Exclusive: Ed Brantley discusses 'The Biggest Loser: Families'
By John Bracchitta, 12/22/2008
Ed Brantley saw two different sides of The Biggest Loser: Families' ranch: its friendlier earlier rounds that culminated in his first elimination, and the gameplay-filled pressure cooker that he returned to when he re-entered the ranch in Week 7.
However, after returning to the ranch and making his way through emotions of the Black team vs. Blue team rivalry, the 31-year-old chef from Raleigh, NC was able to make his way -- ultimately against his will -- into the competition's Final 3 finale weigh-in and finished as the NBC weight-loss show's runner up.
On Friday, a soft-spoken Ed talked to Reality TV World about why he felt he and his wife Heba Salama were not edited fairly on the show, what he felt led to America's choice to add him instead of Heba to the Final 3, and how he dealt with training in between his two stays on The Biggest Loser ranch.
Reality TV World: You were the first of the three finalists to step on the scale during the finale broadcast. What was going through your head when you stepped on the scale?
Ed: You know, just the fact that things didn't go the way that we wanted to and America basically handed TheBiggest Loser win to [Michelle Aguilar].
Reality TV World: Did that surprise you, or did you have any idea that was [going to happen]?
Ed: No, we weren't surprised.
Reality TV World: Why? Was it because of how both of you were portrayed on the show?
Reality TV World: At the time when you were leaving the ranch after recording your statements did you think that the plan [to ask for Heba to be voted into the Top 3] would work then?
Ed: Yeah, because at that point the show was still in production and nothing was set in stone at that point. So, as far as I knew we were nice people and people would like us and would hear what we would have to say.
Reality TV World: Going back to the finale weigh-in, did you think your lead was likely to hold or, based on having seen Michelle, did you think the odds were probably pretty good that she'd lost a higher percentage?
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Ed: No, I knew that she was going to beat me.
Reality TV World: The Biggest Loser went four seasons without a female champ and now [trainer Jillian Michaels] has managed to train two in the last two seasons. Do you have any idea on how that might be happening -- do you think it's just the law of averages catching up or something like that or do you think that the girls are doing something different?
Ed: I think Jillian just plays a different game than [trainer Bob Harper]. I think that if you look at previous contestants' continued weight loss I think most of Jillian's people put a lot of weight back on, whereas Bob's people seem to stay at a pretty normal weight for the rest of their lives.
Reality TV World: Did you have any idea that the home viewer voting twist was going to happen? I mean the show had already used it on last spring's edition.
Ed: Yeah. We had a good idea it was happening. There's always some kind of twist in there, you know?
Reality TV World: When we talked to you after your first elimination you said that you had made changes to how you operate as a chef, such as spitting out the food you taste, things like that. Are there any new techniques that you've picked up since then?
Ed: Um, you know, I have really kinda stepped back from that and allowed the people who work with me [to] do that now instead of me being so paranoid and psycho about it. I'm actually able to really, truly trust the people that work with me. I think that was the biggest part, with me being able to let somebody else pick it up so I don't have to stand there over the food all day long and actually do it.
You know, this whole thing has actually helped me step away from things that I feel like are out of my control, and I've really just taken a step back from actually physically being in the kitchen and cooking.
Reality TV World: What was it like to go home and begin adjusting to your normal life, only to be thrust right back into the ranch when you were able to get back onto it in Week 7?
Ed: It wasn't easy because as soon as you get home people are like "Hey, let's go out. Let's do this, let's do that." You have to be very selective about the things you choose to do because there are [only] 24 hours in a day and they can get swept right away from you if you let 'em.
Reality TV World: Had you thought there was a possibility to get the chance to return to the ranch when you were first eliminated?
Ed: Yeah absolutely. I knew that [for] the last season they brought everybody back and they all got the chance to weigh in again and got a chance to get back on the show.
I just really hit it hard and busted my butt to make sure that I would be a contender.
Reality TV World: That step challenge you won to get back into the competition seemed pretty brutal, can you talk a little bit about it?
Ed: Yeah, it was absolutely as brutal as it looked, and I have never stepped one step on one of those step things ever again and never will.
Reality TV World: What was your initial reaction when [The Biggest Loser: Families host Alison Sweeney] revealed the challenge -- did you think you had a good chance of winning it?
Ed: You know, I'm not a real cocky person or anything like that, but I just knew that God was like "Ed, I did this for you. This one's yours and you better win it."
Reality TV World: And about how long did that challenge actually take in total?
Ed: It took about 50 minutes. [Maybe] 45 minutes.
Reality TV World: You looked pretty spent at the end. Do you think the outcome might have been a little different if the challenge had gone another 100 steps? It seemed like [Stacey Capers] was gaining on you and making a late run.
Ed: I honestly don't know. Stacey was obviously gaining on me, but if I wanted to lose to anybody I would've loved to lose to her.
Reality TV World: Some viewers have questioned the fairness of basing who got to return on a step challenge instead of weight-loss, which is what the show is actually supposed to be about. What are your thoughts on that?
Ed: You know, you can't do the same thing over-and-over again because nobody's gonna care next year if they're like "Well, they're gonna do it again..." How stupid would that be.
Reality TV World: Clearly the game became much more game play-focused in between the time you were first eliminated and when you returned, did that focus on the ranch make it easier or harder to maintain your attention to losing weight?
Ed: In my mind all I was there to do was lose weight. I didn't care about anything else.
Reality TV World: When you were eliminated the first time around, you and Heba had made it clear that you weren't at the ranch "to play any games" and weren't there "for a big check." Do you think that was still accurate after you returned to the competition? Did you see other people doing that?
Ed: Oh yeah, I mean there was a lot of gameplay going on, and not a lot of gameplay that was actually shown on the show. You know, people took their liberties with how they wanted to play the game, and some of it you get to see and some of it you don't get to see.
Reality TV World: Did you [and Heba] ever end up getting into [the gameplay element of the game] at all, or did you stay true to...
Ed: I felt that we stated very true to the game. Like, when I was there I don't know [what happened], but I felt Heba and I really stayed true to what we said. We weren't there to play a game, we were there to lose weight.
Reality TV World: Going off of that, because there may be some clarification needed here, in the [Final 4] weigh-in Bob suspected that your gaining of two pounds was a gameplay move, but we've heard otherwise. Could you [discuss] that at all?
Ed: Yeah. I mean, if you saw that last episode before the finale with that whole thing where Jillian and Michelle are re-hiking the mountain [from the first episode], well we were all out there. We were out there as well, and I had a hernia and it was incarcerated and all this bad stuff happened.
So we had to take off, we couldn't even (unintelligible), I was in so much pain I was crying. So they take me to the hospital and start pumping me full of fluids and the weigh-in was, like, the next day so I was screwed.
Reality TV World: Did you think that the way it was portrayed on the show was not fair?
Ed: What they showed on the show?
Reality TV World: Yeah.
Ed: I mean, it was an unfair set of circumstances. I mean, [if] you got a hernia than you've got a damn hernia and there's nothing much you can do about it.
Reality TV World: What were some of the things you did to continue to lose the weight and stay focused once you got home after the Final weigh-in?
Ed: Basically just get up in the morning, eat some breakfast, and [then] I go on a run for about 8-10 miles.
Reality TV World: Obviously aside from Heba, which contestant's weight loss impressed you the most at the final weigh-in?
Ed: I was very impressed with Stacey and Vicky's weight loss. I thought they both looked very beautiful. They both just looked like completely different people.
Reality TV World: The show showed your audition video where Heba mentioned she wanted to go on the show because you guys wanted to start a family soon, but how were you cast on The Biggest Loser: Families? You sent in an audition tape?
Reality TV World: and then it was the normal [audition] process?
Ed: Yeah I feel that it was a pretty normal process. We're just glad that things are kinda starting to settle down and we can get back into our own regular lives now.
Reality TV World: One last question, Heba mentioned that you both had quit your jobs to focus on the weight loss, [and you both also wanted to start a family]. What does the future have in store?
Ed: Um, you know, all kinds of doors are opening for us now. There are people calling us [asking if we'd be interested in participating in things] so we're just gonna kinda hang back and be selective about what's offered to us and just kind of go from there.