Most people remember Colby Donaldson as the guy who pretty much handed over the million-dollar Survivor: The Australian Outback prize to Tina Wesson, but now he is out to prove that nice guys don't always finish last. While many of Colby's fellow reality alumni are toiling away on Kill Reality or Battle of the Network Reality Stars, he is featured in Red Eye, the new Wes Craven thriller opening in theaters this weekend. Colby, who also surprised more than a few people with his comedic timing on a superb episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, gives TVGuide.com the story of how he's managed to outwit and outlast all those other former Survivors who are actor wannabes.
TVGuide.com: You play a high-ranking security agent in Red Eye. How did that come about?
Colby Donaldson: I went in and initially read for a different role, but the casting directors called me back in for this one, and then the process began. It was so much fun, we got to shoot [in L.A.] and down in South Beach, in a huge, unbelievable condominium. I was lucky to be a part of that. The hard work's paying off.
TVGuide.com: You don't come on the scene until pretty far into the movie. I almost thought I missed you.
Colby: I have to call my family and tell them to be patient, because they're going to be sitting in the theater going, "Where is he?!" I don't come in until halfway through, at least. But I hope they're proud. It was such a neat experience to be on a set and working with an amazing director and a great cast.
TVGuide.com: Some of your former Survivor: All-Star cast mates are filming their own movie on Kill Reality. Have you seen that at all?
Colby: I haven't. I've heard about it.
TVGuide.com: Did you give any thought to auditioning for that show?
Colby: No. I don't even know if I was contacted about that. I've been working so hard in pursuing acting and doing [Red Eye], and have been fortunate enough to stay busy that way, that I don't know if I would have done it. I knew what the premise was and it didn't seem like a direction that was in my best interest.
TVGuide.com: Well, you are a serious actor now....
Colby: I know, can you believe it? Woo-hoo! Lorne Michaels has a new sitcom coming out on NBC called Thick and Thin, and I'm doing that. It's supposed to be a mid-season release, but it may come out sooner. Jessica Capshaw, who is a good friend of mine, is in it, so that was a lot of fun. I've [also] got my recurring [role] on Joey. All my scenes are with Matt LeBlanc, because my character is Joey's nemesis, so we're constantly at each other's throats. I've learned so much just working alongside him — little subtleties and innuendos that make you a better actor and also make the work more efficient and a lot more fun.
TVGuide.com: Are you hoping that people soon stop asking you all the reality-TV questions and just focus on your acting?
Colby: Survivor was such an amazing experience and it helped me a lot. And honestly, what better preparation [is there] for Hollywood than going on Survivor? This is the most cutthroat island you'll ever be put on, this Hollywood "island." To this day, the coolest thing I've ever done was to go to Australia and be part of the first [Survivor] I did. I don't ever want to forget that, and I don't expect anyone else to. It was enough to do the red carpet at the premiere [of Red Eye]. People were asking me about the movie. They're not all asking about Survivor. The more time that goes by, and the more work I get, and the more credit I get as an actor, the more distance exists between me and reality [TV]. I'm proud of that.