'Survivor' Season 35: Jeff Probst Previews the Heroes Tribe

The Heroes Tribe
Courtesy of Robert Voets/CBS

The Heroes, wearing blue buffs and formally known as Levu, consists of NFL player Alan Ball, lifeguard Ashley Nolan, former Marine Ben Driebergen, financial analyst Chrissy Hofbeck, firefighter JP Hilsabeck and former Olympic swimmer Katrina Radke. It's the second Heroes tribe in Survivor history, and with any luck, they'll fare better than their Season 20 predecessors. For his part, Probst isn't necessarily banking on it.

"When I think of them as a group, they're all very accomplished," he says. "I could see a lot of ego coming into play. All of them have been successful at something. Sometimes, that's hard, when you have that many leaders in a group. Everybody thinks they're right. I'm impressed with all of them, individually. Ironically, I would say the Heroes tribe may have the toughest time gelling."

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 $1 million 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.

In Survivor, second chances are typically reserved for individual castaways who made a big enough impact that they're invited to return to the show. But in the case of the show's upcoming 35th season, Survivor is giving an entire tribe a second chance — in a manner of speaking, at least.

For the second time in Survivor history, fans are about to meet a blue-buffed group known as the Heroes. It's an untested tribe, certainly compared to the tribe of the same name featured on Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, the show's landmark 20th season featuring some of the most memorable returning players in the game's history. While the season is often considered one of the very best in Survivor lore, the Heroes tribe itself was a disorganized mess, losing challenge after challenge until a streak of good fortune toward the end of the tribal portion of the game. Once the merge hit, however, the Heroes tribe went down in a blaze of glory.

Listen to the podcast below for the second episode of "First One Out," all about the Heroes tribe:

How will the Heroes of season 35 fare? Fair question! In order to get those predictions rolling, here's a quick overview of the Heroes, formally known as the Levu tribe:

Alan Ball, a 31-year-old NFL player from Detroit, Michigan;
• Ashley Nolan, a 26-year-old lifeguard from Satellite Beach, Florida;
• Ben Driebergen, a 34-year-old marine from Boise, Idaho;
• Chrissy Hofbeck, a 46-year-old actuary from Glen Gardner, New Jersey;
• John "JP" Hilsabeck, a 28-year-old firefighter from Los Angeles, California;
and Katrina Radke, a 46-year-old Olympian from Excelsior, Minnesota 

Over the next week, we'll take a closer look at each of the Heroes in greater detail. For now, read on for host Jeff Probst's thoughts on the six contestants. 

Tell me about the Heroes tribe, broadly. What are your thoughts on this group?

Broadly, I think they may have the most work to do as a group. It would take me a moment to figure out why. When I think of them as a group, they're all very accomplished. I could see a lot of ego coming into play. All of them have been successful at something. Sometimes, that's hard, when you have that many leaders in a group. Everybody thinks they're right. I'm impressed with all of them, individually. Ironically, I would say the Heroes tribe may have the toughest time gelling.

What are your thoughts on Alan?

Alan came in the room and told us his story. First of all, his smile and the way he talks about his wife really charmed us. He jokingly talks about, "Hey, man. Happy wife? Happy life." But when you go a little further, you realize that he means it: "I want my wife to be happy. She has good advice for me. She always tells me things to look out for, tendencies that I have." I found that very charming. Then when I heard his story about how much work it took for him to get into the NFL? He's already super good, but now he's trying to get to great, the highest level. He thought it was going to be easy, and it wasn't. He had to work. He was humbled. He got back in, dug in, and said, "I'm good enough to get there." I really like that story. I think you see that play out a lot on Survivor. People go, "I wonder if I'm capable of this," and then they find out that they are.

I was very impressed with Ben after talking to him. Ben has the aesthetic of a Keith Nale, who I love dearly as a Survivor player, but I wouldn't accuse Keith Nale of being a Survivor super-fan. One of the things I really loved about Ben is that on Wednesday nights, it's movie night for his kids, but it's Survivor night for him and his wife. He's clearly a fan of the show. What's your take on him?

I love Ben. He walked in with a cowboy hat and a plaid shirt and big boots and a pair of jeans. He sat down and said, "Well, what do you want to know?" We said, "Well, who are you?" He said, "Well, I've done a little bit of this, a little bit of that. I was in the service for a little while. I did a couple of tours." He made it sounds like he was out in the backyard mowing his lawn, you know? And then he also shared, really honestly, that he's not doing something he loves. He said, "I'm working to make a living for my family. I want more. I see this game as something that can change my life. There's a million dollars [on the line]. I don't care how hard it is. I've done hard. I want this for my kids and my wife." Man, it's a hard story to not move you. That's what Survivor offers a lot of people: 39 days, you have to be strategic, you have to be savvy about human nature, you have to be willing to endure sometimes some extremely tough situations — but you could come home with a million bucks, and a sense of pride that you did it. You beat everyone else in this game.

What about JP? Aside from the fact that he shares your initials, so clearly he's an instant favorite ...

(Laughs.) JP... my opinion about him is changing a little bit. When he first came in [for casting], he was very confident. He's a very likable guy. He's a fireman. He's clearly chosen a profession that's dangerous and heroic. But when I saw him on the boat this morning, I did have a feeling... is this a guy who is still young enough that he's used to being the alpha? He's good-looking. He probably gets lots of attention from women. He's charming; guys want to be around him. He's a fireman. That will open a lot of doors. And on Survivor? No one cares. In fact, those are three reasons to get rid of you. I felt I saw a little bit of JP going, "OK! This is... this is going to be full-on. I'm pretty cool in my world, and I have 17 other people who couldn't care less."

What are your thoughts on Ashley? She's a lifeguard, an ocean rescue captain ...

I love Ashley. I don't know if this makes sense and I hope it's respectful, but she can throw down. Ashley is a lifeguard, so first of all, she sits down out there and says, "I'm so aware. People think lifeguards just sit out there on a tower and don't do anything, but I'm exhausted at the end of the day because all I'm doing is watching human behavior. That guy is in trouble. I can tell by the way he's walking that he's heading into the water and look! There he goes! He's taking off!" But Ashley is also the woman who says, "Yeah, I'll throw a beer back with you, or four." She's not afraid to get hurt. She's not afraid to get dirty. Those women tend to do very well on this show. They saddle up next to a guy and say, "You and I can do this. I might surprise you out here." I think she could do really well.

I was a little surprised that you have Chrissy on the Heroes tribe. Why is she a Hero?

The reason Chrissy is a hero in my eyes? It's a list. She's one of the most amazing women I've ever met. She broke the glass ceiling in terms of business. She's extremely successful in her career. She makes a lot of money. Über smart. Stops. Decides to have a family. Has kids, raises them, and then says, "Okay! I'm ready to go back in [to work]," goes back in, then kicks ass again. That's a hero on so many different planes. Pick one. What I thought was interesting about Chrissy is that going into the game, she said, "My biggest fear is that I'm going to be the oldest person out there." It reminded me: "Man, I see you as this über superwoman, and you find your one Achilles' heel and that's what you're focused on." I hope that doesn't do her in, because I was looking at her going, "OK, you have an Achilles' heel, but you have like 50 assets to use." I'm really curious if it's just an initial fear and she'll get to the beach and her instincts and brain will take over, or if she'll crush herself.

What do you think about Katrina, who is a very accomplished person, and also a very kooky person — which I love! I love the kooky players. What's your take on her?

Katrina is a big personality. She knows it. She likes it. She revels in it. But also, she's an Olympic swimmer. Come on! You're talking about the highest level of swimming, and she did it. She doesn't want to share that [information], which is going to be tricky, as more questions come out about how she maneuvers around that. What I like about Katrina is she owns her big personality and those people seem to do OK, because they're not pretending to be something they're not. Katrina will tell you, "I'm all over the place. I'm nutty. I'm crazy. I'm whacky. But I'm also more accomplished than you know. Swimming is only one of the things I've pulled off." I think for Katrina, it's going to be about those early moments. Will people go, "What's with the nutty blonde chick?" Or do they go, "Wow, did you see her in the water?" 

Click through the gallery below for photos of the Heroes, as well as the Healers and Hustlers.

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