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Having grown up and worked most of my life in Los Angeles, it is not uncommon to meet actors, recording artists, and other celebrities. Pleasantries are exchanged and people go on with their daily lives.
I've talked to my own neighbors for years, maybe knowing their first name, maybe not.
Not long ago I was watching the commercial for an upcoming season of "Survivor Samoa." One of the contestants looked like a neighbor I had spoken to by the pool. The next time I saw him, I was hesitant to ask that dreadfully embarrassing question of, "Did anyone ever tell you you look like... ?"
Well I did... and he does... because he is. Erik Cardona was back from filming "Survivor Samoa" and waiting, like the rest of us, for the season to begin airing on television.
Up until then, I had only know him at the tanned, toned, shirtless guy, listening to his iPod, coming back from an afternoon jog. He had always been a soft spoken, articulate, charming guy that hangs out by the pool.
It had been a couple of weeks since he had been back from Samoa and wasn't allowed to talk about his experiences until after the episodes had aired.
I contacted him about giving me an interview and he was happy to do it.
We met by the pool. He walked up, took off his messenger bag, kicked off his flip flops and sat down on the lounge chair next me.
Allison: "Erik, what was your real motivation for auditioning for 'Survivor'?"
He laughs and feels at a loss for words.
Erik: "To be a barometer of, or a measuring stick of my manhood, as silly as it sounds. I wanted to see if I could do it. I wanted to know if I had it in me."
Allison: "How does the game of 'Survivor' actually begin?"
Erik: "We had to do some preproduction sound bites for the TV promos." He laughs," They pulled a fast one on us. They told us to dress up, kinda nice, like we were going on a date because they were going to take our pictures. Then, they drove us to a remote part of the island, told us to get in a canoe and don't talk. [Jeff] Probst was waiting on the other side."
Allison: "Is that when you realized the game had begun?"
Erik: "Yes, as I paddled and saw Probst, I kept thinking,'Please don't let this boat tip over.' I was a little pissed because I was in 'date shoes' not jungle attire."
Allison: "What, did you feel, were some of the biggest challenges during the game?"
Erik: "The biggest challenge of the game was keeping my head straight. You're not sleeping, you're hungry, you're paranoid, everyone's paranoid, everyone's lying...None of those are conducive to poise and mental clarity. They are conducive to chaos."
Allison: "What did you enjoy most about trying to, 'Outwit, outlast, outplay' the other contestants?"
Erik: "It's hard, it's miserable, being on your toes mentally and physically, it's exhausting. When you get past that, then you can say it's a cool challenge personally, cool adventure, beautiful process."
Allison: "What do you mean?"
Erik: "How mind and body are broken down and stripped, but at the same time, you get a lot of time to evaluate life. But before that, they're in the back seat and misery is riding shotgun."
Allison: "What surprised you most once you were at home watching 'Survivor Samoa' on television?"
Erik: "How telling my face was. I thought I was so sly, had such a poker face, but my eyes said so much, they were so telling."
Allison: "What surprised you about other players?"
Erik: "How much I appreciate the person they are now, after being so irritating. I got a more accurate opinion."
Allison: "Can you give me an example?"
Erik: "Out there, you see only one thing. I thought multiple people were insane. I felt upset with casting for putting us together. Then I thought, 'What does that say about me?' Then, I realized I misunderstood them."
Allison: "Out of all the 'Survivor' players, who did you most enjoy watching and why?"
Without a moment's hesitation, "Andrew Savage, Season 7, Rupert's first show. He competed with class and respect for the game. He ended up 'martyr-esque' but he took it like a man. He's as legit a player as ever played the game."
Allison: "In researching for this interview, I found a lot of comments. Some people loved you and I was surprised at some other comments. Do you have any final thoughts you want people to know about the real Erik?"
Erik: "There was a ranking poll, like or not like. When I was voted out, I was voted number one. I appreciated that people, whether they liked me or didn't, respected how I played the game."
Allison: "Now what have you been doing since you returned from 'Survivor Samoa'?"
Erik: "I have been working as a writer/film maker for Carson Brothers Productions. I am driven by my firsthand story of being on 'Survivor' to pay it forward and share and let other people be a part of other cool stories."