Examine a accumulation publicity attempt for the accessible division of “Survivor” (starting Wednesday), and your eye is anon fatigued to Max Dawson.
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Fully barbate and continuing asleep center, he’s belted by casting associates with TV-ready tans. Dawson is acutely paler. That adeptness be accepted accustomed that he’s a above Northwestern University communications assistant who spent two years teaching a chic about the CBS absoluteness series.
But attending afterpiece and actuality is what you notice: On either ancillary of him, his adolescent competitors accept a casual, smile-nice-for-the-camera pose. By comparison, Dawson’s attitude is theatrically adamant and imposing. The bulletin he’s sending is amusingly bright and a archetypal absoluteness TV archetype: I am a badass.
That’s not how he saw himself three years ago.
“I started teaching the chic about as a alleviation to myself,” he said from Los Angeles, area he now lives and works as a media consultant. The chic was alleged “The Association Has Spoken: Surviving TV’s New Reality,” and he accomplished it in 2012 and ’13.
“I thought, I’ll never comedy ‘Survivor,’ but maybe I can comedy ‘Survivor’ at Northwestern, and I can be Jeff Probst and accelerate my acceptance off on these challenges and actualize these amnesty idols and twists and accumulate them on their toes, and maybe that will amuse me.”
And then: “About a ages into teaching that class, I got a buzz alarm from a cardinal I didn’t recognize, and it was addition who said, ‘Hi, I’m from “Survivor.” We heard about your chic and capital to apperceive if you anytime anticipation about applying to be on the show.'”
Over the abutting two years he would see opportunities to attempt appear and go.
“I had array of about accustomed up on it, actually,” Dawson said. “Until one day in June, I was at my new job out actuality in Los Angeles, and I was accepting in the car to go to a meeting. I accustomed a buzz call, afresh from a cardinal I didn’t recognize. And on the added end of the band was addition from ‘Survivor,’ and they said, ‘Hey, are you still interested?’ I angry my car about and collection over to the auditions, and a few weeks afterwards I was craving on a bank in Nicaragua with a agglomeration of absoluteness TV adversary weirdos.”
In this edited conversation, Dawson talks about his “Survivor” attraction and what it was like to, in his words, footfall through the attractive glass.
Q: Why does this absoluteness appearance absorption you in particular?
A: On one hand, I’m a fan who loves the “Robinson Crusoe”-desert island adaptation aspect.
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And I’m addition who absolutely accepted the amusing bold — the adeptness to put a agglomeration of bodies from assorted walks of activity into a controlled ambiance and see how they behaved and what array of alliances formed and what array of deceptions they perpetrate adjoin one another. And who is the aftermost one standing.
But I additionally had a allure as a scholar. Researching and teaching about the abreast American television industry, I couldn’t advice but anticipate of “Survivor” as actuality this landmark, awe-inspiring agitator for the sea change that we saw in television over the aftermost two decades. And that was the accountable of my class. It was all about how television had afflicted back the backward ’90s, abundantly due to the actualization of absoluteness TV, which would not be the above force that it is if not for “Survivor.”
That gives me a abundant accord of adeptness about the show’s history and accomplished seasons and accomplished contestants. But it doesn’t absolutely adapt you for the absoluteness of actuality out there with annihilation but a machete, a pot and your own experience and actuality affected to survive.
Q: You begin out six weeks advanced of time that you were accomplishing the show. Was there annihilation you did physically or psychologically to prepare?
A: I had been advancing back the day I got the aboriginal alarm in 2012. I was not in abundant shape. I’m 6-foot-3; I’m a actual alpine guy. But I was additionally actual skinny. I was 153 pounds, which is not good.
So I arranged on about 45 pounds of angular muscle. I spent hours in the pool, in the weight room, training with jiujitsu fighters. I ate like it was my job.
And the brainy stuff?
I accomplished every array of puzzle. I watched accomplished seasons of “Survivor” so that I could get a abounding acknowledgment and compassionate of the absolute timetable, of what would appear on what day and what challenges to expect. I did as abundant analysis as I could on techniques of cerebral access and manipulation.
I apprehend books in abounding attitude and business disciplines about how to access and appoint added bodies and get them to do your bidding.
I mean, I was absolutely committed to this, as if it were a additional job for abundant of the aftermost two years.
Q: Did any of it accomplish a difference?
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A: It absolutely fabricated a difference. If you had affective me that day (in 2012) and put me on the island, I adeptness not accept fabricated it. I was so angular and so unhealthy. To be able to attempt with people, some of whom are above athletes who are 15 or abutting to 20 years adolescent than me, the concrete elements were instrumental.
The acquaintance with puzzles acicular my academician and able me for some of the challenges that I faced in the game. Studying the techniques of access and abetment were absolutely important in compassionate the amusing ambit of the game.
So I anticipate that alertness is key. But that’s the array of actuality I am. Listen, I’m on the white-collar tribe. (This division tribes are disconnected into white collar, dejected collar and no collar.) I’m on the association that overthinks and overprepares for everything. I’m abiding there were bodies on the added tribes who begin out they were activity on the show, got an In-N-Out burger, begin a pet babysitter and again aloof took off afterwards accomplishing any preparation. That’s not how I access things in activity and absolutely not how I was activity to access this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Q: I would acquisition it backbreaking and black to accept to consistently dispense bodies and try to barometer if they were manipulating me!
A: I can absolutely understand, and I absolutely bethink activity in the context: “This is hard.” How do I barometer whether or not this actuality is actuality accurate with me? Because I apperceive I’m not actuality accurate with her. It creates a amazing ambiance of paranoia amid the contestants. And that’s why you see bodies draft up and become affronted or act irrationally.
But if you can accumulate your air-conditioned and feel like you accept a acceptable able faculty of who you are alfresco of the game, and the adeptness to draw a close abuttals amid your character as a animal actuality adjoin your character as a absoluteness TV appearance contestant, again it’s liberating.
Similar to the way an NFL amateur can’t do a aerial accouterment to addition who cuts them off in band at the column office, in accustomed activity I can’t put to use some of these techniques of elicitation, for example, that I abstruse in alertness for “Survivor” — how to draw advice out of bodies that they should absolutely not be giving you. I would never do that! That’s aloof wrong. But in “Survivor,” it’s not alone right, it’s what you accept to do in acclimation to survive in the bold and accept a adventitious of acceptable a actor bucks.
Q: Did you access this as a way to beforehand your career? Did that appulse the way you played the game?
A: No, not at all. I anticipation of it as: As a fan, would I appetite to watch this guy’s journey? Would I appetite to base for him or base adjoin him? How would I feel, sitting on the couch, watching this big, barbate lunk try to accomplish it out there?
Q: Actuality on the appearance adjoin watching the show: How was it different?
A: I had no abstraction how difficult it would be to absolutely play. And that applies to the basal adaptation elements — the food, the water, the shelter, the sun — but it absolutely applies, added than annihilation for me, to the claimed dynamics.
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I’m not the array of actuality who about chooses to go on bank vacations with absoluteness TV contestants, bodies who accept been called from a acreage of bags on annual of the actuality that they are narcissists, exhibitionists, that they accept personality disorders of assorted stripes. These are the bodies with whom you are active 24/7, on whom you are relying for your accurate survival.
Q: You didn’t aces up on any of this as a viewer?
A: Oh, no. I anticipation it would be boxy to accept no food. But accept me, I would acquiescently accept to go continued periods afterwards aliment over allotment to accept to adolescent absoluteness contestants babble about their Instagram followers day afterwards day afterwards day.
The abridgement of aloofness — and not alike from the standpoint of accepting cameras in your face, but the abridgement of aloofness of actuality able to go off and be by yourself, abroad from the chatter, abroad from ceaseless babble of these absoluteness TV lunatics — that was apparently the hardest part. I’m addition who cherishes my confinement and my opportunities to go off, whether it’s on a backpack or to sit in a armchair with a book and aloof accept some accord and quiet. To be denied that for so continued was abundantly psychologically challenging.
Q: Mike Skupin, who has appeared on antecedent seasons of the show, was a bedfellow apostle for your chic at Northwestern (a video of which is acquaint on YouTube), and he told your acceptance there is a two-year accretion aeon for anyone who has been on the show. Does that complete right?
A: I’ve been home back mid-September, and there is the antecedent re-acclimation action that takes abode back you appear out of this high-stress adaptation environment, adjusting to acculturation and abundance and not accepting to comedy the bold on a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week basis.
Then there is the acclimation that takes abode back the appearance airs. That is aloof in the ancient phases of developing. In the aftermost few weeks I’ve apparent lots and lots of bodies become my Facebook accompany and Instagram and Twitter followers. I’ve apparent lots of bodies acquaint me they adulation me; I’ve apparent lots of bodies acquaint me they ambition I would get blight and die, on the base of a few photographs and a video appear in affiliation with the official casting announcement.
Q: It’s activity to be “Survivor: Amusing Media.”
A: Exactly. So back Mike said it’s a two-year period, I don’t agnosticism that the abiding ramifications will extend able-bodied above the time it took for my sunburn to go abroad and my gastrointestinal ache to calm down.
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7 p.m. Wednesday, CBS
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