Meet the 'Survivor 43' Cast! Cody Assenmacher Hopes His "Crazy Hawaiian Energy" Will Make Him a Shield

The 35-year-old elevator salesman is ready for plenty of ups and downs, and will be on the hunt for advantages.

Cody Assenmacher is no stranger to island life, having moved from the plains of Iowa to Hawaii years ago. His plan for playing is outlined by some of his previous favorite players: Have fun, compete, and provide. The 35-year-old knows his wildcard image may draw a lot of attention, both good and bad. But he speculates his gameplay will be just like his hair: Relationship building in the front and wildly strategic in the back.

Read on for my interview with Cody, and make sure to check in with every day for interviews with this season's contestants and other tidbits. Survivor 43 premieres on September 21 with a special two-hour premiere on CBS. 

Related: Meet the Full Cast of Survivor 43

Interview with Cody from Survivor 43

Why are you here on Survivor?
I am here to play Survivor to win a million dollars! I live in Hawaii, and it's sure expensive. So I could use the money. And let's be honest, coming out here with nothing for nothing would be preposterous. I can do that in my backyard with some burgers and beers, and when the mosquitoes start to bite, I can drive home and sleep in my own bed. (Laughs.) So my driving force is the cash prize.

What's your history with Survivor?
I remember when Survivor first aired. My neighbors would come to my house and insist we change the channel to CBS and watch this show Survivor. Because people were chasing chickens, and it's something we could relate to coming from a small town in Iowa. I did quit watching. But during the pandemic, I became a binge watcher and watched multiple episodes. And through watching it, I was like, "I have the skills to participate and win this game."

Give me one Survivor winner and one non-winner you identify with the most.
One winner, which is probably a common answer, and maybe cliche, but it's Tony. I think Tony has the fundamentals of the game of Survivor in his strategy: 1. Have fun, 2. Compete, and 3. Just provide. Whether it be comic relief when times are tough or helping out around the fire. I think he holds the values of Survivor in his strategy, and clearly, he is good at the game because he's done well for himself. (Laughs.)

The two guys I can think of that didn't win that are relatable would be somebody like Ozzy or Malcolm. Both those guys were very competitive, very social, and had a lot of fun playing the game. That's the beauty of Survivor. There is a safety net where, if you fall short of that million dollars, you're gonna leave with a lot of fond memories and experiences and probably come out of the game a better person than when you came into it.

What's your favorite moment in Survivor history?
I think some of my favorite memories of Survivor are the challenges when people are eating some of the gnarly foods. (Laughs.) Whether it's an egg that has been partially grown into a chicken, a pile of worms, or whatever it may be. The ability of the players to put down some of the food that looks nasty– I can't imagine the textures and the smell–is absolutely incredible. There are memories of people eating those things that I was getting sick just looking at from a TV perspective. I can't imagine them standing in front of it smelling and tasting it.

I was a huge fan of Fear Factor. I was always just like, "Oh, wow, I don't know how they do it." I've eaten some gross stuff as a kid being just a knucklehead. But I don't know if I can do it. Some people are swallowing it whole! I was sick to my stomach. (Laughs.) I don't know if it's much better to have a whole worm in your stomach. But those facial expressions crack me up.

What's the one life experience that you feel has prepared you the most for the game?
I'm from Iowa, and I've moved around a lot. I've had the ability, and I've been blessed, to have traveled and seen some places. But I think the one thing that will help me in the game of Survivor is my transition from the mainland to Hawaii. Hawaii is a unique place. It's beautiful. It's gorgeous with the aloha spirit, and everybody in the culture is something that is fantastic.

But living in Hawaii and visiting Hawaii are two different things. And there is a stereotype that the locals don't necessarily like when people come to their island and start working there. You have to earn their trust. Moving to Hawaii put me really out of my element. I never lived by the ocean, never been in a tropical environment, never had the cuisine that they eat there. I think being able to adapt quickly to the change in culture, people, and food, will allow me to really adapt here to the game of Survivor. Because being able to relate to anybody is very important. And that experience of moving to Hawaii did that. And that will also help me because that island lifestyle, and the things I've learned in Hawaii, will be helpful here in Fiji.

What excites you the most about this new era of Survivor?
Obviously, Survivor has changed. And change is inevitable. Embrace the change! I'm excited for the pace of play. There is no time in this fast-paced game to dwell on bad decisions. I mean, they're gonna be made all the time. I'm a believer that you don't have to be right all the time; you just have to be right 51% of the time. I mean, Vegas was built on those odds. In a game that is played this quickly, you have to be able to just play it as if every conversation, every Tribal, and every challenge, were in a row. The speed of the game is going to be a lot of fun.

And I think coming in at 35 and looking at the rest of the competitors, I found I'm probably in the top quartile age-wise. (Laughs.) And I think that's going to be advantageous because, in a game that comes as quick, it's important to also be level-headed. So that levelheadedness will allow me to sift through the bull [expletive] and stay within my lanes in between the ditches to make the right decisions as I navigate through to the final jury.

What do you think people will perceive you as?
You know, it's going to be interesting. I came in wearing a mullet with some lightning bolts in the side of my hair, and it may be perceived as attention-seeking or crazy. It may just put a big target on my back. But the reality is that's just who I am. This is Cody. This is the style that I've always had. I don't always wear lightning bolts. But on special occasions, I did all the time when I was a kid.

But I think they're gonna perceive me as the crazy Hawaiian. They'll hopefully take my big energy and use it as their shield through the game. I don't want to be sitting on the back burner and get drug along. I don't want to be a middle-level player. I want to be somebody completely different. And I think my big personality will allow me to be a shield. And my aloha, laid-back spirit will also have them underestimating me. They won't realize that in the background, [like my hair], I've got the relationship building in the front and a wildly strategization in the back. I'm hoping that my perception of the laid-back crazy Hawaiian will get them to think that I'm not a threat in this game, that I'm not a serious player. And that will project me through again to the final Tribal.

What type of player are you looking for in an alliance?
My number one alliance is going to be somebody quite different than me. And I am searching for that, whether it's age, things that they're interested in, personality. Because that allows me to have that direct connection to a whole other population of players that I probably won't be able to get a connection with. And that will allow me to have that bridge to two different groups of contestants. And having that two paper cups from one room to the next, understanding what's going on, will be a huge advantage in navigating the game.

How eager will you be to look for advantages in the game?
I will be very eager to look for advantages of the game. Again, this is a new era, and it goes quickly. And in looking at the last couple of seasons, there are more advantages now than ever. So if you don't have one, you're SOL because the majority of people have one, two, or maybe three. So you have to be eager in this game, or you're gonna get left in the dust.

Now saying that, I also have to remind myself to be patient and look for the right opportunity because there's a big old target that's drawn on your back if you go after it immediately as well. So I am going to send it when looking for advantages because that's the only thing I know. And hopefully, I don't get caught in the act. And if I do, I succeeded at my task, and it won't come back to bite me.

What is the one thing you told yourself you wouldn't do in this game?
I'm not going to have any regrets in this game. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I'm not going to be sorry for any of the decisions that I make. I'm going to full-throttle this thing. Pedal to the metal, ride a wheelie all the way across the park and enjoy the ride.

What's the best advice that you received before coming out to play?
You know, I haven't competed in anything of an organized sport or activity like a real competition with rewards for years. Coming into this, I was starting to feel some nerves. And usually, when I'm nervous, it means I'm excited and I'm ready. And in talking to some of my mentors and family, the common thing that really resonated with me was to be yourself and have fun.

What celebrity or fictional character would you want to come out for loved ones visit?
I want Patrick Swayze to come out on the island and visit. I am a huge fan of the movie Point Break, and I have adapted the ideology that is present in that movie as part of my lifestyle. It would blow my mind to see him on the beach. 

Next, check out our interview with Survivor 43 contestant Ryan Medrano.