'Floribama Shore's Gus Smyrnios on Showing a New Side on 'The Challenge: War of the Worlds' (VIDEO)

Scott Fishman
Preview MTV

It wasn’t long after season two of Floribama Shore wrapped that Gus Smyrnios found himself on a plane to the African desert to compete in The Challenge: War of the Worlds. The 23-year-old is among the rookies from reality shows including The Bachelor, Big Brother, Ex on the Beach and American Ninja Warrior paired with veterans from the past 32 competitions.

These stars coming from across the globe will battle through a series of challenges that put their physical and mental toughness to the test for a share of $1 million. Making the game even more interesting are new twists causing some potentially unexpected alliances.

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When Smyrnios, who was a longtime fan of the MTV show, got the call about the opportunity there was some trepidation. Filming Floribama left him emotionally drained.

“I wasn’t in the right head-space. It was very stressful to me,” he said. “I didn’t know if I wanted to do it anymore.  I didn’t give them an answer directly. I slept on it and told them I had to talk to some people. I realized that this isn’t the same show as Floribama. I wanted to be seen from a different perspective. I look at this as the chance for that.”

Smyrnios had less than a week to prepare. However, training every day and proper diet were already routine. “I was already in shape for it, but I wish I had a couple of months to actually train,” he said. “I would have done a lot more extensive stuff, but I was fortunate to already to be in shape.”

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The often drama-filled environment of Panama City prepared him for what could be an equally explosive situation within The Challenge house. He went in with a strategy following past seasons.

“I’m not going to come out trying to strut my feathers. I’m just going to sit back, listen and analyze everybody and play my game that way,” he said. “A lot of times rookies come in and act like they are hot s--- and that they are the next prodigy. They come out too hot, everyone is gunning for him. So, I was smart enough not to come in that way.”

Floribama Shore cast members attend the 2018 MTV Movie And TV Awards  (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for MTV)

Smyrnios looked up to Challenge staples Johnny “Bananas” Devenanzio, Chris 'C.T.' Tamburello and Wes Bergmann. For him, these were guys who showed up and did whatever it took to be victorious at the end of the day.

“It was cool because I’ve respected all of them growing up. They’ve all played very different games, so it was hard for me to decide who I wanted to work with and play games with for my rookie season,” he said. “It’s hard because I’m going against these people, but I respect them at the same time. I do realize that this is a competition, and I’m going to have to be gunning for these people. I don’t want to rub anyone the wrong way either. I’m trying to make a good impression.

“Everybody was so nice to me. I thought everyone was going to be gunning for me because I’m the young buck. I’m one of the rookies coming in, so I expected a lot of heckling. Ever since that first day, I ended up rooming with C.T., Bananas. I got put in the vet’s room. Ever since I was there, they all kind of accepted me and mentored me as the game went along. I think they took me in more than any other rookie, to be honest.”

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Smyrnios was used to the Florida and Arizona heat, but describes the desert as a different animal. Then there are the challenges, which teasers show left him bloody.

“There has been a lot of backlash in the last couple of seasons because some people might say they branched away from what The Challenge used to be. It used to be extremely gritty and physical. I think with the season we just did, that was the most physical s--- I’ve ever done,” he said. “We were beating the hell out of each other every day. Everybody was always hurting. People were getting injured after every challenge. It’s The Challenge people want to see.”

He knows people might underestimate his abilities. Pegging him as the pretty boy who doesn’t want to get his hair messy. Smyrnios wants to change the perception.

“I’m known a lot on Floribama Shore or people accuse me of being extremely sensitive or being a crybaby because I’ll get emotional when my family comes up,” he said.

“The only time I’m ever really emotional is when I’m talking about my family. I’m a very passionate person, and my family is the most important thing. When I filmed season two of Floribama, I was really going through the ringer with my family.

“There was a lot on my shoulders. Going into The Challenge, I thought, ‘That s--- has got to go. I’m not going to stress about nothing. I’m going to compete and let everyone see that side of me and see me from a different light.’ I’m not sensitive or a crybaby. I’m actually one of the toughest kids you’ll meet, and I want people to see that.”

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Looking back at Floribama, he has no regrets this time around. Though Smyrnios did learn from the experience and takes it in stride.

“It’s a very unique experience because we get to watch our actions and correct some things and become better people,” he said. “Not a lot of people get to go through that. When you’re living through that moment, you don’t realize the mistakes you’re making. But when you’re watching it back you think, ‘Come on, you have to be smarter than that.’ I definitely came out wiser. I realized that you probably shouldn’t drink for three months straight every single day. It will catch up to you.”

The popular cast member believes there are blurred lines where audiences only watch his life on Floribama. He found his personal life was affected strongly from being a part of the series.

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“I’m part of a very small, Southern, Christian type town,” he said. “The fact that I got put on this party show where I’m drinking and hooking up, I got a lot of backlash from where I’m from. My family was getting a lot of heckle from it.

“So, it was a lot for me to take in. When I went back for season two, there was a lot of stress on my back. I was making a lot of mistakes and knew I was going to get a lot of judgement form people. It broke me down. I think that is why you see me as emotional as I am in this season. It was a tough time in my life.”

If a season three is on the table for Floribama, Smyrnios leaves the door open. However, he’s on the fence about returning.  The novel cover model turned reality breakout wants to branch out and pursue other opportunities like The Challenge.

“Once I was there, I connected and talked with others,” he said. “They’ve actually helped me out a lot. I’ve always dealt with anxiety, so talking with them I’ve realized some of them have been through the same things because we are all living in the reality TV world. We talked and told each other how we coped with things. It was a good experience to get to meet everyone doing the same thing.

“I love my Floribama Shore family more than anything, but I’m not going to answer for sure if I’m going back or not. As of right now, I’m not sure. The door is open. I’m not completely closed off. At the end of the day, I have to do what is best for me and my family. I love my fans and supporters, but I have to make sure my personal life and mental health is okay outside of that.”

 The Challenge: War of the Worlds, Premieres, Wednesday, February 6, 9/8c, MTV

Floribama Shore, Season Finale, Thursday, February 7, 9/8c, MTV