Monday, September 13, 2010

N.C. 'Survivor': I'm no 'old fogey'

Jane Bright had been trying for 10 years to get her shot at "Survivor" fame, so when she finally got the call that producers were interested, she wasn't about to let a little weather get in her way.

"The hardest thing was actually getting to the casting, because that's when the ice storm hit here back in January," says Bright, who lives in the tiny town of Jackson Springs, near Pinehurst. "I told the producer, 'I'll tell you what. I've got a John Deere tractor, it's got big ol' tires, I know that tractor will make it up there (to the airport). My neighbor just busted out laughing. They were like, 'Jane, you gonna drive your tractor?' I said, 'If I have to. It's real important. I HAVE to be there.'"

The 56-year-old dog trainer, who was born and raised in Gaffney, S.C., eventually made it to the audition (no tractor necessary) and landed a spot in "Survivor: Nicaragua," the 21st installment of CBS's long-running hit reality competition. Bright is one of three contestants this season who have strong ties to N.C.

Q. What’s Jackson Springs like?
It’s a blink. We have a crossroads. We have a church on one side of the crossroads, and a little tiny -- and I mean a tiny -- park on the other side of the crossroads. And we have a community center and a post office. That’s it. … It’s real rural, and this is where Pinehurst was originally supposed to be. But anyway, I like it out here.

Q. Before you got on the show, what’s the craziest thing you’d ever done in your life?
Probably rappelling off the side of a cliff at Kings Mountain. I had this guy who when we were in college he talked me into going up there, and he literally had to pry my fingers off the side of the mountain to get me to grab the rope. Once I did it, I was fine. But that initial letting go -- I don’t know how far up we were, but it was very high up. The other guy that went with us, he never did do it. He panicked, he just couldn’t do it.

Q. What was your motivation for applying to the show?
I’ve been applying for like 10 years, ever since that first show appeared on TV (and) a friend of mine called me up and he said, “I have never seen anything that I thought you couldn’t do and you need to go try to apply for that.” So he and I, we were applying for a couple years, never got picked, never got selected, nothing. And I’m not one to quit, so if it’s in my mind to do something, I keep doing it until I get it. I mean, I’d probably 90 years old and still applying.

Q. What was your strategy going into the competition?
I know I can do things, and I know I can fish, I know I can hunt, I know I’m not afraid to go grab a crab and stuff like that. My whole procedure was try to make as many friends as you can get, hang low, if you have to ride somebody’s coattails, do it. That never ended up happening. I couldn’t make an alliance with any strong guy to save my life; they thought I was weak as water. And I proved them wrong. And I think some of them regret not making an alliance with me in the beginning, but that’s all I can say about that. But I knew I was gonna take care of them, kind of be like the momma hen and show them ... I’m valuable (in certain ways).

Q. What was your initial reaction when you found out the theme for the season was going to be old vs. young?
Oh, I was crushed. I was like “I don’t want to be with these old fogeys. Noooooooo, these young kids will whip our asses!” (Laughing.) I mean, I know we had some strong people on our team, but the youth have such vigor and such vitality and such energy -- to me that goes a long way. I was kind of crushed because I was hoping to pick some little studly dude and be like his momma so he’ll like carry me along a little bit, and then it ended up being all the old dudes together and I’m looking around, I’m going OK that guy looks really good, maybe ride his coattails (but he didn’t want to have nothing to do with nobody.

Q. What would you do with a million dollars if you won it?
Pay off my farm, get my child through college, and build a big building barn where it can be a multifunctional building where I can have the kids train their dogs in the summertime without having to be outside in a hundred degree weather (she runs a summer camp on her farm). ... I also need a place I can store my hay so I can get more money for it in the wintertime when nobody’s got any hay.

Q. One thing that really comes across in the little bio video of you that appears on CBS’s website is that you’re young at heart, and that you think people tend to underestimate your endurance. Do you think it’s that you’re in really good physical shape literally, or do you think it’s just a raw, natural toughness you’ve developed by virtue of the fact that you don’t live a pampered life?

Well, I’ve never lived a pampered life. I mean, I wake up real early. I never sit down ... and I’ve never been fat, OK, I’m always active. I’ll eat in five minutes, and I’m out to go and do something else. I look at it like every minute of every day, there’s something that needs to get done. And that’s just the way I am. I don’t take many days off. ... (The experience of being on the show) is harder than what you think, but I am a survivor and I truly could have survived out there with what we were given. I could have. I mean, it’d been nice if there’d been a little more fruit and stuff like that, but even though it was hard and there were times I was freezing cold, shoot -- it was not that bad. I’m a die-hard. Rain, sleet, snow, ice, whatever, I’m like the postal person: I’m still getting out there and doing it.