The most talked about, most controversial castaway on Survivor: Tocantins was undoubtedly Coach Benjamin Wade. The soccer coach, the symphony conductor, the teller of tall tales, the meditation guru, The Dragon Slayer. Love him or hate him, Ben Wade made for good TV, and he will be a Survivor contestant we remember for years to come, which is a rare feat. We had the great pleasure of speaking with Coach earlier today, as he discussed his persona, the media’s portrayal of him, and whether or not he’s ever posted comments on BuddyTV.
Below you will find the written transcript as well as the full mp3 audio of the interview.
Hey, this is Oscar Dahl from BuddyTV and I’m here with the infamous Coach Benjamin Wade. Coach, how are you doing?
I’m awesome, how are you doing?
I’m pretty good. Before we start, I have to clear one thing up. Have you been posting comments on our website, sir?
Posting comments on your website? I’ll tell you this. I have not posted one comment on any. I’ve had friends say, “Hey man, somebody thinks that I’m you…” So, no, definitely I have never posted any comment on any website, especially not yours. I did get on your website because I looked at 250 something pictures you had of me, so I liked that. Posting comments is against the contract and no, I’m not doing it.
Overall, having watched the entire season, how do you feel about your portrayal on the show? Is it what you expected it to be?
You know, I went down there not to win the game, but to change it. And I went down there to make this character that was just larger than life, and I think that I succeeded on all accounts. As far as the portrayal, it was a two-dimensional character that you guys are seeing. You’re seeing the intense, driven, wanting to take charge Coach that ruffles a lot of feathers, but what you didn’t see was the encouraging, hopefully the inspiring, the one-on-one time that I had. I talked to Taj about her child before the auction. It was like a week before the auction and she cried on my shoulder and it was a beautiful time. I taught Debbie how to meditate. You don’t see that part, you don’t see me clapping at every challenge, trying to push the team and one of the things that you don’t see is the fact that, in Mid-October, I weighed 205 pounds. You can physically see that at the end of the game I’m 149 pounds, that’s almost 60 pounds, the most pounds that anybody has lost and why did that happen? Because I gave my food away to everyone else so they would have enough energy to go about their business.
People were very lethargic, people didn’t have energy and I took two hour walks every day and really essentially only ate a couple of small bowls in the morning and a couple at night and people begged me to eat, but I wanted them to have more and I think it was a very noble approach that I took. I’m not patting myself on the back, but if stuff like that would have been shown, great. But when I look back on the season I think that the producers did a fantastic job of taking this person, seeing that they were hated, then just really beefed up the part that people hated, the stories, the this the that, and they created a phenomenal Dragon Slayer villain that people will remember for a long time.
You’re talking about yourself like it was a character. Did you go into the season with the idea that you were going to play a certain part? How much of it was genuine?
Well, I want to say – “How much of it was genuine?” Well, it was all genuine, except for some of the meditation and also the Dragon Slayer. Obviously, I don’t call myself The Dragon Slayer in real life, and so that’s the part I was talking about. When I went down there, you know – I am a showman, the Coach, and I conduct a symphony for a living and I love being in the limelight. I like talking to people. I like having a captive audience, and Survivor was a way for me to go out there and be as eccentric as possible, and for people to love it or hate it, but to definitely encourage it, so that part for me was fun. But I think that I have a lot of different sides to my personality, like I mentioned earlier. The inspiring part, the motivational part, the jerk that wants to get things done. If I were to say to the tribe, “You guys were awesome today. Tyson, you did great. Debbie, you did great. But, you know, dang it, we’ve got to win.” That’s the Coach in me, so if they only show “You guys, dang it, we’ve got to win,” people will be like “Jerk.” But they didn’t see me giving my food away, clapping for people, encouraging them, so you’ve got to know that there are two sides to that coin. No, it wasn’t a total character fabrication. I wanted to show the more eccentric parts of my personality.
Well, let’s say that you and me were having a beer off-camera – what kind of Coach would we see?
It would kind of depend on what you’re going through in your life. I’m there for a lot of people and if you were going through a tough time in your marriage, or in your personal life, with your personal growth, I’d try to reaffirm you and I’d try to talk about the parts that you can improve or give yourself confidence or whatever. If you were going through a time where I thought you were going out with somebody that was killing your personality or even just friends were unhealthy in your life I’d probably kick your ass and say “Look dude, this is unhealthy for you.” I’m doing that with my cousin right now and so I’m like “You know, look ,stop it.” So, I would probably be like that, or if you just wanted to have fun, laugh, have a good time, not talk about anything serious, then that would be me as well. I’m just really like an everyday guy, but I happen to relate and l like to listen to people and I like to help people. That’s what drives me. If you look at the last fifteen years of my life, I’ve been a public speaker at all different types of schools and rotary clubs and I speak and I never ask a dime for it. But, it’s like I want to go out there and somehow, some way change and help and inspire somebody along the way.
Going into the game, did you expect that the media take you as such a divisive figure?
Well, the media is going to take me however I am portrayed. I understand how they did it. It’s their job to sensationalize everything. I think that Nietzsche said one time, very succinctly, he said “What is the most humane thing? It is to spare a man shame.” Obviously, that’s something the media did not do, they were not humane, but in the next sentence Nietzsche says “What does not destroy me makes me stronger.” And I’d say definitely that this experience has humbled me, it’s made me take a look at my life, the confidence versus arrogance. And it’s allowed me to be stronger, and I’ve really been humbled and I really cherish experience and the media is a big part of that, and you guys only report on what you see. So, I don’t hold any grudges against anybody, in the game, out of the game, or in real life.
What surprised you the most about the other castaways while watching the season from home?
Probably just the continual amount of back-biting and loyalties betrayed and you get to see the full picture there. I think a lot of things were surprising to me and it was gut-wrenching when Debbie turned on me. I know she was getting a lot of influence from J.T. and Stephen to do that and it was perhaps the plan, I’m not really sure, but that was gut-wrenching. It was tough to watch.
Quick last question – you have any big plans for the future?
Haha. I’ll let you guys know. I think there will be opportunities for a lot of different things. I’m focusing on my symphony for right now, writing music. I’ve got a couple of college job offers that are going to be on the table, and maybe some things are going to happen in Hollywood. So, I’m open for anything, I’m just praying about it and contemplating what the next chapter in my life is going to be.
All right, Coach, I appreciate you taking the time.
Awesome, thanks man.
-Interview Conducted by Oscar Dahl