Bear Grylls talks about the new series of Bear Grylls: Mission Survive and reveals what the celebrities can expect to face this year. Bear Grylls: Mission Survive starts Thursday 3rd March at 9pm on ITV.
The location for Mission Survive is different this year. Can you tell us about that?
We wanted to go to a dramatically different location, but also somewhere that I’ve operated a lot in and I know is tough. I’ve spent a lot of time in Southern Africa, during military times and my early survival shows, so I know that terrain well, and I know it is brutal. You also have the whole added element of spectacular, but preNy frightening, wildlife. We had crazy weather. It was brutally hot - 40 degrees - which is really sapping. But then at night it's cold. And we got hammered by torrential rain. I said to the celebrities, 'You’ve got to be switched on from day one. You can’t mess around - or this place will spit you out’.
What sort of wildlife is there in the area?
Leopards, a crazy amount of snakes, especially in the area we were in, and a lot of sharks. Then there are the usual scorpions and insects. And a few grumpy celebs at times as well!
Is it harder than the last series?
Yes. We’d really planned this journey to be significantly harder in every respect. Last year, I did a lot for them in the early days, then we gradually stripped it back. This time we went in hard, fast and early. I think all of them - even those who felt well-prepared - were pretty shocked. They didn’t realise they were going to be quite so in at the deep end, so early. From the start they had very little equipment, had to make all their own decisions, sleeping rough from the first night, with big terrains and cliffs to negotiate and very limited food. We've really ramped it up on this series and it's why I am so proud of what they all went through.
What food could they eat?
We gave them basic military rations but restricted them a lot. So they were really in at the deep end, and a lot of them were saying, 'This is way harder than we saw on TV’.
How much training did you give them?
I'm alongside them for a lot of the time and Meg and Scott my two trusted lieutenants would watch their every move - but in essence we gave them very little training beforehand as we wanted them to figure things out on the fly and under pressure. The whole point is they’ve got to use their resourcefulness. That's one of the key survival elements that I was looking for. They had very little gear and they had to choose what kit they wanted and what they were going to ditch, so they had to be resourceful from the get-go. These guys were scared every day. They were tired and fatigued every day, and that’s why I always put such a focus on determination and positivity. You really saw people elevate in those hardships, but first there was pain, and a lot of it.
What about the challenges and tasks this time round?
There's much more focus on looking after themselves and helping each other. Before, I would say, 'You're in charge, you need to do this and this'. Whereas this time round it was more, 'This is the gear you have, you guys figure it out and who’s in charge’. We were right up in the high mountains and then ended up eventually on the coast, so there are a lot of big descents and lot of big rivers to cross. We had them under slung from a helicopter which is a military technique you use for gemng soldiers in and out of places where you can’t land. So you get the helicopter to hover, rope goes down, and they're all suspended at different heights. That was very early on and I think they were thinking, 'Okay, hold on, this wasn't in the briefing’! But the truth is that the real pressure started once they hit the ground. That’s why this season is so much tougher for the celebs. It went at a relentless pace and only the most determined survived.
How dangerous is it?
We always have a back-up plan and we always have good safety in place if needed. But there are some significant and genuine dangers out there that as a small group we had to manage together. We are dealing most days with dangerous animals, high mountains, hot terrain, big drops and thumping rivers. You only get things wrong in the wild once.
What sort of close calls did you have?
There was one where we were in a river, and one of the rafts started to fall apart. You can't be in the water for long with the shark presence around that coastline so I got in there with Scott and Meg to get them out. They were a bit panicky.
What are you looking for in your winner?
Courage, determination, resourcefulness, positivity. You can do all the preparation in the world, but we're actually testing people's spirits, and that's what Mission Survive really gets to the heart of. So many people can talk the talk but when you're under pressure, in the heat of the fire, who can really deliver, in terms of courage and kindness?
What did you think when you saw the initial line up? What was it like working with these seven, novice celebrities?
They were enthusiastic and very clean ‐ but I really don’t like clean clothes because they have no history, they have no story. I also said this to them that by the end the three that stand before me will have a few new scars, be grubby, beat up, and will undoubtedly look pretty rough, but they'll have a light in their eyes. Those who were there at the end understood this. The wild is the ultimate leveller and I really try and treat them all the same. We're here as brother and sister, not as sportsmen or singers or whatever. That's why the journey is so interesting. For some people it's like, 'Er, hold on, don't you know I won a BAFTA?' But that doesn't matter in the wild.
Where you thrilled with Vogue Williams as a winner last time?
I was really inspired by Vogue as a winner because you can’t cheat your way to the top. You only win the hard way, and she really earned it. She started off being quite green and making lots of mistakes but the harder it got, the more she elevated herself and went for it. She had courage, determination, positivity and resourcefulness in spades. But the winner this time will surprise you and will really inspire you and I found it one of the most moving shows I’ve done for a long time.
Did you have a little tear in your eye?
For sure, it was a really kind of, 'wow'. This person has earned it and faced some massive demons all the way and overcome it. You’d really want that person beside you in a crisis but you probably wouldn’t call it on day one.
Did anybody else surprise you?
I think what I love about this show is that you line everyone up on day one, and you can look at them like they're Top Trumps: age 50, speed 8, agility 4. But once you start, that stuff really doesn't count for anything. I would never have called the final three on day one. The heroes emerge as you pressure is applied. You don’t have that game show element where you put your goggles on and 'now do this'; it is really hard graft; and a character-driven journey where you see some proper courage and heroics. And it’s why it brings out so much emotion in these guys. There were a lot of tears along the way because they are really digging deep and it’s inspiring, and it really genuinely moved me.
You have shows in China and America as well. Do the American, British and Chinese personalities approach the competiton differently?
I loved doing the Chinese one, Survivor Games, and it was a very inspiring show. I thought they would be fine with eating all the grim stuff because their diets are so varied but actually that really freaked them out. To them, sea urchin or whatever isn't wacky, but the things we were eating in the jungle were wacky to them. I think also the whole idea of being dirty and feral and unkempt and embracing danger was very hard for the Chinese at first. A big shock. But once they got into it, they really loved it. Whereas with Brits and Americans, they love the dirt and the danger a bit more.