In one of the most head-scratching segments of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Who Is America? thus far, Bachelor star Corinne Olympios was coerced by a new Cohen character named Gio Monaldo — a bombastic Italian billionaire, and a potential buyer of posh islands — to simultaneously endorse a program that supports child soldiers, don a hazmat suit for a high-fashion Ebola-virus photo shoot, and craft an extensive lie about how she saved a Sierra Leone village from a warlord because he recognized her from reality TV. (A taste: “I feel like, because I was so kind back and so positive back, you know, it really helped with the whole massacre situation.”)
During the filming process, Olympios said in a Daily Beast interview prior to the episode’s release that she was frightened and fearful for her life, essentially agreeing to say what she said so she could leave the studio unscathed. (She also told the Daily Beast she was separated from her manager and her personal phone throughout the process, so she had no means of communicating with the outside world.) After her episode aired on Showtime, we called Olympios up to reflect on something we’re still thinking about: What exactly was the point Cohen tried to make by embarrassing her in such a specific way? As it turns out, Olympios doesn’t know, either.
Of all the popular reality stars Sacha could’ve chosen for the segment, why do you think he was so inclined to pick you?
I don’t know. I really don’t know.
I really don’t know.
Do you know if the show approached any other reality stars in your orbit?
I don’t think so.
So you go in, things start off normal, and then “Gio Monaldo” begins feeding you increasingly absurd prompts. At what point during this interview and photo shoot did you try to escape?
After the first few questions, things started getting pretty weird. The questions were so weird. I didn’t have my phone or my purse. They put my manager somewhere else, so I didn’t have any of my belongings. [Yawns.] So I couldn’t leave.
When you were discussing this Sierra Leone massacre and warlord story with Gio, did the producers feed that dialogue to you?
Yeah, of course. Everything I said was said to me.
So that wasn’t your own “massacre situation” stream-of-consciousness?
At the end of this, did you call your manager and give him a very stern talking-to?
[Pauses.] Yes. [Laughs.]
In an interview you did before the episode aired, you ultimately equated this experience with being kidnapped and thought you were “going to die.” Did you genuinely feel like your life was threatened?
I definitely felt … I was scared. I didn’t have my phone, they did. They weren’t giving me my phone, they weren’t letting me outside. I started to panic a little bit. I didn’t know exactly what I thought was going to happen, but I was definitely panicking.
When you read a comment online that says you could’ve just refused to say or do a certain thing, do you think that criticism is justified?
I mean, again, they had my phone. They had my purse. They weren’t telling me where [my manager] was. At that point, I was just saying whatever to get the fuck out of there. I was just in shock after I read the teleprompter. I was like, What the hell is wrong with you guys? The teleprompter was a one-shot-deal type thing. It was the last thing I did after I freaked out. I was like, Let me leave. And they were like, All right, read this and do this commercial for us, and you can go. I was reading it real quick, and then I realized what I was reading, and then I was like, Oh my God, get me the fuck out of here.
Before you realized months later that this was a Sacha Baron Cohen prank, what did you think the footage would be used for?
I was crying. I didn’t know what that was. I just didn’t know and I was just like, What the heck?
Now that you’ve seen the aired segment, what do you think the show wanted to accomplish by duping you in this way?
That I don’t know either. I really don’t know why I was involved, I don’t know why he picked me, I don’t know what he was trying to get or the point he was trying to make out of pranking me. [Pauses.] I don’t know.
Any guesses at all, now that you’ve had time to reflect?
I don’t know. I really don’t know. I really don’t know.
Was there anything edited out that you actually would’ve liked the public to see?
To be honest, that whole day was so bizarre and so weird. They did show me saying, “I’m not going to say that or I can’t say that, they’ll all know I wasn’t there.” I said things like that probably 30 or 40 times during my time there.
Has this experience changed your feelings about being involved in reality TV?
No, not really.
What have you learned from this experience, then?
I’m definitely going to be more cautious and less trusting of the world.
If you could prank Sacha back on your own terms, what would you do?
Oh, I’m going to. I can’t tell you. And it’s going to come when he least expects it. I love a good challenge!