May 19, 2011 11:00 AM by Ryan Haidet
Phillip Sheppard has certainly gone down as one of the goofiest contestants in Survivor history. Throughout his time on Survivor: Redemption Island, Phillip argued with his tribe about a variety of topics, walked around camp in saggy pink underwear, constantly claimed to be a former federal agent and found feathers that he felt carried special meanings. Do you think he’s crazy? Or was Phillip just using a strategy to make it all the way to the end of the game? Immediately after the live reunion show at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City, Phillip stopped by to chat with me on the red carpet about his experience on the show. Did he prove to me that he once worked as a special agent? Would he ever play the game again? Watch the video and read the full article to find out!
Ryan Haidet, RealityTVMagazine: Have you ever considered being an underwear model for Calvin Klein?
Phillip Sheppard: No, and would not.
Ryan Haidet: So the pink underwear, it seems like you caught a lot of flak for that. You finally burned those at camp. What was the reaction from everybody? Did we not see everything that people were talking about with you walking around in the pink underwear?
Phillip Sheppard: No one ever talked about it necessarily directly to me when we were there. But for me, I didn’t mind doing it because I knew that I would get a tremendous amount of television time. I mean, for the first three weeks, it seemed like it was all Phillip. Everywhere. I was on “Ellen DeGeneres.” “The Soup” every week had a lead-in with me. I made the bullseye for “Entertainment Weekly.” Uh, I don’t recall any of the other contestants being involved in that out of 18 other people. So for me it was a win-win. For Survivor, they had tremendous viewership. For me, I got tremendous exposure. …
I just signed an alliance agreement with the Diane Fossey Gorilla International Fund to help them raise millions of dollars to help preserve the 480 gorillas that are still left in the wild. To prevent poachers from going in and shooting them, and gathering up 800 traps a year that are set for the gorillas — the silverback gorillas, the mountain gorillas. So, obviously there was something there that I was doing that related to them and they wanted to form that relationship with me. Starting tomorrow morning, you’ll see on Diane Fossey’s site a way that people can go in and contribute under the Phillip Sheppard campaign. All I’m asking them to do is to follow me at my site called The Closers on Twitter. Then we’re gonna continue to build that so we can raise millions of dollars to help protect and preserve those gorillas in the wild as she started over 40 years ag0 with the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda.
Ryan Haidet: Is it frustrating to you that even though you had somewhere here at the finale to verify that you are a former federal agent and many people don’t buy it still?
Phillip Sheppard: I don’t know what people buy or don’t buy. All I can tell you is I served my country. And I’ll just show you briefly here (he reaches into his wallet and pulls out a card to prove his service to the United States).
Ryan Haidet: Are we the first to see this?
Phillip Sheppard: You will be the first to see it.
Ryan Haidet: We’ve got this on tape.
Phillip Sheppard: You will see that I am a retired United States Army soldier, and from that I was able to get my first position with the Defense Investigative Service, which has all been published on my website for years that I was a special agent. You had a special agent in the house (studio) tonight, so if people want to believe what they want to believe, then that’s their prerogative. I’m not gonna try to fight what I can’t control. But I can control how I respond to it and how I feel about it. I’m at peace with who I am and what I’ve achieved in my 53 years.
Ryan Haidet: Give us some insight into those meditations you were having on the show. Some people mocked them, but you took them very seriously with finding the feathers and that type of thing.
Phillip Sheppard: First of all, I’m very blessed to have had some exposure early on in my life to what we call the (???) school of Buddhist meditation and philosophy to how you can approach life by being one with life and living in the moment. You don’t look to the future. You don’t look to the past. You just be in the moment. You float with the moment. I was able to do that. So here I am out there without a cell phone, without a computer, without a laptop, basically isolated, ultrasized (I think you mean ostracized, Phillip) from my own tribe because they were too busy looking up to Boston Rob. So that gave me an opportunity to reflect on a lot of that, appreciate the nature. When I came across a feather, it reminded me of my great-great grandfather, Jessem Herring — a full-blooded Cherokee. I thought, why not? Why not?
Ryan Haidet: So is the Phillip Sheppard we saw on television the real deal?
Phillip Sheppard: In what respect?
Ryan Haidet: Is that really you?
Phillip Sheppard: The Phillip Sheppard you saw on television was a guy playing a game. That’s like asking me if the guy who threw the elbow in a basketball game, “Is that the real you?” Essentially at that moment in time, in that game, what you saw was a guy who said, “Go big or go home!” I went big and I’m number two to a guy who played four times. 117 days. For me to come in number two, I think there’s only been one other African American to go that far in the game — and he won. So I’m quite proud of the way I played the game.
Ryan Haidet: What has the reaction from fans been like? I know you addressed it in the live reunion show that they all love you.
Phillip Sheppard: Yes. Tremendous. I have numerous fans that connected with me on Facebook. I have people connect with me on Twitter. Anyone can go out to Twitter and click on “mentions” and you can go read for yourselves what people say about Phillip. “We love you Phillip. You’re a great player.” It’s like 98, “We love you” and 2 “We don’t like ya.” It’s so warm to get people out there who understand that I was in a very unique situation with a guy who was a pro. That’s like saying, “We’re going to take a professional basketball player and have him play with a junior college player.” That’s what Boston Rob is compared to everybody else out there, and I love the guy and his way of playing the game. I learned a great deal from him. Notwithstanding that, I was not gonna turn those people around, so I played the cards that I had. He said to me, “If you continue that up, I’ll take you to the end of the game.” I made it to the end of the game.
Ryan Haidet: Next season they are bringing two former contestants back to compete against a batch of new players. If CBS calls, would you play again?
Phillip Sheppard: It would really depend on a certain set of circumstances that are going on in my personal life. But I would definitely welcome the opportunity at some future date to play Survivor again.
Ryan Haidet: What are your final words to the fans?
Phillip Sheppard: I love you. Thank you so much for supporting Survivor. I hope that you will go out and register on the Diane Fossey site tomorrow and make a donation of whatever you can — $1, $2, $5, $25. It’s for a worthy campaign. I’m hoping they go do that. And I just want to say to my family, my eldest sister, my son who could not be here at all because he’s at school getting a 4.0 average right now, boarding school through this whole process, I love him. I love the fans, and I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to participate in this with CBS and Mark Burnett productions.
Ryan Haidet: Thank you for everything, Phillip. Very nice to meet you.
Phillip Sheppard: Thank you. Nice to meet you, too.
Check out my interview with “Boston Rob” Mariano — the winner of Survivor: Redemption Island:
Image courtesy of CBS.
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