'Survivor: Ghost Island' Player Profile: Meet Donathan Hurley

The 26-year-old caretaker and longtime super fan from Eastern Kentucky is not Jonathan, nor is he Donovan; he's Donathan.
Courtesy of CBS

Welcome to the Survivor: Ghost Island preseason! THR's Josh Wigler reports from his visit to the show's shooting location on Fiji, where he interviewed host Jeff Probst, as well as the 20 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: Ghost Zero," an in-depth look at all of the new players, culminating in an interview with the first person voted out of the season, and Wigler's exclusive overnight stay on Ghost Island.

One of the biggest fans of Survivor on the Ghost Island cast, Donathan Hurley (not Donovan and not Jonathan, thank you very much) is stepping into a world he's studied religiously as he prepares to hit the beach. But he's also worlds away from his comfort zone, as Donathan has spent the vast majority of his life in Eastern Kentucky, craving the company of like-minded individuals and new experiences. Donathan makes it clear that part of the appeal of Survivor is the opportunity to broaden his horizons, something that very much resonates with executive producer and host Jeff Probst.

"I love Donathan," says Probst. "One of the things Survivor offers is this adventure — this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Some people come on Survivor, and while it's a great adventure, you can tell they're going to have other great adventures. Donathan has never had anything like this. He's spent most of his life in his town taking care of others, looking out for his family, and looking out for everybody else. He's living a life where he can't fully be himself because it's not accepted, and there's not even that world there for him to socialize in. For him, to take this big of a leap and say, 'When I finally go, I'm going big; I'm doing Survivor.' I don't know how people will be able to resist rooting for him. He's so likable. You want that guy to do well. You want him to win. You want him to take care of his family. And you want him to take some more vacations! Hollywood or New York or some other big city where he can thrive! I hope this is the first step of a very cool journey for him."

Hear more from Donathan and the other players in our preseason podcast series First One Out: Ghost Zero, and read on for highlights from our interview.

Donathan's favorite Survivor player:

"I like Cirie. She was a big fish-out-of-water story in Exile Island. Seeing her do what she did? It was a big inspiration for me. I feel like that could be my journey out here. I'm not someone who is going to be brute strength. I'm going to have my times when I disappoint my tribe. I'm self-aware enough to know that. I want to be there for other aspects. Hopefully, I'll be able to show that, and they'll like me and want me to stick around."

Donathan's first day in the game, if it goes perfectly:

"The perfect first day is getting there, the weather's good, and we have some hard workers. I don't come out here to be lazy. I've always been a hard worker. I've had to be. I want to be one of the people who gets their boots dirty, gets out there and works. The first day is the most crucial day. It sets the tone for the rest, unless something happens where you get swapped and you end up on a more beautiful beach with maybe some better players. But the most ideal day is everybody working hard and everybody getting along."

Donathan's ethical philosophy on Survivor:

"It's just a game. If you can do what you can during the first 38 days and you get to day 39 and you're honest and up front and you stand up for what you've done and you believe in yourself even if some things were bad? I think a jury will look at that and say, 'Hey, this guy's really putting it out there and is being honest.' I think that's what gets people the votes, just being up front and honest about how they played. I'm not going to pull a Varner, I'm not going to go that far and I would hate for anything like that to ever happen again. But it's Survivor. You should expect stuff to happen that you may not normally do in real life. I'm ready to lie. Eastern Kentucky has some of the best liars you've ever met, and I don't lie — I'm a respectful person in real life — but I won't back down, either."

How Donathan will react if he gets blindsided:

"I think of Stephen Fishbach. He was just like, 'Wow, good job, guys. Great play.' That's how I am. It's just a game. I'm here for the money. But any type of money! Even if you get so far, so… I'm satisfied. I'm just happy to be here. I can't believe it. I applied my first time and I'm here. It's just a dream come true for me."

That's Donathan in his own words. But what do the other castaways think about him? Over the course of our interviews out on Fiji, the Ghost Island castmembers were presented with pictures of their competitors, and asked to establish their preseason thoughts. With that said, here's what they think about Donathan.

Michael Yerger (Real Estate Agent, Malolo Tribe): "He's a nice guy. He always has a smile on his face. He seems very friendly and care-free."

Wendell Holland (Furniture Company Owner, Naviti Tribe): "He's friendly and nerdy. A little dude. I could work with him!"

Morgan Ricke (Marine Animal Trainer, Naviti Tribe): "He seems like a little brother, your quirky little brother that's on his own page. A super nice and sweet guy."

Stephanie Johnson (Yoga Instructor, Malolo Tribe): "He's so cute! He's the one I would play up as my little brother, you know? He's like an all-American country boy. I'm from Idaho and I can probably connect with him over country music, and we could probably bond over how hot Sam Hunt is."

Domenick Abbate (Construction Supervisor, Naviti Tribe): "I like him. Especially this morning, he was wearing a Def Leppard shirt. I was like, 'Yeah.' Back in the day! He's friendly. He looks approachable. He's throwing a glance or two at me. He might work with me. He's on my board."

Chris Noble (Male Model, Naviti Tribe): "I think he's a really nice person."

Desiree Afuye (Student, Naviti Tribe): "I think I can work him. He's going to play it safe. He's not going to want to push too many people or rub people the wrong way. I can totally use somebody like that."

Chelsea Townsend (Cheerleader and EMT, Naviti Tribe): "He seems really sweet and funny. He always has a pep in his step. I think he's very stoked to be here."

James Lim (Business Analyst, Malolo Tribe): "He's nice. He smiles a lot at people. We were at the final round [of casting] together, and even back then, we were nodding at each other and all of that. I think he's a good kid. He's really young. I'm thinking this season might have several people in college, still. I could work with that; I was in college one year ago. I think he might be a token super fan."

Laurel Johnson (Financial Consultant, Malolo Tribe): "I feel like he's a super fan like me. He seems really excited to be here. He's been really friendly and open, and always smiling. I would like to work with him."

Jacob Derwin (Music Teacher, Malolo Tribe): "He's a fanboy. I feel like I know this guy. Not to be rude to him, but I think we're the two guys out here who aren't in as good of shape as everybody else. I hope he's able to handle his own, because I would love to work with him. He seems like a nice guy. He's a little reserved. He doesn't make a lot of eye contact with everybody. I can tell he's a fanboy."

Sebastian Noel (Fishing Guide, Naviti Tribe): "He's pretty funny. I think he's going to be a lot like Dave from Millennials vs. Gen X. I think he's out there. I don't think he's all there."

Libby Vincek (Social Media Strategist, Malolo Tribe): "I like him! He's a sweet guy. I feel like he's going to be somebody who is sneaky. You have his trust, and then he's just blindsided you, and he's saying it with a straight face. I feel like I have to be careful around him. But we already smile at each other. Gotta be careful, but good vibes for now!"

Brendan Shapiro (Physical Education Teacher, Malolo Tribe): "I worry about him, like the Ivy League guy. He looks like a student of the game, sizing everybody up, sizing me up. I've had a hard time connecting with him, through looks."

Jenna Bowman (Advertising Account Executive, Malolo Tribe): "I don't have a read on him. He seems like a nice guy, but I don't know if we have anything in common."

Angela Perkins (Army Veteran, Naviti Tribe): "Very sweet. Very sincere. I think he's impressionable. I think he's slightly intimidated. I could definitely use him, but I would be wary — and not because he's not loyal, but because he's not going to want to hurt anybody's feelings."

Kellyn Bechtold (Career Counselor, Naviti Tribe): "He's a man of contradictions. He has these farm work boots, which throws me off, because he doesn't seem like a farm kid in his actions and interactions, but he has these worker boots! He must be from the South. He wears a lot of checkered shirts. I'm excited to meet him. He seems like a fun guy."

Stephanie Gonzalez (Graphic Sales, Malolo Tribe): "He's quirky. I like him. I want to say he's gay, and I really like that if he is, because I have family members that are, and lots of friends, so I'll probably get along with him really well. He's probably a shit-talker, so I can probably sway him my way if we shit-talk about the same stuff."

Bradley Kleihege (Law Student, Naviti Tribe): "He seems nice. He seems friendly. I don't get a threatening vibe from him at all. Probably someone else I could work with. Having watched enough Survivor, you see a couple of people who are ripped beyond belief and they're probably cast fillers; sometimes they're not, but that's my instant read based on how they act like they're on vacation. Then they see people like me, who are by no means a visual delight — or not a huge visual delight. I think I'm fairly good-looking. 

Josh Wigler (Reporter, THR): "I'm having a great time sitting across from you." 

Kleihege: "Me, too. This is what I live for. Someone like that? No offense to him, you're not a 10. So there has to be a reason you're here, something that makes you interesting and different. You're probably a fan of the game. Immediately, my interest is piqued."

Keep up with all of our preseason interviews:

• Angela Perkins
• Bradley Kleihege
• Brendan Shapiro
• Chelsea Townsend
• Chris Noble
• Desiree Afuye
• Domenick Abbate
• Donathan Hurley
• Jacob Derwin
• James Lim
• Jenna Bowman
• Kellyn Bechtold
• Laurel Johnson
• Libby Vincek
• Michael Yerger
• Morgan Ricke
• Sebastian Noel
• Stephanie Gonzalez
• Stephanie Johnson
• Wendell Holland

What's your read on Donathan? Sound off with your predictions in the comments section below, and keep checking THR.com/Survivor for more interviews with the Survivor: Ghost Island cast.

 

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