'Survivor: Ghost Island' Player Profile: Meet Wendell Holland

A 33-year-old furniture company owner from Philadelphia, Wendell is the official pre-game winner pick of executive producer and host Jeff Probst.
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.

We arrive at our final player profile of the season: Wendell Holland. At 33 years old, Wendell is one of only six players this season who isn't in their 20s or younger. With that said, this former lawyer turned furniture maker stands out as the official winner pick of Jeff Probst as well as executive producer Matt Van Wagenen. No pressure!

"Wendell is my choice to win," says executive producer and host Jeff Probst. "But I have to say this: every time I pick someone to win, I kill their game. What I'm hoping is that since this is Ghost Island, Wendell will reverse my curse and actually win to show I'm not cursed! I like Wendell. When he walked into casting, I etched a couple of quick notes, and they basically said, 'home run.' Wendell is a guy we had to fight to get on the show, ironically, because there's somebody who didn't like him, and everybody has a voice. Matt and I had to get down and get busy and say, 'You need to give us this one. We believe in him.' And now he's here."

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

The Survivor player Wendell wants to emulate:

"There are quite a few players that people know, obviously: Officer Sarah, Tony, Jeremy… Sarah and Tony are cops, so they see the world from a cop's perspective. They're super observant. They can notice things and see something, like an advantage in Michaela's foot. But they play like criminals. That's an amazing way to play, if you have those skills where you're so observant. But for me? I think of someone like Tyson. He wasn't the youngest guy out there, didn't have the biggest muscles of everyone, but he had some spunk and charisma and said some hilarious things. When it got down to it, later in the game, when it came down to the challenges? He was a beast. I think that's the kind of player I can be." 

Wendell's first day in the game, if everything goes perfectly:

"I find an advantage in whatever Probst gives us to take to the island. When I get to the island, because I'm very attentive, I find a random tree that's not around any other trees, and I find an idol as well! For real, my first day, I want to be right in the middle of the tribe. I'm not spouting out orders. I'm not trying to put a target on my back by being a super leader. But I'll be building a lot, because I build [furniture]. I'll be helping out with the shelter and trying out some new ideas with the shelter. Hopefully, I'll be able to start a fire without flint."

Wendell's ethical philosophy on Survivor

"I think there's almost a gradation scale to that, even. There are no lines: Russell Hantz. There are lines, but not many: Tony. A little further is an Officer Sarah. The way I see it: play like a criminal, but let's be real. At the end of the day, there's something I'm going back home to. I have morals. I am secure in my morals. There are things I won't do. But at the end of the day, I will try to play like a criminal."

How Wendell will react if he gets blindsided:

"If I get voted out, I'm flipping shit! No, no. As the game has evolved, players are respecting the gameplay. If you get blindsided? Damn, you all did well. Respect. Back in Russell Hantz's times, they didn't respect his gameplay — although I think he also did some shady stuff, too. I think the way he played idols and how he brought people to the end? I think I might have voted for him. These days, gameplay is good. If you blindside me? Hey, you all did better than me. Respect. I'm bitter! I'm salty! But when we get back to Ponderosa, because you'll be there someday, we'll toast and we'll be friends."

Wendell's reaction to seeing his own casting photo:

"That guy! That's the winner! Wait... is that Donald Glover?"

That's Wendell 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 Wendell.

Chelsea Townsend (Cheerleader and EMT, Naviti Tribe): "That guy reminds me of Childish Gambino. That's what he looks like to me! He seems super smart and very calculated. I think he'll be a very good strategic player."

Jenna Bowman (Advertising Account Executive, Malolo Tribe): "I thought he was Donald Glover. When he first came on, I thought this was the first celebrity edition of Survivor. I think he's from L.A. He always wears L.A. Kings stuff. He seems kind of trendy. It seems like I would get along with him well outside the game, so hopefully inside the game, we can work something out."

Michael Yerger (Real Estate Agent, Malolo Tribe): "He looks like a nice guy. I think he's from L.A. He wears the L.A. Kings hat. He's quiet and reserved. Not much to tell from him so far."

James Lim (Business Analyst, Malolo Tribe): "He wore a Syracuse hoodie at finals in L.A., which makes me think he went to Syracuse or is a fan of Syracuse basketball. That means he wants us to know he's a fan of that school or that he went there. He's laid-back. He hasn't played the furtive glance game too hard."

Desiree Afuye (Student, Naviti Tribe): "I think I can work with him. I have to speak to him and see where his head is at. I'm getting mixed signals. He's very polite. That could be just to win me over. We'll see when I talk to him."

Domenick Abbate (Construction Supervisor, Naviti Tribe): "Good guy. I like him. He doesn't seem too aggressive. He's kind of chill and laid-back. I could work with him."

Angela Perkins (Army Veteran, Naviti Tribe): "He's a cool dude. He looks really cool and put together. He appears to be assessing the situation. He seems like he has a good personality and could let go and give in, if you can get into him. If you can touch that heart, then I think you're golden with him."

Stephanie Johnson (Yoga Instructor, Malolo Tribe): "He is very quiet. He holds himself very close to his chest. I know a lot of people back home like that. Showing a little bit of vulnerability with them.… The more you open up to them, the more they open up to you. But he's on my 'I don't fucking trust you' list."

Bradley Kleihege (Law Student, Naviti Tribe): "He's been really quiet. None of us are talking, but it's his demeanor. It's been pretty reserved. He's reading a lot. He wears a lot of expensive workout clothes. He could be an athlete, or potentially someone who doesn't need the money. He has thousands of dollars in Lulu Lemon in his backpack. He might not be as motivated as some people. He could be nice. I have to talk to him. He doesn't give off a whole lot."

Brendan Shapiro (Physical Education Teacher, Malolo Tribe): "He looks really serious. Maybe it's because he's excited to be here and he wants to do his best, but he looks serious as a heart attack."

Laurel Johnson (Financial Consultant, Malolo Tribe): "I like him. He's a cool dude. He's always listening to music and jamming out to music, so I think we'll get along very well. I'm hoping we can work together."

Morgan Ricke (Marine Animal Trainer, Naviti Tribe): "He reminds me of a guy in a boy band — like a guitar player or a drummer. He's very chill and down to earth. Nothing crazy."

Sebastian Noel (Fishing Guide, Naviti Tribe): "Jimi Hendrix! He's going to be cool. No emotions for him. But I can work with people like that. He'll be my friend."

Stephanie Gonzalez (Graphic Sales, Malolo Tribe): "He's a cool guy. I overheard him listening to hip-hop. He carries himself genuinely. Something about him gives off a good aura. Seems like he might be kind of goofy. He might be a good person to potentially align with."

Chris Noble (Male Model, Naviti Tribe): "Part of me feels like he could be a musician or something like that. Maybe he's from the inner city. I could connect with him. I can connect with just about anybody. I'm not quite sure how he's going to connect with everybody else. He could be one of the first one or two out. I don't know what he'll add. I don't wish that upon anyone, to be one of the first one or two out. But at the end of the day, it's Survivor, and if you can't make initial contact? I forgot his name, because he was only in it for one episode, but this past season there was a kid from Chicago who was the first one outed because he didn't do his job in the challenge and he wasn't making friends. That's the game. That's life. It's all about making relationships and whatnot."

Donathan Hurley (Caretaker, Malolo Tribe): "He's cool. He would be a cool person to work with, if I ever get the chance. He's really reserved, but there's something about him. It's hard to explain, but there's something there."

Kellyn Bechtold (Career Counselor, Naviti Tribe): "That's my main man. We were at casting week together. Not everyone here was there at the same time I went through casting. When I got out to the airport in L.A. and got on the shuttle, he was there. We weren't allowed to talk or anything, but he was my first friendly face. We gave a little smile like, 'Hey! I know you!' I feel like I have an emotional connection to him, probably because he's a familiar face. He's not the buffest person out here, so I think he could slide under the radar a bit, but super smart and he looks kind. He's the first person I would want to work with — other than the guy I want to give the million to."

Libby Vincek (Social Media Strategist, Malolo Tribe): "I like him. I haven't gotten to sit down and eat by him or anything. I think he's definitely going to be a threat because he'll keep low key, like he has the whole time. He might be someone I want to align with because it'll be unexpected. I'm going to be expected to be with someone good-looking or outgoing or someone who is a lot like me, and that's what I want to keep away from — but only when it's important. I think he would be a good one for me to align with."

Jacob Derwin (Music Teacher, Malolo Tribe): "Another awesome hair buddy! He seems cool. He seems very laid-back. I see him writing in his journal, which is cool. I'm looking for other people who are writing stuff down, and people who are thinking. He's another one of the guys who's in great shape. I think he'll be the kind of guy who can sneak under the radar for a while. Everybody at Ponderosa is looking at each other and smiling and nudging and winking. He's not doing any of that. He's sitting, he's writing and he's thinking. He might be the kind of guy who could float on by the fact that he's strong and likable, and then pops when the time comes."

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 Wendell? 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.