras manned by professional operators got a hold of the medical student. Only, apparently, they didn't.
Like all too many unfortunate contestants before her, Julia was practically invisible during her time on the island — a crushing blow for a big fan who never got to see her story played out on screen. "I have been outspoken about the fact that I think the editing on season 38, Edge of Extinction, was atrocious," says Carter. "It was disappointing, especially being that my season was also lacking in diversity as I was one of two Black castaways. So to be underrepresented AND under-edited was a blow. I wanted to be a role model and fight the stereotypes that many Black castaways have been boxed into… so to not have the opportunity because I just wasn't edited in defeated a lot of my goals for doing the show in the first place."
While viewers may not have gotten to know enough about Julia while watching season 38, they can start to fill in the blanks thanks to today's Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you've been up to since appearing on Survivor.
JULIA CARTER: Since appearing on Survivor, I started medical school and am currently in my third year. I'm interested in cardiology and becoming a heart doctor that works with underserved populations. Additionally, I started a nonprofit, the Carter Family Foundation, with my sister in honor of our late father. Our mission is to positively impact the lives of individuals and contribute to the betterment of communities through education, service, and outreach. We awarded the first scholarship of our scholarship program this year!
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
It is a compilation of a few moments, but the CHALLENGES. You guys… don't get me wrong, I'm active and physically strong, but I didn't go out there banking on my athletic capabilities. So to see how I performed in the challenges and how I was always pulling through for my tribe to secure rewards and immunity was a series of proud moments for me. I totally underestimated myself, and it 100 percent gave me a boost of self-confidence in my abilities. It also proved to me that there is no one archetype that can be successful in Survivor. We all have something valuable to contribute.
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
No regrets. But something I definitely wish I did differently was to not jump the gun on making a big move. I underestimated the consequences of doing so and the fact that when dealing with people and their emotions, damage control isn't always successful. So I should have let them game unfold a bit more before taking a shot. I struck too soon and got the blowback.
What's something that will blow fans' minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?
So there were a few incidents at Kama beach in which racial slurs were used and quoted from movies and television shows. Eventually, this sparked a tribe discussion about race, systemic racism, microaggressions, and unconscious bias. We all engaged in this much-needed conversation, and it was amazing because we dialogued respectfully, challenged one another, and attempted to come to a place of understanding because we all come from different backgrounds.
The entire event never made the air, nor did any hint of it, which was to be expected. My season happened before the current movement and before it was normalized to air the not-so-good parts of reality TV that inevitably happen when you put 18 strangers on an island with different beliefs and upbringings. Fortunately, TV is changing, and a lot of things are boiling to the surface and making the air that never would have in the past. When handled well, this is a great way to educate and show viewers why diversity matters.
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
Yikes. Well, if there actually was an edit, I'd have more to say. So yeah, I have been outspoken about the fact that I think the editing on season 38, Edge of Extinction, was atrocious. Between the Edge and there being four returnees, there was a lot to squeeze in, and I think character development was severely lacking across the board. My edit just took the largest hit as I was nearly nonexistent. It was disappointing, especially being that my season was also lacking in diversity as I was one of two Black castaways. So to be underrepresented AND under-edited was a blow. I wanted to be a role model and fight the stereotypes that many Black castaways have been boxed into… so to not have the opportunity because I just wasn't edited in defeated a lot of my goals for doing the show in the first place.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
It actually was a smooth transition for me coming home from the island. I had heard horror stories of parasites and nightmares and PTSD, so I didn't know what to expect, but it went surprisingly well! The only thing that took me a while to adjust to was using silverware again. I kept eating everything with my hands, and the five-second rule? Gone. After eating anything and everything off of the Fijian ground, dropping something on the floor didn't stop me. So that took a few months, but no worries… I'm civilized again.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
Regret is a strong word, and I try to live a life with less regrets and more lessons. So, no. I never regretted going on the show. There are definitely ups and downs that come with stepping into the realm of reality television and opening yourself up to the scrutiny and unwarranted hate that comes with it. You have to have tough skin and know how to tune out the haters. Reality TV is not real life. Remember who you are, and stay grounded.
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?
Reem Daly. Queen Reem. She is the most genuine and authentic person I've ever met. Who I met on the Edge of Extinction is who I get every day. No sugarcoating or beating around the bush with Reem, and I love her for that. She's a great human being, dude.
Do you still watch Survivor, and if so, what's your favorite season you were not on and why?
Of course I still watch Survivor. True fans can't stay away. Actually, I wish I could have been on season 39, Island of the Idols, the season right after mine. I feel like with the twists and diverse cast, it would have been a great season for me to do well physically and strategically.
Who's one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
Let me play with Cirie Fields! I just know we would hit it off, protect each other, and then dominate. Plus, I think she'd be such a positive spirit and bring good vibes to a stressful situation so I'd love to chat it up on the beach, win some challenges, vote some people out, and all that good stuff. She's one of my Survivor idols and one of the people who inspired me to want to play. So Cirie is top of the list, for sure.
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
Only one aspect? Then I have to go with diversity in casting. This is near and dear to me, and I'm very passionate about it because many people do not realize the impacts that it has on the game. When you truly diversify the cast (and I don't mean just a sprinkle of each race in every season), you even the playing field and allow every castaway a real opportunity to connect with more individuals, find allies, and win the game. Seasons like Cook Islands and Fiji, in which there was racially equal casting, should be the norm, not the exceptions.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
Who wouldn't? It's Survivor.