Bear Grylls is one crazy motherfu**er. He’s turned dead seals into wetsuits and sucked the juice from fresh elephant dung.Now he’s ready to take on his toughest challenge yet: dealing with other people.
In Get Out Alive (Mondays 9/8c on NBC), Grylls takes 20 competitors into New Zealand’s harshest terrain to see who’s got the courage and toughness to earn a $500,000 grand prize.
We grabbed Grylls for a few minutes to discuss fitness, survival skills and family. Also: goat testicles.
“Don’t listen to the dream stealers. You really just have to keep trying. Never, ever give up. Those things are what’s kept me alive in the wild.”
Congrats on your new show. How would you describe it?
Putting regular people through hell, and seeing how they do under pressure. It isn’t a test of physical courage, but character. I’m looking for the qualities of a survivor—that resourcefulness and resolve, that humility, that kindness. That person who keeps going when they’re totally beat. Unlikely heroes emerge.
You’re a former member of the British Special Forces. How did that training prepare you for what you do now?
Obviously a lot of my training there was skills I’ve used since—combat survival and the climbing and skydiving and all of that. But it’s also about attitude, being able to look after yourself when the chips are really down. I think it gave me confidence at a young age that I could do this stuff, survive in these places, and that’s helped a lot over the years.
How do you keep in shape?
I work out five or six days a week for 40 minutes, nothing crazy. A lot of bodyweight stuff, high-octane stuff and high-intensity core stuff. A lot of yoga, Pilates, cross-fit stuff.
You’re known for your unusual diet. What’s the most disgusting thing you’ve ever eaten?
Probably frozen yak eyeballs or goat testicles, camel intestinal fluids, live snakes and scorpions, and elephant dung. A long list of bad things.
Bear during a screen test for Joe Dirt.
How does your wife feel about what you do?
We’ve been married for 12 years now and we’ve built this life together. Sometimes she says this wasn’t really in her blueprint of how she imagined marriage, but it’s better than not having fun. She’s my reason for making it back in one piece.
Do your sons take after you?
Yeah. They’re 9, 7 and 4 and totally feral. Every day is an adventure. We live on a boat on the Thames in London and the rest of the year on an island off the Welsh coast, no electricity or water. They love it. But I’m trying to tone it down a little bit.
You’ve also got a new book, A Survival Guide for Life. What does it cover, primarily?
It’s my lessons in life. Don’t listen to the dream stealers. You don’t have to have it all together, you really just have to keep trying. Never, ever give up. Those sorts of things are what’s kept me alive in the wild.
What’s your advice for would-be adventurers?
Be prepared. Tell people where you’re going and let them know when you’re due back. Take a cell phone and waterproof it. Make sure you’ve got boots that fit you. A soldier is only as good as his feet. Blisters make everything a lot harder. Keep hydrated. Don’t drink water from the river unless you’ve boiled it.
We don’t know what Bear is holding, but we’re pretty sure he’s about to eat it.
What about survival in the urban jungle?
You’ve got different terrains, but the principles are the same whether you’re in a jungle, a desert, a mountain or in the city. Protection, rescue, water, food—that’s what you’ve got to remember.
Is there anything people would be surprised to learn about you?
They’ve never seen the side of me where I’m mentoring people. It’s always been me on my own. The closest was the first series I ever did for TV, where I joined the Foreign Legion and took 10 people, and it did really well, but that was just in the U.K. The crew says it’s nice to see that side of me. I think it will come through for the viewers.
Do you ever want to take a resort vacation, or just chill and relax?
Yes, I love it. I have enough danger and drama and snakes and crocodiles at work. When I’m at home, I love just being mellow. But nobody comes round for dinner anymore if they think I’m cooking!