Ryan Thomason

The Colony Interviews: George and DeVille

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Today we’ll hear what George and DeVille had to say about their time on The Colony (Discovery Channel, Tuesday nights!) The second season is winding down, and it’s been great to hear what the colonist had to say about their time and experiences on the show. I want to thank DeVille and George for taking the time to answer my questions and for everyone at Discovery Channel (Especially you Reenie) for helping get this setup! Alright, go ahead and read now, I’ll quit bugging you with the setup.

WPR) How would you describe your experience being on The Colony?

George: My time on the show was probably the most stressful 2 months of my life. I tend to take my work pretty seriously, and it was hard to build things without the right tools. The lack of sleep and food made it really hard to focus sometimes, so we would end up making a lot of mistakes. Luckily there were never any major injuries.

DeVille: It was similar to growing up as a kid in Louisiana between birth and 12 years old.

WPR) What was your favorite build?

George: My favorite build was probably the forge. I built a small fireplace bellows in high school shop class, and it was fun to do it again on a larger scale. Building the forge allowed us to build other tools as well, like crowbars, a cold chisel, and an alligator harpoon out of rebar. Unfortunately the crowbars never made it on camera, and the harpoon was stolen by intruders before we ever got a chance to use it. I also enjoyed making the rudder system for the fan boat.

DeVille: My favorite job was probably building the shower arrangement. The most important one was the cistern for rain water containment. The one I concentrated the most on was being in charge of securing the wind mill pole so that nothing short of the building collapsing would bring it down.

WPR) Do you keep in touch with any of your other Colonist?
George: For the last six weeks I’ve been driving across country visiting my fellow colonists. I started in Las Vegas, visiting Sian and her boyfriend who is an air force officer stationed in Nevada. I stayed with Michel and his family in Denver and Amber and her Husband in Montana. I got pulled over for speeding in Iowa as I was trying to get to Detroit in time to watch the show with Reno. The cop was nice enough to let me off with a warning. It turns out that a lot of law enforcement and other first responders are fans of the show. Sally and I watched the show together outside of Boston, and she also gave me a tour of her mechanic shop, “Foxy Auto and Truck Repair”. Despite the friction during the shoot we share a bond that is hard to explain. Next I’m headed to Vermont to see John C. from last year’s show.

DeVille: Yes, we stay in touch mainly on facebook. Michel and Amber stay in touch the most by calling or texting. Reno has called a couple times. I do appreciate the kids staying in touch with the old man.

WPR) It looked like leadership and security was an issue for a long time, why did it take so long (30 something days) to finally get addressed?

George: Security was always an issue but there was only so much we could do at any one time. There were a few people at the beginning that felt security should be the priority, but the majority felt food and water should come first.

At the beginning we were also hampered by only having one hammer and a few dozen small nails, which made it hard to secure 3 doors and 20 windows. We had to rip rotten 2×4 studs out of wrecked buildings. I suspect the shortage of construction supplies was planned by the producers, to keep us vulnerable and test our ingenuity. The colonists were smart and skilled enough that if we had had time and the right materials we could have made the place bulletproof in a day.

We were also under camera surveillance 24 hours a day, so when we would secure one area the attackers always knew. They could then plan to hit another weak point, or use an arsonist or a pregnant lady to try to draw us out.

The layout of the compound was also much more open than last season and therefore harder to secure. We had to work outside on most of the large builds, and had to spend several hours a day gathering food in the trees and water from the canal. The best we could do was try to stay on guard, but we were so hungry and sleep deprived that it didn’t always work. It didn’t usually come across on the show, but we were working about 14 hours a day, and there was never enough time to do everything we needed to do. Early on we talked about assigning one or two people to be full time lookouts, but that would have cut our seven productive workers down to six or five.

As far as the leadership question goes, I think the colonists were chosen because of their strong personalities. None of us were really followers, but because everyone was so individualistic no one was really anxious to volunteer as the leader either. Eventually the need for an organizer became obvious, and Sally ended up being drafted, somewhat reluctantly, into that role.

DeVille: We were usually working hard on our individual chores and trying to find food. There was a little struggle for individual recognition or position.

WPR) How hard was it to keep a mindset that this wasn’t totally real?

George: t was sort of like the infamous Zimbardo prison experiment. The psychologists cancelled the test after only a few days because the test subjects playing guards started becoming sadistic and the prisoners became depressed and paranoid. Our experiment lasted almost 2 months, with the added factors of starvation and constant threat of attack.

In the back of your mind you knew it was just a TV show, that they weren’t going to actually kill you and that eventually you would be going home. But when people broke in you knew that if you didn’t fight them off they would steal your food and you wouldn’t eat tonight, or maybe tomorrow either. I got pepper sprayed, and tossed around by a guy that I later found out was a former cage fighter. That seemed pretty real.

DeVille: The situation did sort of become your life. The only thing that separated it from real life was the fact that we knew there was an end. Not as lenghty as Reno’s but thought I’d send it over as there are some nuggets you might like.

WPR) What was the first thing you ate after the show was done?

George: The whole time on the show I kept thinking about those little chocolate donuts. Right after I got home I was getting gas for my car, and It dawned on me that gas stations always have those little packs of donuts, so I ran inside and bought some. I was so fixated on the donuts that I accidentally ripped the hose out of the gas pump as I drove away. The attendant charged me 75 dollars to repair the hose, and as I was eating them I thought to myself “that’s $12.50 per donut. Totally worth it.”

DeVille: I really cannot remember exactly. I know the smell of the craw dad at the after party in New Orleans turned my appetite off. I really couldn’t eat much for almost a month.

WPR) Did you have any kind of culture shock after going back to the real world?

George: Access to clean water is a big issue in developing countries, and after being on the colony I understood why. Just being able to take shower every day or wash your clothes was something I’ll never take for granted again. Living in one big room with 9 people was hard too. It’s nice to have privacy again.

DeVille: The fact that I was so skinny did make me self-conscious. I usually take 5 or 10 minute showers and for about a month I found myself taking 20 minute showers.

WPR) Has anything about you changed that you owe to your time on The Colony?

George: I’ve realized how few material possessions you actually need to survive and live comfortably. We all went without phones or internet access for 2 months and it was actually kind of nice. I’ve been on this road trip for 5 weeks now and I didn’t bring my computer.

DeVille: My compassion and patience with my fellow man has increased.

WPR) What was the hardest thing you had to do/went through while on The Colony?

George: My single worst day was dragging the rotten pig carcasses back to the compound. They kept sliding off and the boat trailer we used to carry them was really heavy. I was the most out of shape of anyone on the pig detail, and I kept having to set down the trailer to rest. Louisiana was so damned hot.

Also the lack of food was hard. I lost 34 lbs in the first six weeks, and Jim lost 37. But we were still doing heavy construction, 10 or 12 hours a day. Sometimes you would have to lay your body weight on the power drill because you didn’t have the strength in your arms to push it through the metal..

DeVille: The hardest was the constipation episode — lack of food and no hot clean shower and clothes.

WPR) Which Colonist surprised you the most with their change/turnaround during the experiment?

George: When Becka first introduced herself as a model I was a little worried about having someone with no practical skills in the group. But when I clubbed a snake the second day I held it down with a stick and handed her that big knife. She didn’t say “eeyeew” but just sawed off its head without hesitation. Throughout the rest of the experiment she was always enthusiastic, hard working, and totally fearless.

Sian had no construction or outdoor skills, but turned out to have a wealth of scientific knowledge. She designed our water filtration system, built a solar oven, and her pilot experience helped with the design of the air boat. She also cooked about 80% of our meals. Food and water are two of the most important factors for survival, but she was rarely shown because a boiling pot isn’t very interesting visually.

At first Reno struck me as a hipster city boy. I never would have thought he could drive a tractor, let alone build a windmill.

DeVille was a big surprise. He seemed strong and capable from the very beginning. The surprise was when I found out he was 70 years old. I don’t think most men in their 40’s could have done what he did on a daily basis.

DeVille: Probably Amber who appeared to be rough and unpolished but was very well informed and smart. Michel came from a polished background but was able to do his part in the wild.

WPR) Would you do it all again?

George: I would do it again in a second, but they would probably never ask any of us again. Now we would know what to expect.

DeVille: My family had a bard that burnt down, causing the loss of some animals when I was between the ages of 8 and 10. I used mules and later a tractor on our farm at around that age. I had similar experiences in that Colony that brought back bad memories. Twice is enough for me. Thanks for the experience.

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