WINCHESTER — One of the cast members of the new season of the drama-filled CBS reality dating show “Love Island” is a Handley High School graduate.
James McCool, 27, a personal trainer who now lives in Orlando, Florida, stayed on the island for nine days before he got dumped.
Filming for “Love Island” began in July during the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, the location had to be switched from an actual island to a rooftop villa in Las Vegas. Cast members must quarantine in hotel rooms for at least a month prior to appearing on the show, and they must undergo regular COVID-19 testing.
The matchmaking show, now in its second season, starts off with young singles who must pair up. They can choose to be in a new couple every few days. Occasionally, new single people arrive on the show’s set, causing drama and shifts in relationships. If a person is not in a couple, they get dumped from the island. In the end, one couple is crowned the winner and earn a cash prize by a fan vote.
McCool was booted off the island after being ditched by contestant Moira Tumas, 28, of New Jersey. They had been paired up since the beginning of the season, but their relationship ended when Calvin Cobb, 25, of Houston, Texas, arrived on the set.
New episodes of “Love Island” are still airing. If you didn’t catch any of the episodes featuring McCool, you can watch them online.
McCool applied to be on the show when auditions were held in Orlando in January. The next day, he got a call from the “Love Island” crew.
“From that point on, it was a lot,” he said in a recent phone interview. “They had to know my whole life.”
It wasn’t until June that he knew he had landed a spot. Filming began a month later. He estimates he did about 20 video calls before a decision was made.
“I got pretty lucky,” he said. “I don’t even know how I really got into it. I literally, literally just applied to it online like a job.”
He had to do a site test that lasted about five hours, got screened by a therapist and had to complete a physical. The process was a bit invasive, he admitted.
“I was kind of shocked,” he said.
He added that while the set of the villa looks nice on camera, it’s pretty “deceiving.”
But overall, McCool said he thinks the show portrayed him pretty fairly.
“Everyday feels like a week in there,” he said. “Looking back on it, they don’t really show a lot of positive things.”
McCool said he didn’t watch the show immediately after he left. But now that he’s tuning in, he thinks he “dodged a bullet” when his relationship with Tumas ended, adding that he thinks they only had a surface level attraction.
“You think about what you could have done and what you could have said,” McCool said about watching the show as an ex-contestant.
McCool moved to the Winchester area in 2007 and left when he was 24 to start a new life in Orlando as a fitness trainer and to do promotions.
On “Love Island,” McCool was known for his many tattoos. In fact, he got his first tattoo when he 16 years old from Sakura Tattoo on Cameron Street in Winchester.
“All my memories are in Winchester, I always say that I’m from Winchester,” McCool said. “It’s a good little town. Apple Blossom is so fun growing up.”
As a teenager here, McCool said he spent time playing basketball and hanging out with friends at his house. Sometimes they would go to Buffalo Wild Wings or the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.
McCool said his life hasn’t changed much since appearing on “Love Island,” other than he’s gotten some promotional opportunities, and sometimes people recognize him. Fans who stop him either tell him he did nothing wrong on the show or that he’s “crazy.”
“It’s love or hate,” he said. “That’s very different. Someone thinking that they know you, which they really don’t. They just know 25 minutes of you on TV.”
Although McCool was relieved when he left the show, he said he wouldn’t mind being on TV again.
“It was very taxing on your emotions,” he said about being on “Love Island.” “You have your freedom, but not really. I was kind of ready to go.”