Continuing last season’s tradition that saw theTVaddict.com lucky enough to be given the opportunity to interview SURVIVOR cast-aways after they’ve been booted off the island comes our first interview of the new season from SURVIVOR: SOUTH PACIFIC, Mark ‘Call me Papa Bear’ Caruso.
We first have to start by asking a question we’re fairly confident you’ve gotten a lot since last Thursday, what’s the deal with ‘Papa Bear’?
Mark Caruso: It’s really funny. My real name is Mark Anthony Michael Caruso and what happened was when I was on the boat [at the start of the show] I saw the people on my tribe and I saw the people on the other tribe and I was like “Oh my God, I’m on a boat filled with Kens, Barbies and a nerd.” I knew I had to think of something fast to maintain myself in the Tribe so obviously I thought who was going to vote off their father or mother, so that’s where the “Papa” part came in. Then the bear comes from the gay community, beard, moustache, big husky guy, put it together and that’s how I got it. Everybody loved Papa Bear so the name stuck.
How conscious were you of the fact that SURVIVOR hasn’t historically been kind to the “older” contestants?
You know what, I work out, I run 2 miles a day, I weight lift like a maniac. I don’t think of myself as an older man, other people maybe in my tribe may have felt that because they were in their 20s but I don’t consider myself old. Age is a state of mind, I’m a dreamer and people who have dreams can do anything they want in life. Let me tell you I was a New York City Police Detective for 20 years and I went back to study Nursing just to have something in the background. I graduated when is was 38-39 with a Bsn in Nursing. Who does this stuff? When you dream something I say DO IT. Don’t stop at anything. You’re living this life, follow your dreams, follow your heart. The worst thing to do is sit on a couch and dream. I get up and do it.
For someone who just lost out on a shot at one million dollars, you seem ridiculously upbeat. Was it easy getting over how things ended for you on the show?
Yes and I’ll tell you why, I’m psychologically strong. New York people we’re strong people. Not everything goes our way, but the ideas is that once you get knocked down you get back up and that’s how I am as a person. I respect a loss, but I don’t let a loss disrespect me. I get back up, I try again, or I try something else. I think older people have more experience winning and losing that they can move forward. It’s harder for younger people or younger contestants because they’re more psychologically affected (“Why did they get rid of me?”). I think my age helped me move forward faster.
Looking back at your time on the show, what would you say you’re most proud of?
That me, Marc Anthony Papa Bear was able to step on that beach and represent myself as a warrior and to leave as a gentleman.
In hindsight is there anything you would have done differently?
I think what I would have done is study a little bit more on the youthful culture. Maybe I wasn’t so prepared on the music or television shows compared to what I could have been. Maybe with some more research I would have been able to talk to them a little bit more on their level. But other than that I don’t regret anything. I’m totally blessed to be chosen by Mark Burnett and Jeff Probst to be part of it, I really was blessed.
As someone who is a fan of the show, what surprised you most as a contestant?
How real it really is. How real you really start to get hungry, you really start to get hot and cold and just the reality of the game.
Do you have a favorite looking forward?
I like Keith a lot, I like Dawn a lot, I like Mikayla a lot, they’re all good competitors. I want you to know that. Everybody on the show are good people, there’s no “evil” person.
If some network executive came to you tomorrow and offered you a second chance at any reality show on television, what would you choose?
SURVIVOR! [Laughs] I would come back as a returning contestant because you know what I love the game, it’s in my heart and maybe I would have done a little bit better. but until that happens, or if that ever happens, I’m going to live my life like I did with a good heart and just enjoy what I have in life.
SURVIVOR airs Wednesday at 8PM on CBS (Global TV in Canada)