The smartest thing Jud "Fabio" Birza ever did was play dumb. It made for great TV and a hilarious nickname. And more importantly, it allowed him to remain underestimated by everyone on Survivor: Nicaragua. However, when Fabio's clueless façade left him out of Chase Rice, Matthew "Sash" Lenahan and Holly Hoffman's alliance, he physically stepped up with back-to-back-to-back immunity challenge wins and secured his spot in final three. Sitting next to Chase and Sash, two players known for breaking multiple alliances, Fabio killed them with kindness. The 21-year-old student from Venice, Calif., talked with TVGuide.com about his secret to success, what he hopes to do with the money and whether he plans to hang on to his new nickname.
How does it feel to have won the $1 million?
Jud "Fabio" Birza: Dangerous! It's so dangerous, it's awesome. I have the ability now to pursue things that most people don't even get the chance. Most people are stuck working all day, busting their asses and I get to live life to the maximum. I want to use that ability to either let other people enjoy life, or to just improve things.
You also mentioned that you are starting a production company during the live reunion show.
Fabio: I sent the papers in. I hope I get the name: Judson John Entertainment. ... I want to make short films, not necessarily feature films but really colorful, crazy, artistic, really symbolic messages. I like to call it "creative warfare." Just a bunch of sick videos and then ask for a return from places around the world, to just be like, "What do you got?" Let's celebrate some history or culture or whatever. I also want to travel too, I'm going to be all over the place.
Did you think you had won over the jury?
Fabio: I knew that winning three in a row was awesome, was about the best way you could do it. And the second time at Tribal Council, I looked over at Brenda and she said, "Go Fabio" so I could just tell that people were excited for me, and that was motivating in itself. Then when they were reading the votes and Chase was up by two, I was like, wait a minute. I would have still been as happy as I am now. Well, no, that's not true. [Laughs]
Did the votes surprise you at all?
Fabio: No, I figured Sash wasn't going to get a lot of votes; that's why I took him. [Laughs] And if Sash did get any votes, I figured they would take from Chase.
What was the key to winning the majority?
Fabio: In an interview before the game, I talked about manipulating people emotionally. I knew most of them pretty well. For instance, I knew about NaOnka's mom and I knew that Holly was a swim coach so I would sit there and listen to her talk about swimming, which I enjoyed too whether I had to act it or not. I wouldn't change anything. I could have only got it done one way.
At one point in the game you said the best thing you could do was play dumb. Did that strategy start from the very beginning?
Fabio: Pretty much. Not playing dumb, but allowing myself to be dumb. And it's still truthful. To me, that was the only game I could play.
Are you going to stick with the nickname Fabio now?
Fabio: Yeah, for sure I am going to keep it in the bag of names.