Survivor

Steve 'Commando' Willis has found his softer side on Australian Survivor

I’m more connected to my family!

By Cynthia Wang

For nine seasons on The Biggest Loser, Steve "Commando" Willis assumed the role of a stern, militant personal trainer who pushed contestants to the limit.

But now, through island life as part of the Champions tribe on Australian Survivor, the 42-year-old reveals he has done some work on his own inner fitness.

"I got to know myself more," he tells TV WEEK. "I think where I am now, having four children, having done The Biggest Loser and Survivor and all the things that interest me, it's all about being as grateful as you can be."

And what he's grateful for most is family: partner Michelle Bridges, 47, their son Axel, two, and older children Brianna, 19, Ella, 10, and seven-year-old Jack – so much so, the army veteran broke down when he received letters from home after a particularly brutal reward challenge.

"I think that, in itself, was beautiful," he says. "Because I was feeling, I was being, and embracing my emotion and not worrying what the cameras were capturing."

Steve broke down when he received gifts from his family.
Steve broke down when he received gifts from his family.

Steve has brought that vulnerable side home, even though he knows his kids love him unconditionally.

"I feel I'm more connected to them and they pick up on that energy," he says. "The bond between me and the kids has strengthened."

That also applies to his connection with Michelle – his former co-star on The Biggest Loser and partner of five years – and his approach to what he calls "the little gestures of what it means to be in a relationship".

"You know, the 'I love you,' just to grab the hand and give it a bit of a squeeze as you go by, a hug in the morning or at any point in time just to reiterate through some physical connection that 'I'm there by your side,'" he explains.

Despite their happiness, don't expect the family to get any bigger.

"Four kids, that's enough!" Steve declares. "It's quite full on. And you know, fantastic, but it definitely keeps you on your toes."

He adds that with his personal training and Michelle's keynote talks, "We're both getting older, and I think, for us, playing more the role of mentors is the stage of life we're at."

Steve with his son, Axel.
Steve with his son, Axel.

Steve says he relied on a different kind of family on the show, recalling how his friendship with Mat Rogers, Shane Gould and Sharn Coombes kept him going during the game.

"We were all probably the older ones within our tribe," he says. "We've lived some life and we understand that there's a number of levels and layers to playing the game of Survivor or through life."

Steve says the bond between them was "profound," calling his time on the show "an amazing experience."

Though he's grateful for such incredible friendships, Survivor does involve the occasional blindside and back-stab. Steve maintains he handled those instances in an honourable way.

"I think I'm quite upfront with how I strategise," Steve says. "It's a game and unfortunately we've got to vote off certain people, and my reasons for voting people off, I think in the game of Survivor, they're quite justified. But, hey, everyone's got a different perspective."

We can't wait to see what Steve does next, when the show returns!

Australian Survivor airs Monday and Tuesday, 7:30pm, on Network Ten.

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