Billy Garcia from Survivor: Cook Islands

This is the first in a series of interviews with former reality show contestants, an idea inspired by my new reality show-themed mystery novel Sink or Swim, Where Reality TV Turns to Murder. For more information on Sink or Swim, and the interview schedule which features contestants from Survivor, Top Chef, Beauty and the Geek, Shark Tank, Bachelor Pad, Big Brother and I Love New York, please visit this link.

Today, I’ve had a lot of fun learning more about Billy Garcia from Survivor: Cook Islands. Virgilio “Billy” Garcia was born in New York and moved to Miami when he was seven years old. He began studying karate, judo and wrestling at age 12. While lying sick in bed when he was 15, he heard the song “Juke Box Hero” on the radio and began to entertain the idea of becoming a rock and roll musician. He saved his lunch money and eventually bought his first electric guitar. When he was 22 years old, Billy sold most of his belongings and returned to New York to pursue a career in music. While playing in several local bands, he was also pursuing a career in wrestling and, in 1997, won a silver medal at the Amateur Athletic Union Wrestling National Championships.

Billy is currently a heavy metal guitarist and songwriter with the band Forsakken and is finishing up his first full length feature film as a filmmaker. He is also trained in the martial arts and does Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

1. Billy, if you could boil down your experience on Survivor to one paragraph, what was your overall feeling about being on this show?
To borrow a line from a very famous book, It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Survivor isn’t a game you just play. It’s a game you live all day, every day for 39 straight days if you’re lucky. It’s the Hell in Paradise and the million dollar Battle Royal. It’s a scar I wear like a badge of honor. I was lucky enough to get on and be part of the most controversial season of the greatest reality competition show in television history. So I’m not surprised that my loss on Survivor equals more than a victory on another show for others.

2. What was it like to have cameras rolling all the time? How hard was it to get used to being in the public eye?
The cameras never disappeared unless I was peeing, then they hid in the trees. Ha ha ha. The fans were cruel when my season was airing but now things are different. When it was my season that was airing, then to them I was the worst player ever, but now, I’m one of the best ever and should be brought back. Funny how that works. I appreciate how passionate Survivor fans are. I underestimated that back then.

3. What was the best part about being on the show?
It was a dream of mine to be on Survivor so the best part was being there for all of the traditional moments I have grown to love. The snuffing of my torch should have been a somber moment, but it wasn’t. I grinned from ear to ear while it happened because it’s such an iconic ritual and I was a part of it.

4. What were your favorite challenges on the show? Least favorite?
My favorites challenges are when we had to loot a replica of the Bounty and make off with the goods on bamboo rafts and the first immunity challenge, at least right up to the part when my tribe set me on fire. My least favorite was the challenge my tribe lost on purpose. When I want to do a fake competition, I do Pro Wrestling, not Survivor. Lame! It was a Survivor suicide bombing. We all got eliminated because of that. One right after the other. No matter how much they down play the throwing of that challenge, they cost the whole tribe our shots at the million dollars. I’ll go on record and say that strategy was pure stupidity. I’m glad that it’s become the world wide Reality TV example of why you should always play to win.

5. What advice would you give to someone who is considering applying for a reality show?
Watch Wile E Coyote. That will be how you will look in the edit if you make it on a show and don’t win it. So if you have a problem with being the butt of the joke, then this isn’t for you. Otherwise, good luck.

6. What else have you been up to lately?
I’m in the final stages of post production of my first full length feature film as a filmmaker. It’s a horror movie called “The Infernal Room.” I’ve also been recording with my heavy metal band Forsakken. We have a new lead singer, April Starkweather.

7. Where can fans find you online?

My next interview is with Michelle Costa from Big Brother on June 2. Bookmark the full interview schedule, with clickable links to the interviews as they become available, here.

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