It was a busy week for world-renowned adventurer Bear Grylls when we caught up with him. He had just finished filming an episode of Running Wild With Bear Grylls (which returns to NBC with a two-night premiere Monday, Aug. 1 at 10pmET and Tuesday, Aug. 2 at 10pmET) with football great Marshawn Lynch and next he’s off with Olympic downhill skier Lindsey Vonn and then on to Shaquille O’Neal and Courteney Cox.
As the series starts its third season, there’s no sign of Grylls slowing down. His list of celebrities willing to stretch themselves outside of their comfort zone continues to grow. Running Wild has become a badge of honor for celebrities.
“We’ve been so lucky. We do get amazing people on the show,” Grylls says (that list even includes President Obama). “We always try to pick people that everyone will be intrigued to find out actually what they’re like beyond the chat-show couch. … People that you’d be intrigued to get to know what they’re really like — you know them but don’t really know them. … There’s a real sense nowadays when guests come on the show that they almost invariably say, ‘Kate Winslet’s a great friend of mine’ or ‘Ben Stiller was saying he had to do this’ or ‘So-and-so said it really changed their life positively,’ and we’ve got a sort of badge of honor developing now. I love that because it’s a great privilege to adventure alongside these people, so the show sort of built into something I never would have thought, really.”
Grylls tailors each journey uniquely to the celebrity with his No. 1 priority being to deliver them back home safely. While the adventure isn’t a fitness challenge, he does push celebs to their limits.
“We’re not there to break people, we’re there to do a journey together and along the way you see people, as I say, grow,” Grylls says. “But to grow you need to go through a little bit of pain, and it’s why at the end of the journey the pride is always so intense while filming these people. Whether it’s Nick Jonas (Monday, Aug. 1 episode) the other day up in the mountains and he was just so amped at the end of it — he’d done this big swim through this semi-frozen lake and he gets out at the end and he’s just cheering and he knows the journey’s almost over and he’s gone through ups and downs and fears and lows and all of that. There’s a pride at the end of it and that’s why I do the job, but to get to that stage there’s often a little bit of pain first and it’s what they want though — this is why people sign up. They get that raw, real side of it.”
And for the viewers, we get the raw, real side as well.
“We just finished filming Marshawn Lynch’s episode yesterday. Here’s a guy who people know as this great football player, but he never does interviews. He never does anything like this, and then [you’re] going to see him in a totally exposed way — absolutely terrified, clinging on for dear life on a rock face, crying, screaming for mercy. He showed his spirit, and he’s not one of the best players by accident, he’s got this incredible focus and determination in the big moments. He’s a fighter and it was really inspiring to see him overcome some of those fears.”
Trust is a huge factor in producing this show — not only in how a celebrity is portrayed but also in terms of their overall safety.
“They’ve got a lot of faith and trust in me and I always take that very seriously and I’m very respectful of the fact that they come on their own, there’s no entourage there,” Grylls concludes. “They’re putting their lives and their trust in my hands and I look after them.”