While Australian Survivor: Titans v Rebels host and Aussie actor Jonathan LaPaglia has a rugged exterior, the truth is he also has a softer side: the former Love Child star admits he struggled being away from his family while filming the latest season of the hit reality program.
“They came to visit the first couple of seasons [of hosting Survivor],” Jonathan tells TV WEEK. “But not since, as it conflicts with my daughter’s school year. Being away from them really is the toughest part of the job. Missing some of your child’s key milestones is never easy.”
The 54-year-old – the younger brother of Emmy Award-winning actor Anthony LaPaglia – has hosted the show that won a TV WEEK Logie Award in 2023 for Most Outstanding Reality Program for nine seasons, and cites the game’s unpredictability as the reason he keeps returning to the role that sees him spend large blocks of time away from daughter Tilly, 19, and wife Ursula Brooks.
“I come back for the food – that’s a joke,” he says. “Seriously, it’s the unpredictability of the game that keeps me engaged. It truly is a player-driven game that never ceases to amaze me with its infinite twists and turns.”
The Strife star explains that the Titans tribe is made up of players who are at the top of their field, the “overachievers”, whereas the Rebels have forged their own path in life, the “rule breakers”.
“It almost doesn’t matter what we call the tribes, because the players invariably fully embrace their names and go head-to-head to deliver conflict and high [levels of] drama,” he tells.
According to Jonathan, the contestants will have exceptionally difficult terrain to negotiate, the wild Samoan jungle adding to the game’s intensity.
“The weather is extreme,” he says. “The heat was gnarly this year – blisteringly hot and humid most days, but then it can rain a lot and become cold at night, which is no fun when you’re camping on a beach with only a banana leaf for protection.”
Outside of Survivor, Jonathan has been able to sink his teeth into a new television project as co-host of Top Gear Australia. Landing the gig has been a dream come true for the car fanatic.
“I’ve been a gearhead [a devoted care enthusiast] for a long time,” he says. “I’ve even built my own car, and I was a huge fan of the OG [original] Top Gear – so much so that I’d fantasise about being invited as a guest to drive their ‘reasonably priced car’ around their racetrack.
“Sadly, it never happened, so when they asked if I’d like to host the Australian version, I had to pinch myself.”
Jonathan is looking forward to working alongside his friend Beau Ryan – the former NRL footballer who’s now a co-host of The Amazing Race Australia – as well as the host of YouTube channel Mighty Car Mods, Blair “Moog” Joscelyne.
“Beau is the biggest troublemaker,” Jonathan jokes of his mate. “He’s always trying to get me to drink Red Bulls with him. Some days, I feel like my head is about to pop. He really is a terrible influence – I need to get a restraining order.”