Survivor

EXCLUSIVE: Just before filming Survivor, host Jonathan LaPaglia and his family were experiencing a personal tragedy

''That was a really tough, tough time for us.''

By Faye Couros
Survivor isn't a game for the faint of heart.
It takes intelligence, foresight, and resilience to make it through every obstacle and year in, year out, fans of the show sit on the edge of their couch as contestants backstab and underdogs rise
But one figure whose legacy on the show surpasses every star to step on the island is its host, Jonathan LaPaglia.
Ahead of the show's new series Survivor: Blood V Water, which will see family members join as teams and competitors, JLP exclusively tells TV WEEK the new dynamic changes things.
"It complicates an already complicated game and that lends itself to more conflict and more drama," he asserts.
"You start the game with a loved one and on the surface, that seems like that would be a huge advantage and it is on some level, right? Because this is someone that you can completely trust. And so that's huge in a game where trust is the most valuable commodity.
"However, there are certain, you know, drawbacks to that. One is that your loved one knows you very well. And so, they know all your weaknesses and fears, and they can use that against you," he warns.
"It complicates an already complicated game." (Image: Ten)
With former Survivor couple Sam Gash and Mark Wales and the show's honorary queen Sandra Diaz-Twine competing with her daughter Alanna Twine, there will be some epic moments with high emotional stakes.
But when JLP thinks about his own family and who he would like to compete with, it's clear he has thought about it and if forced to choose between his wife Ursula Brooks and his daughter Tilly, the latter is his front runner.
"My wife and I probably wouldn't do so well… we don't have any problem getting into robust discussion disagreements, and we had a couple of players do just that, and it doesn't work account well," says JLP.
"With my daughter, I think we are pretty similar in how we approach things. You kind of need to be on the same page, particularly if it comes to gameplay. So, I think my daughter and I would be okay."
JLP would choose to compete with his daughter. (Image: Ten)
However, even though he would play well with Tilly after watching a father-daughter duo navigate the repercussions of one of them getting voted out, JLP felt that "cut deep."
"I would have trouble overcoming that. Because then you start playing from an emotional point of view," he says.
Jonathan married his wife Ursula in 1998 and welcomed their daughter Tilly a few years later, and they have remained steadfast in keeping their family life protected from Hollywood despite buying a home there in 2000.
The Survivor host, who is based in the US with his family, jokes that they're "terrible at networking" and prefer spending dinner together every night than premieres and parties.
"We value that family unit we spend a lot of time together; we always make sure that we spend almost all our meals together. That's like really important for us is to take time out for the day and sit down and celebrate meals together," says The Slap star.
JLP with his wife of over two decades, Ursula. (Image: Getty)
Recently the tight-knit family confronted one of their biggest hurdles ever when Ursula's dad tragically passed away in Australia.
With COVID travel restrictions in place, Jonathan wasn't able to be with his wife as he was in quarantine, and Ursula couldn't get home to her dad.
Looking back on that time, JLP explained how much their unfortunate situation impacted their lives.
"My wife's father suddenly passed while I was in quarantine in Australia to do a show, that was really… that was tough for us being separated, and she couldn't get a flight to Australia.
"Even if she could, she'd have to quarantine two weeks while she was grieving. That was a really tough, tough time for us," he shares.
"[We] just kind of pulled together and really supported each other through it, but that was challenging."
JLP playing soccer on the beach with Tilly. (Image: Instagram)
The loved-up couple is also facing a more bittersweet change that every parent dreads and looks forward to – Tilly, now 17, is in her final years of school and is looking at colleges.
As for her future career plans, it seems the teen may have taken some inspiration from her dad, and no, it's not what you're expecting.
To JLP's relief, she "doesn't really have any inclination" to get into show business; instead, she wants to become a neuroscientist.
"I used to be a doctor, so maybe there's some chip off the old block," he ponders.

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