May 23, 2010 10:09 AM by Ryan Haidet
Ah, Russell Hantz. The 37-year-old self-made millionaire from Dayton, Texas. He may be small in stature, but when it comes to playing Survivor, Russell packs a powerful punch. His strategy may be aggressive and brutal at times, but America has fallen in love with the guy Jeff Probst says looks like a gnome. After finishing second place on Survivor: Samoa, Russell was still able to make it to the final three on this season — Survivor: Heroes Vs. Villains. Immediately following the live reunion show on the red carpet at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City, I talked with Russell about his disappointing loss — and boy was he riled up! He called Sandra a “terrible” player, said Rupert is still a dumb ass and constantly explained why he’s the best contestant of all time.
Read on to see an exclusive video from the red carpet with Russell.
Check out Ryan Haidet’s interview with Russell:
Ryan Haidet — RealityTVMagazine: First of all, congratulations on winning the fan favorite. You didn’t get a single jury vote, but you won America over.
Russell Hantz: How does that happen? How does that happen?
RTVMag: That’s what I was going to ask you.
Russell: It’s confusing to me! That should not happen. That’s the whole problem. I told Jeff (Probst) what the problem was. The thing is, everybody’s like I didn’t have a social game. Really? Why did I look like John Gotti when I looked at Jerri and said, “Danielle,” and she voted how I told her to vote. Because my social game was that good. But, I’m so good at the game, at the end of the day they’re not gonna vote for me. America sees it. Everybody sees it. I’ll never, I’ll never change the way I play that game. Never. I can’t.
RTVMag: So when you said at the final Tribal Council that you don’t regret anything, you meant it?
Russell: Right. If I do change the way I play, then it’s disappointing for me and America. ‘Cause they don’t want me to change — they just gave me two fan-favorites in a row. The Villian. The aggressive player. The backstabber. They give me the vote at the end of the day because they see me play the game. So no. No way. I’ll never change.
RTVMag: One thing I’ve heard consistently on the red carpet is several people saying you should have learned your lesson after losing the first time you played so aggressively.
Russell: Really? Who told you that? ‘Cause you know what? I didn’t play two times. I played one time. What lesson did I learn?!?! I never left the island. You know what, if I play again, if Michael Jordan plays again in the Survivor world, which I don’t know if I can because why should I? I’m the best. The people tell me I’m the best so maybe I should step down and retire. I’m strong enough to do that.
RTVMag: I totally agree. You were — by far — the best player out there. You were just competing against people you were able to outsmart. Kind of explain to people who may not realize, exactly the timeline you were dealing with. You never went home from Samoa?
Russell: I never went home. I was in a hotel throwing up. I lost 50 pounds. 10 days later, I’m on the island again in the exact same place. It was the hardest thing. Me saying that it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I almost lost my mind from day 1, but guess what, I was strong enough to get back in control and do what I had to do. And still made it to the end. If you can’t see that — that’s amazing. It gives me chills that I was able to do that. OK, they didn’t vote for me — so what? I did what I set out to do. And then it’s up to you then. But at the end of the day I’ll be here because I will play the game to get to the end. I am like freakin’ a pit bull comin’ at you.
RTVMag: You said Rupert was a dumb ass, you told him that straight to his face. Do you still feel that way to this day?
Russell: Yes I do.
Russell: Because I know him (laughs). We went to the People’s Choice Awards and Rupert tells me, he says, (Russell changes his voice to impersonate Rupert) “Hey man, you did good, but you’ll never beat me.” I looked at him and I said, “Guess what, I’m gonna give you a run for your money this time. I might not beat you, but let’s see what the people think.” He said, “No way! No, not me! I’m Rupert.” Hey, really?
RTVMag: What advice would you give to the new contestants about to set foot in Nicaragua for the next edition of Survivor?
Russell: Don’t change the way you believe it has to be played. Don’t get somebody else’s opinion on the matter. If you think that’s the way, don’t waiver from it. That’s what I do. I never — and I will never — change the way I play the game. Never. If I play again one day, if I decide to give CBS my graces, which I probably won’t, if I decide then they’re gonna have to frickin’ take me to a lot of dinners.
RTVMag: One more thing, do you still think you’re better than Sandra?
Russell: Oh my God, really? Really?!?! C’mon. Sandra is terrible. Just because CBS pimped her out, don’t believe what you see, my friend. Parvati – she was a good player. Boston Rob — an even better player. Amanda, Cirie, they’re great players. Sandra, I give credit where credit is due, Sandra was not a good player.
Red carpet images by Leah Machek and Ryan Haidet. All other images courtesy of CBS.
Stay tuned for other exclusive interviews from the Survivor: Heroes Vs. Villains red carpet with Jerri Manthey and Colby Donaldson.
Previous Finale Coverage
Interview with winner Sandra Diaz-Twine:
Interview with second-place finisher Parvati Shallow: