Friday, June 1, 2007

A Reality Check With ... John (CBS's "Pirate Master")

John Lakness is a self-described "unapologetic nerd" who taught himself to program computers while in grade school, which got him into plenty of trouble with "hacking, cracking and anarchy." Lakness describes himself as Tarzan dressed in a tuxedo to entertain at a dinner party. A consummate athlete, John takes any physical challenge he can find as a way to stay fit: wrestling, running, swimming and a refusal to drive when cycling is at all possible. He sits down with RealityCheckByGina to talk about being the first one to leave the game & what he might have done differently.

RC: Were you a big fan of pirates growing up? What drew you to Pirate Master?
John: I don’t know about that. Growing up, everyone has a fascination. I got brought into Pirate Master as part of Pirates Magazine. I was writing pirate romance stories & thinks like that, I got into it for a number of reasons. Basically it was like, “Here’s this pretty boy!” The thing about piracy is that it’s such a big field of history. You can spin it any way you want. It was really a way to capture the imagination.

RC: Your job description under your name on the show says Scientist/Exotic Dancer – can you explain that a little further?
John: I was in the quantum electronics department at M.I.T. Quantum electronics is day stuff & obviously, Chippendales shows don’t start at 8am. I find a way to get out there. The physical aspect of getting from one place to another isn’t the hard part – it’s the mental part, going from a cubicle rat to a wild entertainer. I needed a mode of expression.

RC: What were you told going into Pirate Master? Did you not expect it to be so physically demanding?
John: No, I expected a lot! Are you kidding me? I know what a pirate ship was like. Jeez, we didn’t even do close to the amount of work I was expecting. Those girls were tougher than I was, though. It wasn’t the kind of situation that required intense competence on a boat – things like getting those sails working, figure out the trade winds, find food. I wanted to be Black Bart: the quirky, smart, strange guy who works hard & is competent. I was ready to get on a real pirate ship & fire some cannons!

RC: You seemed to do well in the challenge for the treasure. Did you feel that you would be safe from pirate court?
John: Oh, forget about how well I did! When I pulled that treasure out of the water, I thought, “Oh, I am safe!” As soon as Cameron said, “The black team no longer exists,” I just went into a head spin.

RC: Your approach in pirate court was to threaten to take the only compasses the pirates had with you if you were cut adrift. Do you stand by that tactic?
John: There are definitely different ways to leverage. I had very little to go on in terms of what was going to save me. Everyone went into court thinking they were going to vote me off. It’s based on things I can’t really control. I needed to bring out a strong emotion & lay it all out on the line. There might’ve been a better way to leverage the compasses but it might have only worked with professional stockbrokers!

RC: Nobody likes to go out first on these shows. Were you angry or were you accepting of the decision?
John: Well, I guess I knew that I was either going to win or go off first. I felt if the game was slightly in favor of someone like me, then I would win because I played boldly & intensely. I thought, “If I play an extremely bold game & this game is meant for the bold, then I’m going to win! If I sit back & play a weak game, I could sit back & have a 1-in-16 chance.”

RC: Do you think that Joe Don’s days are numbered as captain?
John: At that point on the show, I saw a mentality developing where people had accepted their role as subservient to this guy. As a viewer, I think it’s difficult to understand that it’s more than just people thinking logically about the game. When you’re really in the situation & you live it, this guy isn’t just some reality contestant who gets nominated as captain. He IS the captain. I don’t think things are going to change anytime soon.

RC: What are your future plans?
John: Plans for the future, well, I don’t like to divulge too much about things because the best I can hope for is that I can create excitement.

Pirate Master airs Thursday nights on CBS.
For all your Pirate Master links, check out


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