“It was really cool getting to know her,” he says of the convicted drug smuggler. “I got to meet her for face value, not for her past.
“And she was so awesome on the course. She really gave it a crack and she was really good at some challenges. Everyone was really supportive of each other.”
He also defended contestant Firass Dirani, who has caused friction on the show by mouthing off within earshot of the DS (directing staff), leading them to punish everyone.
“I didn’t have any problems with Firass,” says Jackson.
“He helped me when I was cold, he helped me pack my Bergen (backpack), he helped motivate me. To me, he was a good bloke all round. He just couldn’t really keep his mouth shut, and doesn’t like taking orders from people and being yelled at.
“So when it happened again and again, and it happens more, we got a bit fed up and frustrated because we were the ones being punished for it.”
Jackson’s dad, Shane, has been following his progress.
“He was scared for me to do it at the start, but he’s super proud,” he says. “Dad and I are very close. He’s my best friend.”
Also tracking Jackson’s progress are Shane’s ex-fiancée, Elizabeth Hurley, and her son, Damian.
“We’ve been friends over the years,” Jackson says of Liz and Damian. “We catch up. We keep in touch.”
With fans taking an interest in Jackson’s eating habits, the poker player is now documenting his culinary adventures on his Instagram account. “I ate watermelon last week and I tried my first beer,” he says.
Previously, he confesses, McDonald’s “was my religion”.
“Now I eat toast, cereal, eggs, bacon, pizza, pasta, lasagne and apples,” he says. “It’s not like I don’t want to try other foods, it’s just that I enjoy what I’m eating and it works for me.”
As for former Underbelly star Firass, New Idea can reveal the actor wasn’t originally intended to be on the show.
“Firass was always a filler cast member,” an industry source spills. “If someone dropped out, they had a spare ready. He was trained up like the
rest of the cast, but he wasn’t guaranteed a spot.”
But the SAS producers changed their minds once they saw him in action.
Realising he provided the “magic” they were looking for, they decided they “had to have him on the show”.
“When producers realised what Firass would bring, they couldn’t resist adding him,” the source says.
For more, pick up the latest issue of New Idea. Out now!