Lisa Whelchel will be part of the cast for the “Survivor: Philippines” show this fall. That would seem out of character on two fronts.
Whelchel is best known for playing the snobbish, wealthy Blair Warner on “The Facts of Life,” an NBC sitcom that ran from 1979-1988. It is impossible to imagine the spoiled and self-centered Blair getting her hands dirty enough to struggle to survive as a castaway on an island with little of the amenities we take for granted.
After “The Facts of Life” was cancelled, Whelchel gave up showbiz to marry a pastor, start a family and home school her three children. A devout Christian, she became an author and speaker on the issues of faith and rearing children. It is hard to imagine the 49-year-old wanting to take part in the ruggedness of “Survivor.”
However, she gave her reasons for wanting to be on “Survivor” to Yahoo! TV while on location during filming. “I’m a huge, huge fan and have been from Season 1,” Lisa said. “I haven’t missed an episode. I love the game and was born to play it. I never wanted to do reality TV, but this doesn’t feel like reality TV. This feels like having an adventure that I’ve always wanted to have. Even if this weren’t filmed, I would want to do it. It just happened that it’s filmed and put on television and I used to be on television.”
Whelchel has always been someone who was willing to go against conventional thinking. She had the opportunity to do an episode on “Facts” where she would be the first one of the core group of girls to lose her virginity. This was one of the biggest assignments on the show and would have been a ratings grabber. But she turned down the chance because she didn’t want to set a bad example for young girls or promote the idea of sex out of wedlock. Whelchel was one of the most beautiful girls on television, but she did not like exploiting her sex appeal.
It was obvious to those of us who considered “Facts” our favorite show that Lisa had tremendous comedic talent. She could pull off some of the funniest facial expressions, and was also skilled at slapstick humor as well as subtle and self-effacing humor. Her decision to give up performing was a great loss to all of us who appreciated her vast array of talents.
Lisa wrote on her website about her time on “Survivor.” As reported by the huffington post, she said, “I don’t think ‘fun’ is the word I would use to describe my experience. Those days on the island were the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It pushed me to my extreme limits physically, mentally, spiritually, and especially, emotionally. I’m so very grateful for the opportunity and I’m so glad I did it but I think it’s like childbirth…I may need to put a few years behind me and some perspective in front of me before I would ever consider doing it again.”
Whelchel found that the demands of Hollywood often conflicted with her committed, born-again Christian faith. So she walked away from it, except for a “Facts” reunion show in 2001 and a couple other appearances at award shows. For those of us who have missed seeing her, we will have the Wednesday, Sept. 19, seasonal premier of “Survivor” to look forward to. Now that her youngest child has been homeschooled and is in college, we hope she will consider bringing her gifts back to television on a more regular basis.