The Journal Gazette
Monday, August 06, 2018 1:00 am

'Castaway' contestants left on deserted island

Jay Bobbin | Zap2it

Which movie did some of ABC's “Castaways” run across just before they went to their islands?

The Tom Hanks drama “Cast Away.” Really.

That film is echoed by circumstances in the unscripted series premiering Tuesday. Less a competition than “Survivor,” the show lands 12 age-ranging individuals in an Indonesian paradise separately, leaving them on their own unless or until they encounter the others. As their back stories are told via flashbacks, they choose to wait for rescue or quit as they use the limited resources at hand.

“For as long as I can remember, everyone's asked the question, 'What would you do if you were stranded on a deserted island?,'” says “Castaways” showrunner Grant Kahler. “It was sometimes hard to explain to (the participants) that an extreme situation like this may provide clarity in their everyday lives back home. I don't know that anyone thought it would be as intense as it actually was.”

The first castaway viewers meet is Robbie Gibbons, a food-addicted, then-seriously overweight gym teacher from Birmingham, Alabama. “Before I was dropped in the ocean,” he recalls for this story, “and had to swim a mile to my little cove, I had to spend two days in a hotel room while they were getting everyone in. There was a TV, and every channel was in the language of Indonesia except for two that spoke English. One had a soccer game; the other had 'Cast Away,' no lie.”

Aspiring Nashville, Tennessee-based country-music artist Kenzi Whittington is the first castaway Gibbons finds. “No one coached me on whether I should turn right or turn left or get in the water or whatever,” he says. “I could have just sat there the whole time, and I chose to make a move – and all of a sudden, I crossed paths with Kenzi. And thank goodness. Being so alone, and not being a survivalist, I wasn't prepared for any of it.”

Whittington maintains “it's so funny” to look back at now: “It was really confusing, because I was in such a beautiful place and I felt so awful physically there. I wondered if it was worth it, and now that I'm back in my everyday routine, I think it was so worth it. What a life-changing thing. It's crazy to see familiar faces and things like starting a fire, and it's almost like I'm reliving it. It's really emotional for me to watch the footage.”

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