Meet the 'Survivor 43' Cast! Ryan Medrano Wants to Be a Physical and Emotional Provider

·8 min read

Growing up with cerebral palsy, the 25-year-old warehouse associate from El Paso, Texas taught himself to come into any situation on top.

From a young age, Ryan Medrano had to learn to solve things his own way. Born with mild cerebral palsy, he worked up from not being able to walk to becoming a personal trainer. He's had to read body language and facial expressions to anticipate next moves, something he believes will make him a natural for the game. But while the 25-year-old wants to be empathetic on the surface, behind the scenes, he has a calculated plan of recruiting allies within allies.

Read on for my interview with Ryan, and make sure to check in with Parade.com 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 Ryan from Survivor 43

Why are you here on Survivor?
I'm here on Survivor because, when I see Survivor on TV, or I watch it myself, I'm like, "That looks amazing. These people are going through life-changing events and really finding more out about themselves that really can't be established about pushing oneself to their limit."

What's your history with watching Survivor?
So I'd seen a few episodes as a kid, and I didn't watch it for a while because I was busy growing up and being an adult. But I met my girlfriend about three years ago, and that's one of her favorite shows. Whenever I asked her, "What do you want to watch?" she'd say, "Survivor." I'm watching it, and my heart's beating faster than in a scary movie. I get so attached to each character, and I'm so empathetic, and I'm like, "No, they're gone!" (Laughs.) So it's wonderful. I love Survivor. Every season's been spectacular to watch and heart pounding to go through with them, even on my couch.

Give me one Survivor winner and one non-winner you identify with the most.
It's going to be hard because I usually identify with the non-winners. One of the non-winners I really identified a lot with, I would have to say Rupert or Xander. Xander was so charismatic. He played the game well, and he was very empathetic. And he didn't win, but he really put his heart out there. He really didn't think he'd make it onto Survivor. And as a kid, I really was bullied. I was put through a lot by people that were around me. And I wouldn't think I would be on Survivor, I really wouldn't have, until I grew older and grew to love myself.

One of the winners I liked would have to be Parvati. The way she played the game has really some of the things I want to do. Not that I identify with her, but I want to be able to lie well, and I want to be able to get around and backstab people to get further in the game. Not because that's the person I am in the real world. So it's going to be interesting getting into those characteristics and playing that character.

What's your favorite moment in Survivor history?
It's nothing huge. But one of my favorite moments is when we meet Rupert, and he steals the chickens off the boat when they're diving in. The green team's like, "Where's my chickens?" And they show Rupert with a big smile. And he's like, "I took their chickens." To me, he took advantage of getting those extra chickens for his team. He took that risk. And he was able to get those without people noticing it was even him and paying any consequence. So in that sense, I really felt like Survivor was a game. He's a great person, but he played the game at that moment.

What's one life experience you feel has prepared you most for the game?
I have one life experience that can also be looked at as a handicap, I guess. But to me, it's just the way I live. It's my growing up with mild cerebral palsy from being born early. They said I would never walk. My mom took me to therapy for four years every Thursday for two hours. And eventually, I started to walk, and I started running, and I started to swim, and started to climb. I can do the things I do today because of her. But it also affected the way my mind works. I don't process things almost instantly like regular brains. You tell me something, and it comes in, it processes, it shifts around, it processes again, and then shifts out. If you tell me to go pick up a book, I'll go, "There's a book over there. And they want me to pick it up. Okay, I'm going to go and pick it up." And I do it.

But through life experiences, I've learned body language, facial expressions, tones, and voices when talking to people or feeling the energy or vibe of the room. It really has helped me to anticipate and try to plan the next step around people and things in my life so that it's not noticed. People would never know. Because I work so hard at learning people and getting different perspectives in life that I can come to any situation and try to be on top instead of a second behind.

What excites you the most about the new era of Survivor?
What excites me the most would have to be divided into two groups. [First] the diversity that is brought to Survivor nowadays. The amount of different culture that's brought in and put, not against each other, but with each other, to mingle and to see every walk of life. But then having that diversity use these new twists, like the hourglass or the Beware Advantage. You'll get to see how this new generation, this new group of people with new perspectives, use these new twists to their advantage or their downfall. So I really am fascinated and excited to play this very different season of Survivor.

What do you think people will perceive you as?
I hope people perceive me while watching as a strong-hearted, empathetic individual that understands that it's also a game and that has love for everybody he comes across. But knows, at the end of the day, it's about him getting to the end. Not because he wants to do these dirty deeds, but the dirty deeds need to be done. (Laughs.)

On the island, in my tribe, I want to be read as empathetic and trustworthy and reliable. I want to be a provider for both emotional and physical comfort. Because I am a personal trainer. And if you have any kinks and any stretches that you need to learn to make you feel better, to participate better in the next challenge, or you need food, and I can go get it, I want to be that provider. So that when it comes down to voting for somebody, "Ryan helps us both physically in challenges and with food. And emotionally, I'm so connected with him; I just can't get rid of him. We're going to have to pick the next guy." I want to be somebody that is depended on so much that they don't want to get rid of. I want to be that crutch on their shoulder, keeping them standing.

What type of player are you looking for in an alliance?
Let me be honest with you; I want two people in an alliance. And I want those two people to find two people. So now we have five people in our alliance. That's power in numbers, but loyalty with the first two people I find. Being able to trust and understand their body language so that if they ever do come to a point at the end, if we make it to the end together, I'm able to get them to tell me the truth, "Hey, we're thinking about voting you out. Give me a reason why we shouldn't." And then I can play my cards. So, somebody I'm loyal with and somebody that will be truthful back to me, so that I can actually have somebody out there I can trust and not be paranoid 110% of the time. 

Next, check out our interview with Survivor 43 contestant Lindsay Carmine.