The notorious Jerri Manthey is back for “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains” and tells Zap2it, “I’ve learned to embrace my inner villain over the years.”
Manthey, 39, is wearing good-guy white at the “Survivor” party Saturday night (Jan. 9) at the CBS Television City studios in Los Angeles as part of the Television Critics Association Press Tour.
As viewers, we first met Manthey in the show’s second season set in the Australian Outback and again a few seasons later for the “All-Stars” version. CBS recently announced that she was one of the 20 contestants returning for the show’s 20th season/10th anniversary, joining a team of “villains.”
During the party, Manthey happily chats with us and is open, charming, smiling … and we’re not letting our guard down for one second.
“Oh c’mon, we all know that villains have a lot more fun,” she says. “Knowing you’re going to play with a bunch of other villains kind of levels the playing field because the way I was looking at it was, if they all did something bad enough to be a villain, those are the people I want on my team not on the other side.”
Some of the scoundrel persona is an act: She’s an actress after all. But also, Manthey has come to terms with and accepted how reality TV needs to create a character on top of your real personality and is playing to that.
“This was my whole point at the All-Stars is that television is about entertaining people, and I gave them a lot of material to work with,” she claims. “So, so what I was turned into a villain? I was a notable character on the show.”
Every good villain deserves a foe, a shining example of humanity’s goodness and fair play. In the Outback and during “All-Stars,” it was Texan Colby Donaldson, who’s playing with the “heroes” team for his third, ultimate showdown with Manthey. He’s also at the “Survivor” party (and talked to Zap2it’s Rick Porter about needing redemption), ironically wearing a bad-guy black cowboy hat. Did these two plan to wear reverse-role outfits?
“I was really excited to see Colby coming back,” says Manthey with a broad smile. “We just had a few words over there [at the party entrance] that were pretty interesting. He planted a big wet kiss on my mouth and he’s looking really good in that cowboy hat. He said he wore it for me.”
She’s more ambivalent about the show’s most famous villain and the first-ever “Survivor” winner.
“I was hoping Richard Hatch would be [in Samoa], but honestly, I’m kind of glad he wasn’t. That guy’s scary. Competing against Richard Hatch would have scared the pants off of me,” she says.
The Prodigal Villain Revisits a Changed Game
It’s not a vendetta against Colby or any other contestant that has brought her back to the game though.
“I knew myself well enough to know that given the opportunity, if I didn’t take it, I would spend the rest of my life wondering what could have happened,” she admits. “I also realized that as a personal challenge, I needed to prove that ‘Survivor’ could not beat me. I really felt the ‘All-Stars’ got the best of me, and that’s not who I am. I’m a lot stronger than that, so it was a personal challenge as well.”
Additional challenges came from how far the game has evolved since she first played it.
“We never had immunity idols or Exile Island or any of that stuff,” Manthey says. “So knowing going into a new season where all those things were possible, that was intimidating to me. I didn’t fully understand the immunity idol and what that meant. And watching Season 19 and seeing Russell [Hantz] find three of them without even any clue, I’m like, ‘What is going on?'”
She won’t, however, divulge what new or even old elements we’ll see this season, which she declares “the best season ever.” She prepared herself as best she could, taking part in a boot camp called Survivor Challenge and doing yoga to work on her physical and mental game.
“I’ve learned a lot,” she says. “I definitely feel like I’ve come full circle and I’m back to the original Jerri, ready to kick some ass.”
“Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains” kicks off with its two-hour season premiere on Thursday, Feb. 11 on CBS.
Photo credits: Getty Images