As season 5 of Running Wild with Bear Grylls gets underway on National Geographic, Grylls talks with Screen Rant about what's in store for the new season, and how he faced down challenges with his celebrity guest stars. For most people, the name Bear Grylls connotes a certain type of adventure series, one that has seen the adventurer and survival specialist brave all sorts of harsh environments in the name of entertainment, and that continues apace as he is joined by Brie Larson, Cara Delevingne, Dave Bautista, Zachary Quinto, Rob Riggle, Channing Tatum, and more in season 5.
Like it has in seasons past, Running Wild continues to span the globe, finding unique locales to traverse, offering scenic backdrops and challenging environments to test the mettle of Grylls and his special guests. The season kicked off recently with Grylls and Academy Award winner Brie Larson making their way through some tough jungle in Panama. And while the new season has more in store for that location, it will also see Grylls head to the Swiss Alps, Iceland, and the Arizona desert.
The interview was meant to be a one-on-one phone call, but Grylls' busy schedule meant he only had time for an email exchange. In it, Grylls discusses the big move to National Geographic and the ongoing challenges of producing Running Wild, and the many hats he wears on an episodic basis. Check out Screen Rant's interview with Bear Grylls below:
This is your fifth season of Running Wild, how has the series changed for you in that time?
It’s been both an honor and a huge adventure to continue to see this series go from strength to strength, and it was such a logical next step to bring Running Wild to National Geographic as the home of adventure. This has allowed us to push the boundaries in terms of locations and the actual scale of the adventures themselves.
For every celebrity that comes on this journey for me, it’s brand new, and my goal is to give them an incredible and empowering experience beyond what they might have hoped for or thought they were capable of. I’ve been on these adventures for five seasons, and what’s amazing is how much I learn about the planet and how much I’m surprised by the courage and commitment of the guests. The wild is the great leveler, but if you give it your everything, then the wild rewards you with pride, friendships and confidence. That’s the magic.
You’re asked to wear a number of different hats on this show. You’re a host, a guide, a teacher, and a journalist--among other things. How do you balance those roles and still keep it straight in your head what you need to be doing when you’re supposed to be doing it?
For sure in Running Wild I have to be adaptable to keep the adventure fun, challenging, safe and empowering. But I know what our end goal is: these stars ultimately want to experience a side of life and an aspect of themselves they may have not known was possible. I feel so honored that they take these adventures with me, and that they trust me to help them shine and dig deep when it matters. This show is always about the bonds you create in the wild and belong the guests to find that never give up spirit that is inside us all.
You have an interesting group of guests this season. I’ve had the chance to screen your adventures with Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, and Rob Riggle. What goes into securing these guests and then finding the right adventure to suit their personalities and skill levels?
I meet so many interesting people in my day to day - it’s a huge privilege. In terms of booking new guests, sometimes it is simply the result of having a conversation with someone maybe at some press event and they’ve shown interest in doing the show. Sometimes it is friends of past guests hearing about their buddy’s adventure. Sometimes, the producing team and I have our eye on someone in particular who we feel would really surprise themselves and their fans. And sometimes guests come to us and ask to do it! We choose adventures based on what we feel would provide them with the most rewarding experience. As far as skill level - never discount anyone based on their experience in the wild or their physicality - those guests are often the ones that do best and walk away surprising us the most!
What is the teamwork like between you and your guest on a practical level?
The bonds you create with people in the wild, whether it is between our crew or me and the Running Wild guest, are always bonds that are strong because they involve endeavor and vulnerability, both of which bring people together. I have learned that in the wild, it really doesn’t matter what size you are or whatever preconceived notions you may have about yourself, as you long you embrace the wild, are respectful to your environment and bring a never-give-up spirit, then you are going to have an adventure!
You want to challenge your guests to get out of their comfort zones, but you also want their experience to be safe and entertaining. How do you balance that equation so you, the guest, and the audience are getting the most out of the experience?
There’s definitely a balance having a great adventure and making that adventure fun and safe and not too long! For me it is about empowering our guests with skills that they can incorporate into their everyday lives as well as giving viewers some cool survival tips and some revealing insights into the life and journey of the star alongside me.
I imagine filming in the elements brings it fair share of challenges. How often must you adjust or adapt to conditions on the fly to make sure you get the footage you need?
There’s a good amount of improvisation on each adventure, which is partly because that’s the nature of being in remote environments. We try to anticipate as much as we can, but ultimately we’re in the wild. We often find ourselves into some pretty interesting situations that require quick thinking and a nimble team, but that is often the fun part for the guest, when it starts to get gnarly, and everyone is working hard to achieve the goal whether it’s crossing a river or scaling a cliffs. But in my opinion, that’s what makes filming this show so fun, and is what makes great TV. You know what they say: adventure begins when the plan goes wrong!
What can you tell me about having the show on National Geographic this year? What has that move been like for the show? Why do you think the network is a good fit for Running Wild?
I’ve been reading National Geographic for decades, so it was an easy choice. The network feels like home to me.
All the episodes I’ve seen so far have been very entertaining. Was there one that stood out for you? Was there a moment this season that, because of the guest or some unexpected set of circumstances, resulted in the episode turning out better than you had expected?
Each of the episodes this season will surprise you. But for me, it was Cara Delevingne who really summed that up for me. She’s such a survivor and has had so many difficult moments growing up, and she truly brought that resilient spirit to the wild. Her positivity and determination shone bright and she should be so proud of herself. I would also say the same for Captain Marvel Brie Larson - a humble, hard-working, fun, determined lady. No wonder they are both such inspirations to zillions on social media.
Running Wild with Bear Grylls continues next Tuesday @10/9c on National Geographic.