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'Survivor' Colleen hits big screen with 'Animal'

By Paul Vercammen
CNN Showbiz Today Reports

Colleen Haskell earned a theater degree from the University of Georgia with an emphasis on set and lighting design  

(CNN) -- On the original "Survivor," Colleen Haskell won over the television audience as the cute girl with the soft-spoken, gentle nature and rock-hard body.

Many male viewers might like to be marooned with the 24-year-old Haskell on an island, any island. Preferably deserted.

But Haskell now is stuck with Rob Schneider, creator and star of the raucous new comedy, "The Animal."

Haskell plays an environmental activist and pet shelter employee who gets tangled up with Schneider -- whose character exhibits some distinctly animal tendencies.

Haskell and her character in "The Animal" have some things in common. "We're both environmentally aware. Young girls. Like to be around animals," she says  

But anyone who assumes Haskell was just plucked from "Survivor" Island without a shred of understanding about drama, needs to face the Richard Hatch (naked) truth.

Haskell, from Bethesda, Maryland, earned a bachelor's degree in theater from the University of Georgia.

She and I sat down for a little "Q&A."

Paul Vercammen: Everybody wonders, how do you go from "Survivor" to Rob Schneider and "The Animal?"

Haskell: I know, I should write a book. Really fast is how you go do it, and I don't even know how it happened. I was going back to school. But I went in and auditioned for this part and did the screen test. I met with Rob (Schneider) and I got the part. So I'm on a movie set and now I'm talking to you.

Vercammen: Why do you think you got the part?

Haskell: Because basically the character I play in the movie, Rianna, it's like the same person almost. We're both environmentally aware. Young girls. Like to be around animals.

Vercammen: What's the most disgusting or absurd thing that Rob put you through during filming?

Haskell: When I was watching the bird eat out of his mouth. When he fed the bird (a worm) from his mouth and he did it over and over again. It was disgusting. I was like, "Oh my gawd! What am I doing here?" It was ridiculous.

Vercammen: Do you think somewhere back at the University of Georgia some of your colleagues are saying, "What the heck is going on with her?"

Haskell: Definitely. I was in the theater department. I worked my way through school working in the scene shop. I did set design and lighting design, so I've always been around actors. But working the way I did among them, actors were bad and designers are good. So I think now they (fellow designers) are like, "Why did she cross the line? She's not an actor. What is she doing?"

I get phone calls from some of my friends who say, "You've betrayed us."

Vercammen: As for "Survivor," who has been your most lasting relationship or friendship with a member of that cast?

Haskell: It's kind of like summer camp, so there are people that I keep up with and we e-mail and then I won't talk to them for a month. Gretchen (Cordy) and I keep up pretty well. Jenna (Lewis), Greg (Buis), Gervase (Peterson). Mostly, people from the team that I was on.

Vercammen: And despite the fact that you're in a town that hands out rumors like breath mints, you had no romantic links on "Survivor."

Haskell:I had no romantic links that everybody likes to create. I'm not engaged. I'm not running around with anybody.

Vercammen: You might have heard that Mark Burnett was accused and admitted to somewhat restaging shots on "Survivor." Were you ever a part of anything like that?

Haskell: I was there, I voted for the person. Yes, Rich (Hatch) won. From what I saw, none of this controversy took place. Then again, I want to stay out of it.

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