Stephen Fishbach chats with the infamous player about his new show, Flipped Off

By Stephen Fishbach
April 28, 2012 12:30 PM

A year ago, Survivor super-villain Russell Hantz didn’t know a thing about flipping houses. That makes him an unlikely candidate to star in a new house flipping show, Flipped Off, which premieres Saturday on A&E (10 p.m. ET).

Russell’s basic ignorance about home remodeling provides the show’s comic highlights: he and his brother and business partner Shawn stumble like the Two Stooges through one construction disaster after the next. Real estate agent Kristen Bredehoeft, the lone voice of reason, throws her hands up in frustration.

What Russell Hantz does know is how to build alliances and manipulate his opponents. As he and Shawn jockey for dominance, Russell resorts to psychological tactics from his Survivor days to outwit and outplay his brother.

In one telling moment, Russell drills through a water line – but it’s Shawn who cleans up the mess. There are also cameos from Russell’s ex-wife Melanie and his mom Meemaw, as the drama of house flipping overflows the lot and spills into Russell’s personal life.

I spoke to Russell about how Survivor had prepped him for the even more cutthroat world of real estate.

Why flip houses?

I started thinking about it, and some of the richest people in the world are in real estate, so why don’t I do that? Here I come, Mr. Trump.

How does Survivor prepare you for house flipping?
Survivor taught me never to give up – whether you’re facing problems in the game or selling a house. There are things you go through on Survivor that I thought I never could have done. But by pushing forward, you realize you can do anything if you put your mind to it. It seems like a simple cliché until you actually do it.

Does your Survivor fame help you sell houses?
People say why would you buy a house from Russell Hantz. But why wouldn’t you? I take pride in the business side of the things I do, and I want everything to be perfect.

Are you and Shawn close?
I can get aggravated with him, he can get aggravated with me, and at the end of the day we’ll still get chicken wings together.

On the show we watch your relationship with Melanie suffer. Was it hard to open up to the cameras about your personal life?
I discussed all that with Melanie and the kids beforehand, and everyone was okay with it. But it’s tough, especially when I have to watch what Melanie had to say. It’s harsh – but she’s saying how she felt at the time. We’re just living a life right now, and at the same time the cameras are rolling.

Overall, has Survivor helped or hurt your life?
I don’t think I’ve had enough time yet to answer that question. Right now, I can tell you, I don’t regret anything that I’ve done, in my personal life or the game of Survivor. Later on, three or four years down the road, I might start regretting it. But right now, I’m fine.