For the first time in 39 seasons, a Canadian-born contestant is competing on the long-running reality show Survivor. Tom Laidlaw, a former NHL defenceman, isn’t exactly a wallflower, either.
The 61-year-old, who hails from Brampton, Ont., is now all about fitness, and claims in his Survivor profile that he will do “whatever it takes” to win the $1 million prize and title of sole survivor. In the first episode of the season, which aired last week, Laidlaw came across as a sturdy, trustworthy competitor, and barring some sort of bad move, he looks to be in it for the long haul.
Global News spoke with Laidlaw over the phone about his time on Survivor, what sorts of things we can expect from this season and who to watch. But don’t worry, no spoilers.
Global News: Congrats on being the first Canadian to grace Survivor!
Tom Laidlaw: Thank you! I’m originally from Brampton, up near Highway 10. I’ve always been a big Survivor fan, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve done all of this motivational speaking, I do a podcast, I have a book coming out — my company is called True Grit Life — and we’re all about challenging yourself. My big thing when I’m talking to people is: Don’t limit yourself.
When I played the game, I really wanted to play as a player. I didn’t want to say, “That’s pretty good for an old man.” That was really important to me.
Are you honoured to be the first Canuck?
You know, when I was out there I really didn’t think about it all that much. I wanted to conduct myself the right way, so win or lose, people would say that he did Canada proud. When I think of hockey, which is a huge part of Canadian culture, you’re taught respect of other players, coaches, referees, but you play hard and you do what you have to do to win.
Do you think there’s any element of your Canadianness that helped you in your gameplay?
To me, and I don’t want to disrespect the United States in any way… my Canadian upbringing was really about that respect for other people. You have your goals and dreams, and you have to cherish that, and go after that, but it’s also important to recognize that other people have goals and dreams as well.
It’s so important when you’re building an alliance. If you look like you’re only out for yourself, it’s hard to build that alliance.
Did your True Grit Life mantra/motto help you get on the show in the first place?
Oh, I think it definitely made me stand out. I stressed that this is the way I live my life: I wake up at 3:30 every morning, I make my bed perfectly, I go for a march at 4… and I say “march” because you make the most out of each stride.
I understand you and (host) Jeff Probst got along very well.
He’s fantastic, a great guy. We did a Facetime call before I went out to LA. It was just like two guys joking around, he was fun. He and I were like two buddies, I told hockey stories, like how I lost my teeth. During the game, he’s very professional; this is his game, he’s done it for 20 years and he takes pride in the way the game is portrayed. When the cameras are off, he’s just a normal guy.
What did you think about the “Island of the Idols” element of this season?
It’s different. The thing with Survivor now is… including me and all the other players, is we’ve seen all of the episodes. You know all the things that’ve happened in the past. This was a nice new twist we didn’t anticipate. It definitely made it less easy to play the game. Just when you think you’ve seen it all…
How was the drama this season?
There was strategy and gameplay right away, as soon as we got on the island. It was people ready to go. There wasn’t a lot of time to get to know people.
Is there anyone that viewers should be watching for? Obviously no spoilers, but are there any standouts?
I think people will be drawn to a young woman named Elaine. She has a fantastic personality, and I think people are going to root for her.
Is there any element of your gameplay you would’ve changed?
I thought about that a lot when the game was over, and I don’t. I really prepared myself to go out there. I played the game I wanted to play, and I was really happy at the end of it.
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