When host Alan Cumming announced Deontay Wilder had removed himself from season 2 of The Traitors during episode 4, fans had questions about his early exit.
“This game was definitely harder than I thought it would be,” Wilder, 38, told Us Weekly during the season 2 press junket earlier this month. “I thought it was trying to figure out [who] were the traitors, and being that you have so many more faithfuls than the traitors, that it would be kind of easy to try to figure it out. But being on this show, it really struck some childhood trauma from me that I didn’t expect.”
Among the 21 cast members, Wilder was one of two — along with Former Speaker of the House of Commons in the U.K. John Bercow — who isn’t known for being a reality star.
“I didn’t see this coming in a million years because the things that I dealt with as a child, I never had an outlet to be able to release,” Wilder continued. “Sometimes you go through life and certain things allow you to be able to release that and that emotion and you feel better. But I never had an opportunity or any particular place.”
Wilder is a heavyweight champion and won a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics.
“I’m a world traveler. I’ve been many places around the world, but in this particular moment in time being on this show — I think because of the conditions that it was in — it really drew back the condition that I was in [as a child]. … People accusing each other of doing things that may not be true,” Wilder told Us. “And it really struck something in me.”
Viewers saw Wilder get visibly emotional at the end of episode 3 after he falsely accused Maksim Chmerkovskiy of being a traitor. The Dancing With the Stars pro subsequently got the most votes and was banished.
“Maks was one of the first guys that I met and I really kicked it off really, really well with him,” Wilder told Us. “And we really built a certain type of friendship, a bond, and to be able to bear false witness against him when I really felt that he was [a traitor] because he started acting different and all that. We can go off of certain emotions, certain things that people do or whatever. You really have to have a watchful eye of things.”
According to a 2020 profile from The Athletic, Wilder’s mother left his family when he was just 9 years old. His family struggled financially and he was teased by his classmates. His challenges continued when he got older and his eldest daughter, Naieya, was born with spina bifida when Wilder was 19. Wilder subsequently battled depression.
He told Us that he’s “a very emotional man in general,” which he knows people might not expect.
“Although my profession is the hurt business, as I call it. But as a man, as Deontay Wilder, as a person, I’m a loving, caring guy that I love everybody and I want to see everybody succeed in life,” he said. “And I think you got the best of me being on the show.”
Overall, Wilder had a great experience, despite not knowing any of his costars, which include Real Housewives Tamra Judge, Shereé Whitfield, Phaedra Parks and Larsa Pippen, Survivor stars Sandra Diaz-Twine and Parvati Shallow, Big Brother’s Dan Gheesling and Janelle Pierzina, former Bachelor Peter Weber and more.
“I was very open-minded [about] going onto the show and just to see who I would meet on there,” he said. “I got close to certain people, [but] I don’t think I disliked anyone on the show, to be honest. Everybody was unique and they had their own different thing going on about themselves personally and in their profession as well. So I was very delighted to be there and be a part of it and to meet so many great people.”
The first four episodes of season 2 of The Traitors are currently streaming on Peacock.