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Tyler Fredrickson has played in the NFL and worked at one of Hollywood’s top agencies — yet he says competing on Survivor was one of the most challenging, stressful things he’s ever experienced.
The writer-producer, who was a kicker/punter in the NFL with such teams as the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders, later decided to follow his dreams to Hollywood, where he landed a job as an assistant at CAA to motion picture lit agent Jon Levin. After two years there, he left to pursue a career in writing-producing.
On Wednesday, he’ll appear in front of the camera with the debut of Survivor: Worlds Apart, the CBS reality competition’s 30th season. Before the premiere, he talked to The Hollywood Reporter about his time on the show and compared the cutthroat worlds of pro football, Hollywood and Survivor.
Why did you want to go on Survivor?
I always have been a massive fan of the show. I love the combination of extreme physical exertion, depravation and the mental game. It’s fun to see the quote-unquote normal, average, everyday people go out there and explore things they’ve never prepared for in real life.
How hard was it?
It is the raw, real deal. There are no sofas; there is no lasagna; there are no TV timeouts. The moment you step foot on that beach, the game is on. You have to make fire; there is very little rice. If you don’t get to work, you won’t last long. It’s unlike any other experience. You can’t prepare for two days without food or drinks and then also [have to worry about] why did they say that, why did he look at me weird, why did she smile like that. You have to play with your entire body.
How did you NFL background prepare you for Survivor?
I was one of those guys who were good enough to make it on a team, but not good enough to make a career out of it. As a kicker, you have to approach every kick as the first time. You either do or you don’t. Fans know if you made it or missed it. And there’s something to be said about picking yourself up after you fail, and always remaining confident — sometimes it’s faking it ’til you make it. On Survivor, it’s the same thing. A little swagger and confidence goes a long way.
You also worked at CAA.
I left about a year and a half ago to start writing and producing. Last year, I finished a miniseries [in the vein of] Band of Brothers, about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. I’ve been researching and traveling and optioning the live rights [of those involved] and working with them on telling their story. We took it out to a lot of production companies last week, and have some interest.
Do you have an agent now?
No, I have a lawyer, and my co-writers and the producers I’m working with are represented by Circle of Confusion, and CAA is handling a lot of the submissions. My [former] boss is helping. It’s fun to have him back and have him representing this project.
How does working at CAA compare to competing on Survivor?
What was different about the NFL is you’re on the field every day, working out. Behind a desk, you’re more sedentary. It’s more of a mental thing. You’re working morning until night, making hundreds of phone calls, sending hundreds of emails, and dealing with emails saying, “We need this now; this is the most important thing; we’re going to lose a client.” There are millions of dollars on the table. Jobs are on the line. If you don’t get the job done, it bodes poorly for everyone around you. Football is more physical. Survivor [gave me] an opportunity to attack both [the mental and physical challenges] and really experience the strain of both. I’ve watched every season of Survivor, and I love this show. I never identified why, and it was not until I got out there that I felt like I had been practicing for this my entire life.
Did anyone you know working in Hollywood tell you not to go on Survivor or give you advice? What was their reaction?
They were pretty fascinated by it. A lot of people thought it was pretty cool. I kind of disappeared for a little bit. I spent two months in the Bay Area; I’ve been researching and writing; I was completely off the grid. So when CBS announced the Survivor cast in January, people realized, “So you haven’t quit the industry; you’ve actually been working on stuff.”
Which was the most stressful: playing in the NFL, working at CAA or competing on Survivor?
Survivor, by far. Completely. Because you can’t prepare for two or three days with no food, the exhaustion, sleeping in the rain, people looking to backstab and lie and cheat. Backstabbers and liars and cheaters are part of both the NFL and Hollywood, but on Survivor it’s all morphed into one.
So you’re saying people on Survivor are bigger backstabbers and liars than people you’re worked with in Hollywood?
The castaways are more unbalanced, quirky individuals who are trying to beat you every step of the way. You’ll get that in Hollywood as well, but there are still people just starting out and a little insecure. When you step onto the [beach] in Survivor — one guy on the show traveled 20,000 miles around the country to open casting calls, just trying to get on the show. When you step on the beach with him, he’s there for a reason. He knows what he’s trying to accomplish. People in Hollywood who are starting out at the bottom level, they’re still trying to figure it all out. Maybe there is insecurity or jealousy or frustration, but that level of competition hasn’t quite yet reach an intense level. On Survivor, it’s a pretty intense feeling, one that even Hollywood can’t prepare you for.
There’s also a new twist this season, pitting white collar against blue collar against “no collar” contestants.
It’s exactly what you’d expect. We didn’t know about this until we got onto the beach. And then we were wondering, “What do those terms even mean?” It was interesting to see the dynamic. “What does this guy next to me do? We obviously have something in common. What is that? What is it about the employment and the journey that sets ourselves on similar ground?” What you see in the first episode is how each tribe starts to come together, to unite, and it makes for good competition.
Did you tell anyone about your background in the NFL or Hollywood, or did you keep that quiet?
I told them I used to work at an agency and now I’m a writer and producer. I was honest about that, but I’ll leave it at that.
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