I was recently invited to a phone interview with Rob Brothers, to discuss his experience on NBC’s The Island. Though my schedule would not let me participate, I’m very excited to share some of the highlights from the call with my readers.
Q- What was the first thing you ate once you got off the island?
BR- The first thing I ate when I got off the island was, it was like a fruit smoothie that they gave us. They were trying to prevent – I mean there could be serious problems with coming off the island after being deprived of food and water. So to prevent a syndrome called refeeding syndrome, they gave us small amounts of fruit, rice and chicken.
But honestly I and all my other cast mates basically, foolishly, did not follow that. And later that night we were – we went to a restaurant where I probably ordered everything on the menu.
Q- What was your thought process that helped you push through that mental block?
RB- That’s a great question. What was my thought process that helped me push? You know, it’s a weird thing, the mental game – that was everything. And water deprivation really hurts the mental game. And then we were dealing with food deprivation.
And for me the biggest thing was that mental game. I was going to dark places, negative places; of not wanting to be there; of not thinking I could handle it.
And the biggest turnaround, in fact it happened with Benji when I got the water vines, and also consulting with Benji, he really helped me, and that was that, you know, “I’m going to do this experience, I’m going to be open emotionally and honest. But I have the ability to choose how I react during this, you know, experience and I can choose to be positive or I can choose to be negative.”
And at that point in time, that was a huge turning moment I said, “That’s it, I’m done with these negative thoughts and I’m going to seek out experiences. I’m not going to complain, or at least I’m going to try to complain as little as possible, and really, you know really try to unearth some truths, you know, inside me.”
And that was the biggest thing. That turned me around and I saw things differently and I reacted to things differently. That was huge.
Q- As a stay-at-home-dad who is with his kids every day, how did you deal with the emotional stress of being separated from them for an entire month?
RB- Thanks for the question Elliott, that’s a great question. That – you just hit – you hit it. That was the hardest thing. That was the hardest thing for me to deal with; it was not the physical, it was literally before I left, I don’t think I’d been away from my family longer than six hours.
We really, we’re pretty committed parents, my wife and I, and we enjoy spending time with our kids. So that was the – I didn’t – I knew it was going to be hard, I just didn’t know how hard it was going to be. And I believe with deprivations of food and water, I started to get really raw, really raw and vulnerable emotionally. And I didn’t – I chose not to hide that. I was you know, expressing it all the time.
And I also, I remember one moment where I said, “A lot of the guys, you know, they weren’t really talking about who they missed because that made them upset.” I found that talking about my family, talking about missing my wife Julie, missing my kids, it really helped me. So I was sort of like working through that on the island. And that’s kind of how I dealt with it.
But that was the hardest thing to deal with.
Q- What life lessons do you feel you took away from this, for both yourself and your kids?
RB- Great question. You know I had a pretty profound experience on The Island. And I believe I did because I opened myself to it and I really committed to living this experience as truthful as possible. And you know, I found that – I found some deficiencies in myself. I found that I could be a better husband; that I thought I might be shortchanging my wife at home.
I felt that I could be a better father to my kids, a little more in the moment with my kids. The technology thing has a pretty hard hold on me, and you know kids are smart. My daughter will tell me, “Hey dad, you know, you’re on the phone.” And that’s a big guilt trip.
And I just – so I was starting to unearth these things and deal with them. And I’m thankful for that experience, because I’ve, you know I’ve come home, and its one thing to realize these things, it’s another thing to act on these and actually learn from those experiences. And I’ve – I’m – that’s what I’m trying to do, since I’ve been home.
And I guess that’s the answer to your question.
Q- Would you say that you’ve changed in a lot of ways?
RB- Yes, I have. I think I went in to this experience with a sort of paradigm of thinking that, while I’m a committed dad and I’m a committed husband, it wasn’t enough. I learned on the island that it wasn’t enough, that I had to go deeper; that I could be a better dad and I could be a better husband. And so that has changed me.
I don’t think I would have taken those actions had I not had that experience. So that was pretty deep.
Q- How did you prepare for your trip to The Island?
RB- Great question. So you know, I think it’s funny. In hindsight, I’ve had time to analyze, you know intellectualize about my experience. Because I truly was living the experience in an emotional way.
You know it’s funny, I got on the island and we had to do video diaries, one in the morning and one at night. And I think that I learned quickly that my – I didn’t like what I was doing with my video diaries. I was sort of reporting the facts like a reporter. And I kind of changed that a couple days in. I said you know, “This is not what I want to do. I sort of want to emotionally talk about what’s been going on.” Rather than saying, “Okay, you know, we foraged for this and we went to look for a water source here and we did that,” and I just, I felt that reporting the facts wasn’t interesting and I had more compelling reasons in me to just report emotional things.
And I found that once I started doing that, it was much better. And then – I’m sorry, what was – can you repeat that question again?
Q- How did you prepare for your trip to The Island?
Right. Okay yes, exactly. So this is so great, because I was really naïve. When I got – when it was confirmed that I was cast I had this sort of naïve sense that because I rode a bicycle outside that somehow qualified me to be on this island. And you know, I think the producers, when they interviewed me, I mean they were laughing.
And in hindsight, it’s like so true. I mean I sort of had, not an arrogance, but there was just a part of me saying, “This can’t – this won’t be that bad, you know, I can do this.” Even though I have no frame of reference, I had never been camping, I’d been kicked out of sleepover camp, you know, I’m just the farthest thing from that kind of experience.
And so when I got cast the only positive thing – preparation that I made was I was at the time a competitive cyclist. And I was at the time, trying to lose weight. And I said to my wife, I said, “Well you know, I think I need to gain weight.”
And so I started eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream every single night to try to rapidly put on as much body fat onto my frame as I could. And I think I was able to put on like 10 to 12 pounds. And in hindsight, that was the best preparation for this.
In terms of skills, no. I didn’t read any books because the reality is I didn’t have any skills and I didn’t think I would – I just didn’t believe in my ability to learn any skills either, through a book. And so that was my preparation; I put on 12 pounds.
Q- Would you do everything differently, anything differently, or would you do it all the same?
RB- I think I would do it all the same, but I think that I would push myself harder. You know I thought – I was playing it a bit conservative in the beginning because I was so conscientious about not wanting to get pulled off the island, not wanting to get hurt.
The one actually – to take you back, we learned a really important skill in the survival training and that was, “Before you do any action, think for about three seconds.” And this had to do a lot with the machetes that we had, even though the machetes were not – these were dull. These were not super sharp.
You could imagine, you know, if we cut ourselves it could be fatal because the medical team, who is stationed on another island, could only get to us in I believe 11 to 14 minutes. And you cut – you know, if you cut into a femoral artery, you know, you’re going to bleed out. I mean there’s seriously some dangers in that. So I found that if I would do it again, I think that I’m a pretty strong willed guy and I have this mental fortitude. And I would try to work harder. I would try to push myself past bigger limits and to see if I could even do a better job. That’s what I would do next time.
Q- Since your departure from the island, have you kept in touch with any of your costars, in person or through phone calls and social media?
RB- Absolutely, 100%. We all have a secret Facebook group and we’re constantly, you know, talking to each other through that.
I – you know, there’s 14 guys, right? And not everyone’s going to get along with everyone, although I believe that we had the utmost respect for everyone. But I believe that you’re going to have certain affinities towards others. And I did. Jud was one of them. We became pretty close. So yes, to answer the question, you know, there are guys that I talk to more often. But all of us actually are pretty engaged in talking to each other virtually on this Facebook group that we have. It’s really cool.
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED (TV-14) – Monday, June 22, 2015 at 10/9c
THE ISLAND GIVES AS MUCH AS IT TAKES – The men with families begin to rethink their decisions for leaving their loved ones behind. Meanwhile, some of the participants band together to try to find food before those contemplating leaving the Island throw in the towel. Bear Grylls (“Running Wild with Bear Grylls,” “Get Out Alive with Bear Grylls”) hosts.
Visit the official The Island website and social channels:
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