Don’t ever dine with Bear Grylls. Or even hang out.
Not unless you’re prepared to do — and eat — some pretty unsavory things, as many celebs who’ve appeared on his popular TV series (“Man Vs. Wild” or “Running Wild with Bear Grylls”) can attest. Like snacking on a scorpion (Channing Tatum) or maggots from a dead sheep (poor Courteney Cox), or killing a crocodile (NFL quarterback Drew Brees), or snake (Tatum again) or crossing a ravine by rope at a dizzying height (Jake Gyllenhaal).
In each case, the famed British survivalist told them what to do. Now YOU get to decide what HE does in “You Vs. Wild,” a new live-action interactive series that debuted on Netflix on April 10. In each episode, you’ll be given choices — should Grylls ski or paraglide down a Swiss Alp; fight a wolf or run away; eat bear poop or … well, you get the idea — and with the click of your TV remote he’ll do just that. (To accomplish this, he shot a lot of footage, following through on every option.)
A former soldier with the British Special Forces, Grylls, 44, was shooting on location, with sketchy phone service, when we got in touch. So Newsday contributor Joseph V. Amodio conducted our interview via email.
I figure it’s waaay safer to interview you by email — I’m afraid if we met in person you’d somehow get me to wrestle a jellyfish or eat something awful. Speaking of which — you’ve consumed some weird “meals” on “Man vs Wild” and your other shows. What’s on the menu this time?
A whole bunch of nasties that puts “Man vs Wild” into the shadow! Think snails, worms, rotten carcasses, snake, etc. But survival isn’t pretty and requires you to dig deep and sometimes do the unimaginable.
Who came up with this idea of an interactive show?
A lot of the credit has to go to Delbert Shoopman, my co-creator on every one of our series. We’ve spent so much time together traveling and this was always something he talked about — a choose-your-own-adventure concept where the viewer decides the outcome. His brain works like that. Netflix were the first to pull off the technology breakthrough to facilitate such a show and they have loved and backed the idea from the beginning.
What are some of your favorite “You Vs. Wild” locations so far?
The Nevada desert is such a huge adventure playground with not too many rules. That made it so fun to explore. (And) the mountains of North Wales are home to me, so to adventure and film there was always going to be a privilege. It’s a place I love and feel such an affinity to.
How did you and the producers determine what choices to give viewers? Was anything off limits?
We set out with the view of no limits — and with that mindset we could really plan some crazy stuff. Then it was about sifting out the crazy from the absurd and making sure all options were well-rooted in genuine survival options.
OK. Still … there must’ve been some surprises along the way, even for you.
I got pretty badly sick in Wales after eating some bad grub. That had a real knock on for filming but we went with the story.
You push yourself to the limit all the time. I do not. I’m a cautious type. And a neatnik. Even as a kid I didn’t like to get dirty. Have you ever felt any sense of caution or hesitation, or were you born with this daredevil gene?
We’re all made different and that’s wonderful---one way isn’t the better way. The journey of life is finding the courage and strength to be able to be happy in who we are. For me, as a kid, I was never very brilliant at the normal stuff, or very cool. But I always knew what I loved — it was always about being outside with my dad, climbing or making stuff, and getting in and out of scrapes. That was how it all started.
Come to think of it, I suppose I'm not always cautious — I love swimming, scuba, and I’m game for jumping into any body of water. (Maybe it’s having grown up with all the Long Island beaches around me.)
There you go … don’t talk yourself down!
But how does one translate that courage into other aspects of life? Is there some secret or trick to pushing myself further than I think I can go?
Having an adventure spirit is a state of mind, not a badge to wear. Courage, kindness and never giving up — that has always been my motto. And that can apply to a million scenarios, not just to adventure. I love that ….