Catching up with Bear Grylls is an exercise in itself. The host and star of the Disney +/NatGeo series Running Wild with Bear Grylls, and appointment adventure TV fixture for the past decade, even turns interviews into transcontinental wind sprints of sorts.
After interviewing Bear in person in 2019, we sought him out again as Running Wild with Bear Grylls was coming upon its sixth season (it airs on Mondays at 8 p.m. EDT on National Geographic Network and Disney+). The show continues to draw millions of viewers with its format, which combines Bear’s personality and survival prowess in forbidding places, the human drama aspect of a celebrity companion often engaging in such adventure for the first time, and the truly dangerous, death-defying moments that come out of their excursions (Show 1 guest Anthony Mackie’s 3,000-foot base jump off a peak in the Italian Dolomites being a worthy example).
Because of Bear’s crazy shooting and work schedule, we resorted to an exchange of emails, and an abbreviated interview. He can be like catching lightning in a bottle, which speaks to both his enormous amount of energy and his busy life. But, as always, he came through with thoughtful, personal answers. The beauty about Bear is that what you see on TV is the measure of the man: he’s warm, brilliant, engaging, and probably the first person on earth you want with you if you get stuck in a forbidding place or climate anywhere in the world.
With that, we turn it over to Bear:
Innovation & Tech Today: What are some of the biggest reasons you feel Running Wild continues to be popular in now its sixth season? Do you feel it’s our instinctive love of adventure, of untamed natural spaces and places… or of the human drama that always happens when you take a guest to some other forbidding part of the globe?
Bear Grylls: I always feel that the wild is the real star of the show. It brings out the best side of people, demands repercussions and never judges us. We get to so many spectacular terrains, which when you pair that with some of the world’s best known people enduring some epic survival adventures, it is always compelling. There’s a rawness to being out in the wild together that encourages people to be very open and honest. There is a trust between guests and me that is always a privilege, and I never take that for granted. In truth, the stars and the wild make my job easy.
I&T Today: When we interviewed you a couple years ago, you told us one of the things that keeps you so passionate and inspired is when your guests unlock or learn something about their own deepest capabilities while in the middle of a sticky moment in some forbidding place. Could you talk about that a little, and also how you convey those types of moments to viewers when you see them happening? We’ve seen it more than once… and it’s really impactful.
BG: The wild always reveals character, and I think when you face a few fears side by side and are tired and hungry, you see the real person. That’s the magic of Running Wild; you see the unguarded side of these stars.
It’s always inspiring to see these people facing their biggest fears and challenging themselves to push through both internal and external obstacles. Their faces when they come through something truly scary always says it all. The smile that they get when they take those sorts of leaps is special to see.
I&T Today: How “scripted” are the shows when you start shooting? Is it a matter of finding the types of experiences you think are out there when you explore the landscape and habitat? Or remaining wide open to whatever you encounter?
BG: We work hard as a team to plan a fun, challenging route that will be achievable for the guest but with good access and safety if needed. We always have to have a back-up plan. Good comms and infrastructure with the local search and rescue is a key part of that as well.
On a non-Running Wild expedition, we can maybe go further afield and push the boundaries a little more, but you have to remember for Running Wild I am almost always taking rookies into these places and we have to be respectful of this and their skill level. Having said that, we always aim to take the guests close to their limits, whilst always making sure it is empowering and awe inspiring. In terms of scripting – no – it is totally not in anyway. We know a start point and an end point, and then with a small team we gun it and go. That’s the part all our guests always love… just how spontaneous it is. In terms of food, it’s not hard to find grubs and carcasses along the way, but if I don’t, then I always have a back up with the crew such as bird eggs in case we really don’t find anything!
I&T Today: You make it seem so easy in the wild that so many of us simply assume you’ve mastered everything you do – and yet, there still have to be some ‘firsts’ in your experience. Is there anything in Season 6 that truly was a first for you?
BG: Definitely the 3,000 ft. big wall cliff base jump into the Anthony Mackie adventure (in the premiere episode). That was the biggest, most dangerous stunt we have ever done on the show. I didn’t sleep for a few nights before that one!