Tuesday, May 1, 2007

A Reality Check With ... Mookie Lee (CBS's Survivor: Fiji)

Born in Seoul, Korea, Mookie Lee moved to Storrs, Connecticut at the age of three and then was raised in Northbrook, Illinois, for the majority of his teenage years. In 2003, Lee received his Bachelor's Degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he studied Actuarial Science and Finance. He was also a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity. Lee is currently a program manager at an internet loan company. He enjoys traveling, playing competitive sports (particularly basketball and volleyball) and spending time with his friends and family. Mookie takes time out of his busy schedule to talk about being a villain & bullying Yao Man.

RC: What was the audition process like for “Survivor”?
Mookie: I was actually found on
MySpace. A casting director sent me a message, asking if I was interested. I called back to make sure it wasn’t a joke. They sent me out there for a couple weeks. I did have to submit a tape last minute though.

RC: How quickly did hunger & starvation set in once you arrived at the Moto camp?
Mookie: I think they didn’t show it but it was like day 1, 110 degrees, and we completely forgot there was no water boiling. It literally hit us the first day. Thirst was the worst part.

RC: How did you stay hopefully & positive when Moto was losing challenge after challenge?
Mookie: It’s like a mind game. You think that you can’t possibly lose every single challenge. In the back of your mind, you’re thinking, “The producers have to put in one where we’ll win”. But then, you keep losing! You don’t give up, but you need to start strategizing.

RC: Were you happy to be part of the 4 Horsemen when the tribes were switched up or did you do what you needed to do to survive?
Mookie: I liked the 4 Horsement, I liked it when it was just the guys. You didn’t have to worry about what you were saying. With the girls, you had to listen to their issues. When you’re starving & you’re thirsty, you get kinda pissed off. At the end of the day, it was a choice that I had to make but at the time, it was the right choice.

RC: You obviously wouldn’t go through people’s personal things in real life … we HOPE! Did you feel guilty for going through Yao Man’s bag to find the immunity idol?
Mookie: Yeah, I got so much crap for that for doing that. It’s happened before in previous seasons. If you’re smart like I was (to some extent) I buried my idol somewhere else . I don’t feel guilty. Yao Man is the favorite of the season, everyone loves the guy. He’s coming through in challenges, he’s a nice guy, he’s funny. Most girls I talk to think he’s cute. They all think I’m the villain. It was blown out of proportion.

RC: Whose idea was that?
Mookie: It was my idea. I was laying under the tree with Dreamz thinking of ways I could stay in the game. I approached Alex with the idea. They kind of blamed Alex for the blackmailing thing but he’s the lawyer so I just let him talk.

RC: Were you surprised to have been voted out?
Mookie: Once everyone found out what happened & that big tribal council happened when Edgardo got voted out, we knew we would go 1-by-1. I knew it would possibly be me. There was talk around camp that they wanted Alex out because I was hurt, tired, and had no food. They felt I wouldn’t have a chance of winning immunity. I was ready for it either way.

RC: Would you say that you were accurately portrayed on the show?
Mookie: I think I like to have fun but the fun parts I had were shown right after Yao Man did something. They cast me as a villain which, in some ways, I can be. Whatever is good for tv. People are surprised to find out I’m a lot nicer in person.

RC: Who are you pulling for to win?
Mookie: I’d love Alex to win! One of the 4 Horsemen. And Yao Man – he was always giving me food, water. He’s a real stand-up classy guy. When I think back to it, he was always in the background & nobody was thinking about it – that’s how he made it this far.

RC: What kinds of things are you up to now in Chicago?
Mookie: I’m back to work at the loan company I was working at. I started my own charity,
Active Chicago (site currently under construction but up again very soon). I always wanted to start a charity because I never trusted where my money went. That’s basically for underprivileged children sponsoring them for athletics & other activities.

Survivor airs Thursdays at 8pm EST on CBS

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