British adventurer Bear Grylls likes pushing celebrities out of their comfort zone. He swung Ed Helms from a helicopter over the Colorado forests, shared a meal of rats and urine with Michelle Rodriguez and had a heart-to-heart with Barack Obama in the Alaskan wilderness.
Now, as the sixth season of his National Geographic show Running Wild with Bear Grylls is broadcast on OSN, Grylls reveals he’s going to bring the show to the UAE in a future episode and says it will feature one of the country’s “leading figures”.
"We're excited to show the world some of the mountains there and some of the spectacular terrain," he tells The National. "People often think that it's just desert but there's so much diversity in the wilderness."
Grylls does not reveal who the local figure he's planning to have on the show is, but says the goal of the episode will be to "showcase the UAE and its vision for the future".
“We are definitely going to start doing more shows in the Middle East,” he says. “There’s just so many we can do in the Middle East and in the UAE.”
Grylls is no stranger to the UAE. The world's first Bear Grylls Explorers Camp opened in Ras Al Khaimah last year. The camp equips budding adventurers with the survival skills they need to make it in the wilderness.
The new season of Running Wild with Bear Grylls premiered regionally on National Geographic on April 23. The first episode followed an adventure Grylls took across the Italian Dolomites with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier star Anthony Mackie.
“Mackie is taking on the Captain America shield. He’s at the height of his power and physicality. So for me, I wanted to take him and really push him. He was nervous, but what a hero, and a humble, good guy. He was honest about all of his fears and we had a really good journey.”
The rest of the season, which is being broadcast every Friday at 9pm, will feature the likes of Machete actor Danny Trejo, former professional racing driver Danica Patrick, Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Terry Crews, Key and Peele star Keegan-Michael Key, and The Office's Rainn Wilson.
"Trejo was one of the oldest guests we've ever had on the show," Grylls says. "To take someone who's over 70 into high elevation and hot deserts is always going to be challenging. He actually got some pretty severe heat exhaustion. We had to adapt our journey and shortened it a little bit."
You might think Grylls has a hard time convincing his famous guests to come along on adventures with him. But he says they usually reach out to him. And even then, Grylls says he only takes "the best."
“We often get these Hollywood stars approaching us,” he says. “I think we’ve always kept it at a really top level of guests. We don’t do many of these shows. We only do between six and 10 every year. We take the best and we always deliver something money can’t buy. I think that’s why we get such amazing people. They don’t need the money. They don’t need the fame. They’re not there for that. They are there for the experience.”
Grylls says his adventures into the wild usually prompt his guests to open up in an honest and vulnerable manner, divulging their stories in a way they wouldn't on a talk show.
“These stars come at a time in their life when they want to share things,” he says. “We’ve never had a difficulty casting the show with amazing guests. We’ve been very lucky that even through this Covid year, where travel and everything has been so hard, we’ve still got some of our best guests ever.”
The spirit of the show and the special sense of camaraderie that develops in the wild, Grylls says, has made sure the explorer gets along with every one of his guests.
“I’m really privileged,” he says. “Most of the time it’s a real meeting of the minds. We might be from different countries or backgrounds, but I would say that in almost every episode, there is an adventurous spirit at the heart of our guests. They might not have done the physical adventures, but they have that pioneering attitude of taking risks in their life.”
Even though Grylls seems like he's very much in his element when scaling mountains or hiking through dense forests, he is careful not to let his guard down while out in the wild. He says the wilderness is a place that is familiar to him, but that he makes sure not to become complacent.
“You have to respect the wild,” he says. “The minute you take your eye off the ball it will bite you. You have to develop the internal muscle of being able to deal with uncertainty and deal with change and become comfortable with that.”