HOLLYWOOD ‘Love Island Games’ Season 1 Winners Interview – The...

‘Love Island Games’ Season 1 Winners Interview – The Hollywood Reporter

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[This story contains major spoilers from the first season of Love Island Games.]

Following an intense season of Peacock’s new spinoff Love Island Games, filled with both team and couples’ challenges and games, Justine Ndiba and Jack Fowler came on top.

Though they have been in the villa before in Love Island USA season two and Love Island U.K. season four, respectively, the new iteration brought a new competitive edge, focusing on extreme challenges and duels. While trying to build a romantic connection since coupling up at the beginning of the season, Ndiba and Fowler also had to battle it out with other couples to stay ahead.

Their relationship ran into a few speed bumps, including Fowler having to fight it out in the ring to stay in the villa with Ndiba at one point, but they proved to be stronger together through the end. Especially since they had to trust in each other and their own abilities since there wasn’t a public vote this season.

After 17 previously eliminated Islanders returned Sunday night and proceeded to vote Cely Vazquez and Eyal Booker out, Johnny Middlebrooks and Aurelia Lamprecht, Callum Hole and Deb Chubb, and Ndiba and Fowler went head-to-head in the dramatic final episode, taking on the mega duel.

Fowler described it as so intense that “people lost nails, people were bleeding. … There was muscles aching that I didn’t even know that I had,” and even though they felt like anyone could have taken the top prize, they’re overjoyed that they did, as seen in the clip below.

In their first interview since being named the winners of Love Island Games season one, Ndiba and Fowler talk with The Hollywood Reporter about their strategy heading into the mega duel, their favorite moments together, where they stand with Ray Gantt following Sunday’s dramatic elimination and share their current relationship status.

How does it feel for everyone to finally know you’re the first Love Island Games winners, especially since you’ve known for some time?

Jack Fowler: Finally! Oh, my goodness, because we’ve kind of held this in, not been able to tell anyone from the very beginning, like of winning. So I’m excited first and foremost, I’m excited for everyone to watch the final ’cause it’s insane.

Justine, this is your second time winning in the Love Island universe (She previously won season two of Love Island USA). What is going through your head?

Justine Ndiba: I’m just super excited! I feel blessed and I love that this was such a different format because I feel like we all kind of got a taste of regular Love Island the first time. So I love that they threw games into this and made it, you know, strategic because I love the competition aspect of it. I don’t know, I feel like it was nice that I was able to win both of them.

‘Love Island Games’ season 1

Mark Taylor/Peacock/ITV

Since you both coupled up at the beginning of the season and stayed together through the end, when did you realize you found the right partner in each other?

Ndiba: For me, it was the moment we picked each or I picked him. I mean, I feel like at first, I was still kind of like, ‘Let me just set myself up in case I catch feelings.’ But once I kind of put myself in game mode, I knew that Jack was the perfect person and then everything else in the connection came naturally, so I just feel like from the start I just knew.

Fowler: I was so happy when she chose me. I remember when I first come into the villa and I was like, ‘Hmm, I like Justine. Justine’s a bit of me,’ and then she coupled up with me and I feel like just after the first couple of conversations that we had, we was on the same page. Obviously, everyone’s done the show before, so everyone had that kind of experience, but also we were kind of in a stage in our lives where we can start communicating a bit better than some of the other Islanders. And we were just always saying to each other, ‘Look, let’s be completely transparent and let’s be honest and let’s just try and win these challenges as much as we can whilst having fun.’ And we did.

Jack Fowler and Justine Ndiba in 'Love Island Games' season 1

Fowler and Ndiba in ‘Love Island Games’ season 1

Mark Taylor/Peacock/ITV

With Love Island Games having more of a focus on the challenges and games, how was it navigating them while also navigating your romantic feelings for each other?

Ndiba: I feel like we did good kind of sticking together and picking each other because I think coming in, you kind of want to stick with the people from your own countries, your friends and stuff. But I feel like having somebody who had connections on the U.K. side was also probably a really good thing. I was definitely expecting more physical games and challenges and stuff, but I feel like we quickly realized the social aspect of the game was probably going to be the most important. So I feel like having Jack with his connections, and my connections as well, I just feel like it really helped us in the game.

Did you feel a lot of pressure to form alliances with your fellow Islanders and tackle the mentality aspect of the games?

Fowler: To be honest with you, I didn’t expect that when I thought of Love Island Games, I didn’t really expect the alliances to be the thing. But then very, very quickly you realize that there are people outside of the villa that know each other, naturally, because everyone’s kind of in the same world. So you do have friends that you look out for. And I think for me, I started noticing a lot of my U.K. Islanders being booted out the villa for either duels or vote-offs, and I was like, ‘Wow, I didn’t expect this to be the case.’ But it’s Love Island Games and that’s the thing, because we were the first season, we’re kind of learning as we go along because there’s no reference to another season, right? So it was just a massive learning curve, but it was so much fun and had a great, great time.

What was your favorite challenge from this season?

Fowler: Well, I’ll tell you my worst challenge. That was a strip tease (Laughs). I said, ‘We’ve done all that stripping for what?’

Ndiba: For what? Just to be at the bottom was crazy. … I would say my favorite ones, like competing with each other, was probably the tire challenge (“Tired Out”). And then I would say, the end, the mega duels was so much fun. I was looking forward to not necessarily dueling but more one-on-one competitions and stuff. I feel like I like that. I like the more grueling, physical challenges. … I felt like the ones that were more just based on your skill set were my favorite.

Justine Ndiba and Jack Fowler in 'Love Island Games' season 1

Ndiba and Fowler in ‘Love Island Games’ season 1

Mark Taylor/PEACOCK/ITV

Although Jack had been in a duel several episodes prior to the mega duel, did you both have a specific strategy going into the final challenge?

Fowler: I think it was just to win like, any which way, win! I remember saying to Justine, ‘Neither of us want to leave this ring knowing that we could have done more so leave everything that you can possibly give into the duel. And if we win, amazing, if we don’t, at least we’ve given it everything we’ve got.’ I remember just rocking up to the set and I thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s like so much bigger and brighter,’ and like ’cause we’ve never done a challenge or duel really at night, to see the stage lit up with the lights and stuff, it was actually like a Rocky film, man. It was like Creed, it was mad.

There were many sweet moments of you two captured throughout the season, but do you have a favorite moment that maybe didn’t make it into an episode?

Ndiba: I have two favorites. There was one where we were having lunch and this was like a day or two after Jack and I had a conversation about what our allergies are and he has a peanut allergy and I have a peanut allergy as well, but also like chickpeas and stuff. And we broke off for lunch and Jack just came running because we usually split up having lunch separately. He comes running across the villa and he was like, ‘Justine, don’t eat the salad. Did you eat the salad?’ And I was like, ‘No, not yet. Why?’ He’s like, ‘There’s chickpeas in it,’ and I just thought it was so cute and so sweet that he remembered that. He was like out here just trying to save my life or whatever. He said, ‘I can’t compete in here without you if you’re dying.’” … And then when you thought I had left [was my other favorite].

Fowler: Obviously in most seasons of Love Island, there’s a Casa Amor around about halfway, and either the girls leave or the boys leave the villa. And every night the boys would go to the bottom of the stairs where the girls’ dressing room was to clap them down. And one night, around halfway through the show, we were at the bottom of the stairs and Johnny said, ‘Jack, can you hear the girls?’ And I was like, ‘No, I can’t hear the girls ‘cause you can normally hear them.’ And then someone said, ‘Oh my God, it’s Casa Amor.’ And I was just like, ‘No!’ I said, ‘Justineeeeee,’ I run up the stairs and all I see is Justine’s head just pop out though.

Ndiba: I was like, ‘What?’ And he goes, ‘Oh, you’re still here, okay.’

Jack Fowler and Justine Ndiba in 'Love Island Games' season 1

Fowler and Ndiba in ‘Love Island Games’ season 1

Peacock/ITV

Sunday night’s episode was one of the most intense eliminations when you sent Ray and Imani home. Justine, are you on better terms now with Ray?

Ndiba: Yeah, definitely really rocky. I feel like Ray and I, it was definitely hard, you know, and I felt terrible, and it just came down to him being collateral damage, and so that’s been the hardest thing. But we’ve had a lot of conversations, we’ve hung out since, we’ve talked about it. But I think just bringing those emotions back and watching things over again also just kind of brings back those emotions and makes it hard. But yeah, Ray and I are good. I think it’s just one of those things where it’s gonna take just a little bit of time to get back to exactly where we were before. But I definitely value his friendship a lot and I love Ray. I’m just forever apologetic to him about how it played out. You know, I would have loved to be in the final, all of us together. But I just know that he was definitely playing the game just as hard and at the end of the day, it just came down to his partner and if he had had another partner, I think we would have been in the final together.

At the beginning of the finale, two of your closest friends, Cely and Eyal, got sent home by the 17 previously eliminated Islanders. How were you feeling in that moment?

Ndiba: I was really devastated because I felt like Eyal and Cely also really worked hard in the game and I just felt like that was more a shot at Jack and I, sending Cely and Eyal home. And that’s the part that kind of sucks because I felt like they also deserve to be there. But, it’s Love Island Games. I just feel like it’s throwing all the curveballs at you. So that was definitely unexpected for us to see. I definitely thought maybe it would have been Johnny and Aurelia, respectfully.

Fowler: It was hard for me to see Eyal go as well, ‘cause that’s my guy from the U.K. He was like a rock for me in there as well, so for them not to make the final was kind of tough to see. But yeah, it was actually completely out of our hands, wasn’t it?

Ndiba: That was the hardest part too because we thought for sure we would be able to have a say. And so we just kind of went into that day confident like, ‘Oh, it’s definitely not going to be Cely and Eyal at the very least.’ So that was shocking.

Jack, coming back to the villa after five years, and three years for you Justine, were you all nervous going into it?

Fowler: I loved it! I mean, I never thought I’d go back into Love Island again, so for me to walk back into the villa was amazing and to do it at Love Island Games with brand new twists to the show. You know, I felt very privileged. I felt very blessed and humbled to be given the chance again. But then also to do it with Justine, like it was kind of meant to be ‘cause I would have never wanted to do what I just did in Love Island Games without Justine because she is honestly [an] amazing, amazing, amazing girl. One of the best hearts I’ve ever come across and she was a big rock for me in that villa, especially when it comes to the end of the show because I felt so bad ‘cause obviously I knew Justine and Ray had outside connections. And so we both were kind of torn morally with what to do, but we had to stick together and that’s what we did. We made the decisions together and we stand on that and it proved [to be] the right decision because we ended up being victorious.

Justine, after seeing the majority of the eliminated Islanders decide to give you the prize money at the end, was it a hard choice to split it with Jack?

Ndiba: No, absolutely not. I feel like I knew for sure I wanted to split it. I think the only thing that I was thinking in that moment was maybe if there’s like a way I can make this right with Ray, like I can’t tell you how much that was weighing on me afterwards. But then I was like, ‘You know, if I take it all or whatever and try to make it right with everybody.’ Especially because Jack has been my ride or die in there and we both worked so hard and so I just was like, ‘You know, making one right and making another wrong, it was hard.’ But as far as splitting with Jack, there was never a second thought.

Jack Fowler and Justine Ndiba in 'Love Island Games' season 1

Fowler and Ndiba in ‘Love Island Games’ season 1

Mark Taylor/Peacock/ITV

Do you have any comments for your fellow finalists?

Fowler: That final was a battle. People lost nails, people were bleeding. … There was muscles aching that I didn’t even know that I had, so anyone could have won it. I’m so happy that we did, but it was such a tough, tough final. And it’s just like a massive credit to all the finalists in there because we really battled it out. Like there was no glitz and glamour, although there was lots of lights and cameras, it was genuinely survival of the fittest in there. It was tough.

Compared to your previous Love Island experiences, what are your takeaways from this new season?

Ndiba: The biggest thing that made me want to do it was the games aspect and I love to compete. You know, I’ve done different shows like The Challenge and stuff, so I love that aspect of it. But I think doing those shows, I’ve never got into it with like friends necessarily, so I guess that makes it not as difficult. But I think for Love Island Games, going into it with such close friends made it so so hard. So I feel like for me, I’m definitely never doing another competition show with friends again, but I still had literally the best experience. I met Jack who’s just such an amazing person and was such a great partner throughout all of it. I mean, I had a great time and overall, it was an amazing experience. I just feel like I gotta remove my emotions out of it if I’m ever gonna do another game with friends again.

Fowler: Love Island Games was just a crazy, amazing experience. I never thought it would give me the emotions that it did. I mean some of the highest of highs, some low lows but overall, it was just fantastic. I love the game aspect. That was the main reason why I wanted to get involved in this, because I’ve competed all my life, in football (soccer) or boxing or anything else. So just to have that kind of Love Island experience with that implemented, it was just incredible.

Now, I know you both didn’t make your relationship official in the villa, so where does your current relationship status stand?

Ndiba: Our current relationship status is ‘doing our best.’ I feel like we live so far away from each other, so right now we’re just 100 percent doing our best.

Fowler: It’s hard because I’ve obviously got work in London. That’s where my family is and all the rest of it. And obviously, Justine is here. So there’s a big bit of water in between us. But we talk every day when we’re apart, like Facetime, ’cause obviously the show airs 2 a.m. my time in the U.K. and either six or nine over here. But I get to talk to Justine about it and I know some parts of the show were quite difficult for us both, so I think we’ve just tried our best to be there for each other more than anything. But, no, we’re trying our damn best. … Most people, I feel like when they win Love Island, they try and force it. They try and force, ‘Yeah, we’re together, we’ve got two kids and we’re married and whatever,’ but like we are literally taking day by day and enjoying each other’s time.

Interview edited for clarity.

Season one of Love Island Games is currently streaming on Peacock.

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