(Spoilers for season one of FBoy Island, obviously).
Watching the chaos that is the debut season of HBO Max’s delicious reality “dating” show FBoy Island, I didn’t think it could get better than host and comedian Nikki Glaser saying “FBoy, FBye” and “Nice Guy, Nice Try” to each week’s eliminated self-proclaimed good/ bad guy. I’m proud to say I was wrong. CJ Franco, one of the three women tasked to meet, date, and ultimately identify the “FBoys” and “Nice Guys” from a group of 24 eager-for-camera-time men, came in with one agenda: to have fun. She stole this first season with wit, sharp comebacks to douchey men, and above all, blunt honesty.
“My attitude going in was never like, Okay, this needs to pan out, and I need to get married, and it needs to be this perfect whatever,” Franco said over the phone from L.A. “I kind of didn’t care. I went in with more of the attitude of, This is going to be fun. I’m going to have a good time. I want to hook up with some hot dudes.
Vulture spoke with CJ about all the dramatics on FBoy Island’s first season — including that $100,000 finale twist, the moment when Nikki Glaser had to speak for her after her voice went out, the status of her and Nice Jarred’s relationship, and if the show actually represents something deeper about dating.
So, have you watched the season yet? How has the experience been?
It’s good! I watched it as the season came out, and I think the first three episodes, I felt like I really liked how I came across, and the way I felt about it when we were filming seemed consistent with what it looked like on camera. The middle three episodes, I felt like I looked a little bit harsh and bratty for no reason. Which is true, I am both of those things. [Laughs.] Then the last four episodes that were rolled out, it kind of all came together, and I think the show did a really good job at giving us our freedom, allowing us to make our own choices, and also highlighting my personality.
I feel like you gave off main-character energy on the show — do you feel that?
I don’t know if I was giving off main-character vibes [laughs], but, you know, I’ve been an influencer for a long time, I’ve been modeling for a long time, I’ve been in the industry long enough where I’m very comfortable on camera. I’ve done stand-up. I have little jokes, little bits, and I’m confident in my delivery, and confident that people will understand me, whereas I think some of the other girls were a little bit more reserved and they wanted to make sure to protect their integrity through, what is it, “three sheets to the [wind]”? [Laughs.]
Did filming FBoy Island feel as chaotic as it felt to the viewers watching at home?
I feel like sometimes we were looking around and we’re like, What … what is this? What are we doing? And it just seemed like the producers were like, What’s the worst thing we can have you guys do? What’s the most embarrassing thing? A dance competition? Okay. Everyone’s dancing.
I don’t know if it was chaotic, because the producers knew what they were doing. They had a plan, but they gave us a lot of freedom, and I think they let us also — at least the girls — weigh in with ideas we had and things you wanted to do. It was more like a creative collaboration because, watching it back, to me, it looks like FBoy Island is a parody of a dating show, the way it’s cut. I think it’s really brilliant, but I also think it has self-awareness and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s an experiment. And it gave them a little bit more freedom, where you could see it as being chaotic. I think they had a lot more creative freedom, and they ran with it.
I want to ask about one of my top three moments from this season, when you lost your voice and host Nikki Glaser had to read your cards.
How come your favorite moment is when I cannot talk? [Laughs.]
No! It was so funny because of the way Nikki read your cards.
[Laughs.] Yeah, her impression of me is one of my favorite moments from the show. My voice isn’t usually so, like, scratchy. You have no idea. I went on so many dates, I talked to all of those guys over and over and over. And before that elimination, I went out with Mark Moran, who is hilarious, but he just wore me out. He’s a little chatterbox, and at a certain point I told them, “I can’t keep talking because I’m going to lose my voice.” And I think they thought I was being dramatic. And when my voice actually went out, they were like, Well, what can we do? I went to the hospital — they tried to do everything they could to get my voice back. And they said, “Oh, she just can’t talk. That’s the only thing you can do is just have her stop trying to talk.” I was really grateful. If you had to stop talking, I mean, Nikki Glaser’s the person you want to be your voice. She’s my Morgan Freeman.
Fast-forwarding to the finale twist, where you and the girls found out that if your final choice was a Nice Guy, you and he split the $100,000. But if any of you chose an FBoy, he gained the power to decide to split it with the girl or keep it all and end the “relationship.” Did you know about it beforehand or see that plot coming?
They kept us in the dark for so much. To explain how little we knew about what we were getting ourselves into, we didn’t know it was called Fuckboy Island. We didn’t know anything, let alone the prize money. We had no idea how the prize money worked until we were sitting on stage and it was filmed. Like, I don’t watch a lot of reality shows, I don’t have a ton to reference, but I like to think I’m a clever person and … how could the money possibly work? Like, there’s only so many ways that a viewer would be happy with the prize money being rewarded. And so I think the other girls kind of felt like, follow your heart and it can never lead you wrong. I live in L.A., and I know to be fucking smart and to be strategic and to not leave something in someone’s hands who came with a bad intention. The only strategy I really had was like, unless you can definitively trust somebody, don’t put your fate in their hands. And the only person that I felt that I could trust entirely was [Nice] Jarred.
You mentioned how they didn’t even tell you guys the title of the show. As contestants, how much information were you given about the premise?
There were some red flags — a lot of the interviews. [Laughs.] I mean, I was doing a casting call for like six months with HBO for this show. A lot of the questions were like, Oh, have you dated a player? Have you dealt with a lot of guys that are, like, bad boys? And they used more of that language. And then they started shifting to “fuckboy.” And I was like, That’s strange, ’cause I wasn’t using that expression because, you know, I’m not Gen Z. [Laughs.] I was like, Oh, they’re really running with this word choice. And then when I got into quarantine — we had to be quarantined [prior to filming] — I got a phone call from my ex-boyfriend, and he’s a film director, and he was like, “Hey, I have a colleague that says he has a project now in the Cayman Islands for HBO Max, and it’s called Fuckboy Island. And I think you’re on Fuckboy Island.”
Oh my God. So you found out through your ex.
I was like, Okay, this guy, he just doesn’t want me to do a dating show. Trying to sabotage me. And then I got a second call from a friend of mine who’s a big comedian, and he was like, “Oh, so you’re on Fuckboy Island?” I was like, “Oh, okay. I’m definitely on top of Fuckboy Island.” And then he goes, “Well, do you know what the twist is?” And I was like, “There’s a bigger twist than it being called Fuckboy Island?” And he goes, “Yeah, all the guys are homeless.” And I was like, You know what, I am inclusive, but I have some boundaries. I gotta get myself out of here. And I told him, “They’re about to take away my phone for two months. So if you’re fucking with me, you need to tell me right now.” And he was like, “No, I’m just kidding.” And seeing what I had to work with, I probably would have been better off if they had been.
Going back a bit, what was your overall strategy going into FBoy Island?
I came in with a very relaxed attitude. I didn’t take the process seriously whatsoever. Zero percent. So when I actually got the show, I was pretty surprised. But my attitude going in was never like, Okay, this needs to pan out, and I need to get married, and it needs to be this perfect whatever. I kind of didn’t care. I went in with more of the attitude of, This is going to be fun. I’m going to have a good time. I want to hook up with some hot dudes. I’m going to have fun with it, I’m gonna be silly and show my personality and and make some friends, it’ll be cool.
And once I really found out that it was so, um, devious, I had to switch my thinking a little bit. I came in and I was like, I don’t care, I’ll date a fuckboy. There’s nothing that bothers me. I love a project, I love a fixer-upper. But as it went along, to see the guys were like conspiring with each other, or genuinely didn’t have good intentions for us girls, it made me take a step back. I’m not gonna go on a show and publicly endorse somebody that does that to women. I’m a feminist, and I’m not going to support anyone that’s going against that.
Along those lines, when Garrett chose to take all the money for himself and “break up” with Sarah, what was the energy among everyone like? My jaw dropped!
So did mine. That was shocking. But he was always an advantageous person. He was looking out for himself. He said whatever he needed to say to get whatever he needed to get. Sarah handled it like nothing I’ve ever seen. I honestly would be in jail today if I was Sarah. I would not have handled things the way that she did.
Talking about it as a parody of reality dating shows, for me, FBoy Island felt like a show that weirdly highlighted the idea that bad boys contain this mystery that’s more attractive sometimes than that of a nice guy. So I feel like this show, in the end, does teach something.
There are lessons. There’s a lot that I learned on the show. I think there’s a lot the guys learned on the show. But the main thing with these FBoys is that you trauma-bond with them — there’s like a conflict and you overcome some conflict. And then you’re like, Oh my God, I’m invested in this person. You get in a relationship with somebody, things are hard, you’re struggling to keep it together, you feel more attached to that person. It’s like a codependent thing.
[After filming,] I changed absolutely how I perceive men and dating. It changed the way I talk to my friends and give them advice. I came back like a little hurricane. All my friends, I was like, “You’re dating who and he did what?! He didn’t answer your call from what time to what time?” I went crazy. I was like, “No, we’re done tolerating this bullshit and letting these things slide.” It’s not cool. It’s not acceptable. It’s not appropriate. And people need to know that you have people in your corner that are gonna fucking hate them if they’re going to do those things. You have to, like, teach people how to treat you. And if you’re not willing to set those good boundaries, then you’re just shooting yourself in the foot. So it definitely made me a little bit more harsh. I’ve always been pretty harsh with men, but I’m at a whole new level now.
Did you expect Casey to leave “Limbro,” where the eliminated FBoys go in hopes to be reformed into “Nice Guys”?
I mean, I think I was very optimistic, ’cause he was obviously the person that I wanted to hook up with. It was clearly him. And so when we had the double elimination — which, they just did me so dirty on that one — I was trying to make a point, and they just really held me accountable to what I was saying, which was rough. But I think you can see, as the show goes on, like, we had the chance to keep three guys and I kept two. Nakia kept four, Sarah kept three. And I think when I did that, I was like, Come on, you have to get me back to my little boyfriend … and I didn’t feel like they were going to. I was optimistic, and then I was like, Man, it’s not going to happen. So when he did come, I was so excited to see him. That reaction, that was a very real moment.
Were there any moments viewers didn’t get to see on the show that happened during filming?
There was a lot of Garrett groveling and crying that got cut out. There were a lot of mean comments from me. I mean, they made me look ten times nicer than I am. [Laughs.] And I don’t know how much I can say, but like, at least for the final episode before the finale there was an accident. I had to go to the hospital. And so, you can tell in the final episode, I’m sitting a lot, I’m not doing too many things because I was under the doctor’s orders to not do too much. Overall, it didn’t change [my final decision]. I really commit to my choices, and I know which direction I’m going with things.
Big question: Are you still with Nice Jarred?
Okay. On the show, Jarred was always super-outstanding to me, really kind. He really treated me with respect, and he also forced Casey to confront his behavior. And conducted himself like a real man, like a true gentleman. I really was attracted to that. Um, after seeing the finale and some of the things that were said behind my back, I was a little bit not thrilled, and it kind of made me take a step back and reconsider what I was doing. But since filming, Jarred and I have been trying to do a long-distance relationship. It’s so hard ’cause he lives in Miami and I’m in L.A., but he is a really great guy, and I think it would be a shame to not give it a shot.
With FBoy Island getting renewed for a second installment, and as a trailblazer for season one, what do you hope to see next?
I think there should be way more hookups. I’m actually really excited for season two because I think we worked through a lot of the first-season kinks, and I hope that the cast gets to spend more time together. I think group dates are really cool. I want to see more smaller groups of people and get [the chance] to know the characters. As viewers, you guys didn’t even get to see some of my favorite people and my favorite interactions because it’s cut down so much to just the romantic parts. Like, Garrett and I would always joke around with each other. I talked to Garrett as much as I talked to any of my other guys, but as a friend because I thought he was hilarious. I know it’s a dating show, but I would like to see some more of the true friendships and the connections and some more of the real elements, because there was so much that was real about the show.
Thoughts on making a cameo in season two?
I would love nothing more than to be able to come back and help some of the girls. Going through the experience, we didn’t really have anyone to mentor us. We had Nikki, but Nikki was hosting, and she wasn’t with us all the time, and it was hard to, like, catch her up to speed on things and try to get unbiased advice. She’s one of the executive producers. She’s not really able to steer us too far in any direction. And so I think it would be really cool to be able to go. I don’t think they would let me, because I’m bad — I’d be giving so much advice. But I would love to go and support the other women and be there to point them in the right direction or to tell them, “Hey, you don’t deserve that,” or, “That’s not acceptable behavior,” because a lot of women don’t have that in their regular lives. Or they don’t have that from their families, and they need that friend and that person.
Finally, CJ, would you consider yourself a Nice Girl or an FGirl?
I feel like the general feedback that I’ve been getting is [laughs] … no one’s saying I’m a Nice Girl. There’s no one in the world that’s calling me a Nice Girl.
OMG, I think you are!
Well, then that’s the story line I should run with. [Laughs.] No, I date a lot more like a man. I have a gay dad and his partner, and I grew up with more of that attitude, so I’m more of an alpha — less nonsense, more direct. Does that make me an FGirl? Maybe a little bit.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.