'Survivor' Season 35 Player Profile: Meet Ashley Nolan

A lifeguard on the Heroes tribe, Ashley swims into 'Heroes vs Healers vs Hustlers' with full confidence in her survival skills. She can't say the same for the rest of the competition.
Courtesy of CBS

Welcome to the Survivor: Heroes vs Healers vs Hustlers preseason! THR's Josh Wigler reports from his exclusive visit to the show's shooting location in Fiji, where he interviewed host Jeff Probst, as well as the 18 new castaways battling it out for the million dollar prize.

Click here to make sure you're all caught up on our stories from the island, including our weekly podcast series "First One Out," an in-depth look at all of the new players, culminating in an interview with the first person voted out of the season.

Ashley Nolan has weathered shark bites. She's witnessed planes crash from no more than a few yards away. She has dashed out into the middle of the ocean to save lives. She's seen her way through impossible moments of catastrophe and lived to tell the tale — and frankly? She wouldn't have it any other way.

"I've met lifeguards that come out and only do one season, and then they quit because they realize, 'I don't want that to happen. I don't want to have to do this.' They sit there the whole time, intimidated: 'I hope this doesn't happen. I wouldn't know what to do if this happened,'" she tells The Hollywood Reporter out on the beach of Fiji. "And I'm just like, bring it on. I want to be the person that's in the action."

Hailing from Satellite Beach, Florida, Ashley enters the new season of Survivor as part of the Heroes Tribe, one of two members whose life is deeply tied to the water. She grew up on the beach, and very much remains there, living and working as a lifeguard and ocean rescue captain. It's not every day she finds herself wrestling sharks or pulling people out of harmful situations — Ashley says much of her work involves supervising employees, creating and implementing work strategies and the like — but she has no problem admitting that the adrenaline involved in her job is a defining element of her existence. In fact, that adrenaline, and that love of the great outdoors, is a huge part of why Ashley feels she's about to conquer Survivor.

"There's a huge variety of things that can happen in the ocean," she says. "It's the most unpredictable environment that there is. That's why I have this high on life, knowing that I can conquer that. That's my territory. I'm bringing that over to this island. This is my territory. I direct people every day as well. I'm not just sitting there on a tower daydreaming about fatalities. I'm in charge. I'm running the show. I have the people skills, I have the physical skills, I have the confidence that I'm where I'm supposed to be, environment-wise, and how to dictate that environment and how to dictate the people around me. I couldn't be more excited going into this."

Ashley grew up watching Survivor. She lists Richard Hatch, the very first winner, as the previous player she most wants to emulate heading into Heroes vs Healers vs Hustlers. ("[He] seemed to have the right idea," she writes in her bio.) But as anyone who has stuck with Survivor since the start will tell you, the game has taken on an increasingly complicated quality more than the airtight alliance basics of Borneo. Ashley says she's keenly aware of that progression.

Listen to the podcast below to hear from Ashley and the rest of the Heroes tribe in the second episode of our preseason series, "First One Out."

"This show is bat-shit crazy," she says. "I started watching it as a kid. It was much more mellow. You survive, you vote people out... it seemed like more of a sure thing. It was a sure thing when this person was the obvious vote. It was a lot less dramatic. Now, these days, you can't trust anybody. That's part of the game. If there isn't a blindside at Tribal Council, it's almost more interesting than if it went exactly the way you thought it was going to go. These days, no one is safe." 

"It's almost symbolic of society on a very smaller scale, because you're almost building your own society and everyone's trying to climb their way to the top," Ashley adds. "That's what everyone's trying to do. You can try to hide somewhere in the middle, and if you try to stay at the bottom and act invisible, maybe you're carried to the end because of that, because you're not sticking up for yourself and you have nothing to offer anyone. But you never want to be that person. Once they're done with you, they're done with you. You're not going to win that way. The evolution of this game is so crazy, because you have to make moves to win. You can't just slide by anymore and go unnoticed. You can't win that way anymore. You have to make big moves."

Not everyone agrees with the necessity of "big moves," certainly, but Ashley doesn't see a lot of room for floaters — which is ironic, considering she looks out at her fellow competitors and sees "a big group of complainers, quite honestly." Heading into the game, Ashley isn't impressed with some of the other Heroes, Healers and Hustlers who are openly grumbling about the physical conditions.

"I can tell the other contestants are kind of wondering what the hell just happened to them. Some of them are not used to this heat, walking through the sand. I hear them complaining about stepping on shells," she says. "You don't want me to hear you complaining. If you're going to come off sounding weak, I'm going to jump all over that."

With that said, Ashley recognizes that her biggest pet peeve and her biggest personal weakness in the game are tied together. Whether or not she recognizes this fact enough to untangle the issue? That's another matter. For now, at least, she willingly puts it out there: "It's hard for me to bite my tongue."

"A lot of people before I came out here told me, 'Be yourself. You're great! The camera is going to love you. You're funny, you're witty, don't hold back,'" says the lifeguard. "Then the other half, maybe the people I work with more or less, are like, 'Don't be yourself! Whatever you do, just don't be yourself! Don't be bossy! Don't be bitchy! Don't be so sarcastic! Turn the filter on from a zero to, like, a two. Don't be quite yourself.' And that makes a lot of sense! It's hard for me when I see disorder to not be the one creating order."

Watch the video below for more from Ashley on why she's going to win Survivor.

That's Ashley in her own words. But what does everyone else think? Over the course of these interviews, I showed the castaways pictures of each other from casting, to get their pre-game impressions of their future competitors. Read on for their takes on Ashley.

Note: comments from the castaways have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Ben Driebergen (Marine, Heroes Tribe): She is strong. She's a strong woman. Good, outdoorsy kinda girl. I think she probably has some kind of an outdoors occupation. You know what I mean? Something, like in forestry or something like that. I don't know.

Katrina Radke (Olympian, Heroes Tribe): I think she's athletic, but I'm not sure what sport it is. I'm trying to figure it out. She's got some strong legs on her.

Jessica Johnston (Nurse Practitioner, Healers Tribe): I'm obviously attracted to people who I think work out because it's something I can relate to. You don't get in-shape bodies without putting blood, sweat, and tears into it. It's like a life motto: "blood, sweat, and tears," right? She is a total lifter. She probably does Crossfit.

Cole Medders (Wilderness Therapy Guide, Healers Tribe): She strikes me as a Crossfit girl. I don't know why. She just seems like it. She has callouses on her hand. She's super in shape. She's got abs. Crossfit girls are intense.

Devon Pinto (Surf Instructor, Hustlers Tribe): She seems very intense. Very intense. But I could see myself working with her and getting along with her. She seems like a down-to-earth girl, seems like she'd know what she's doing out here. She's very fit, so I could see her doing well in challenges. So, I'd like to see her on my tribe, definitely. 

Ryan Ulrich (Bellhop, Hustlers Tribe): I think she's going to stick around because she's tall. She's a physical girl, and that's really advantageous for a girl in the early parts. And guys too, obviously, but guys are the bigger threats. If you're a female and you have that challenge ability, it really endears you to your tribemates. I think she's set up pretty well pre-merge.

Mike Zahalsky (Urologist, Healers Tribe): I mean, she's obviously very pretty. She seems very nice. But we'll see.

Chrissy Hofbeck (Actuary, Heroes Tribe): I don't think she likes me. She just seems very angry. You know, other contestants are looking at each other and kind of smiling as we walk by. She never smiles, she never looks. I don't know whether she's just really following the rules and she's a very lovely person in real life, which could definitely be the answer, but she does not look like a warm-and-fuzzy. 

Ali Elliott (Celebrity Assistant, Hustlers Tribe): She always has a mad face. She's kind of the one I'm really worried about right now. Because I keep trying to make eye contact with her, and be like, "Smile!" I get this bad vibe, almost. I want to like you — I want to like everyone, at least at the beginning. And she kind of just looks mad. 

Watch the video below for an early look at what Ashley's victory speech might look like.

Desiree Williams (Physical Therapist, Healers Tribe): She's not my favorite.

Josh Wigler (Reporter, THR): Why?

Desiree Williams (Physical Therapist, Healers Tribe): Um, so she started to smile a little bit; but she just comes off as a little cold, and I don't know if that's her competitive spirit coming through or if she's an only child and just used to having her way. For example, this morning we were getting ready to come here [for interviews], and we have one converter — like, one converter for all the girls to use to do their hair and what-have-you. So, I got to the converter before her to use the curling iron and you could see that she was, like, pissed, and she was just like, "Well, okay." And when I asked for another converter... like, just she complains about weird things that I feel like aren't a big deal. It's like, "I'm gonna be done in less than 10 minutes." Like, literally, it'll take me less than 10 minutes!

Alan Ball (NFL Player, Heroes Tribe): She's a diva, just by the way I watch her. Some of the little slight things she says... if she's talking to someone, she may say something slight. It gives me the impression that she might not be a bad person, but she's just a little bit of a diva, maybe a little bit spoiled. I don't know. I may be reading wrong, because I haven't talked to her. She might be the nicest person in the world. I might grow to love her. She might be my best friend on the show! I don't know, but just from what I'm getting so far? That's what I'm getting.

Patrick Bolton (Small Business Owner, Hustlers Tribe): Well, the first time I've seen her smile is in that picture. She never smiles like that at Ponderosa. She gives you the most stern looks I've ever seen. I'm like, come on, could you give me a smile? The first day you get there, and you're excited. Everybody should be very excited that they're here smiling at everyone. Everybody should be smiling back. I still have not seen her smile. 

Roark Luskin (Social Worker, Healers Tribe): This [photo] is the first time I've ever seen her smile. Thank you for that image. I think that she might be afflicted with resting bitch face, which is not her fault, but I think it might be her cross to bear. 

Lauren Rimmer (Fisherman, Hustlers Tribe): Everybody has been sitting around at Ponderosa, just twiddling our thumbs. Everybody seems to have a smile on their face, but her. It's really hard, when you wake up in the morning and even though you can't talk, you're still friendly. You still acknowledge the person. She has a really hard time acknowledging people. So it might hurt her in the game, just because intimidation. 

Simone Nguyen (Diversity Associate, Hustlers Tribe): She is so insecure. Every time she looks at a pretty girl, she just looks away. Anytime a guy looks at her, she is just eating it up. I'm thinking to myself, this might be one of those girls who thinks, "I'm not like other girls, I don't like the drama." What's wrong with other girls? What is so inherently bad about hanging out with someone who is prettier than you? I'm sorry I was born this way. Maybe she's nice.

Joe Mena (Probation Officer, Healers Tribe): I didn't like her at first, but I like her. I get her now. She has a game face 24/7, but you can only hold that game face for so long. But she's cool. I think she's a powerhouse. She's definitely a powerhouse.

JP Hilsabeck (Firefighter, Heroes Tribe): I've kinda seen her along the way [in casting], or whatnot. It'll be interesting to get to know her. Just one of those things. Never judge a book by its cover.

Ashley Nolan (Lifeguard, Heroes Tribe): I think I come off much differently than I think I do a lot of the time. I'm either very sarcastic, but it will be taken as serious, like, "That was a bitchy thing to say," when I was kidding! Or I think I'm being nice and trying to construct some kind of order: "Let's do this for the best of everyone!" But really, it's coming off as, "What the fuck is wrong with you guys?" I didn't mean it that way! I'm really trying to focus on how I'm perceived.

Click through the gallery below for photos of Ashley and the rest of the Season 35 castaways.

Keep checking THR.com/Survivor for more coverage of the Heroes vs Healers vs Hustlers preseason.

 

comments powered by Disqus