Reality AF: Running Wild‘s Bear Grylls on Survival Tips, Celebrities, and That Nickname + What to Watch This Week

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Reality AF: Running Wild‘s Bear Grylls on Survival Tips, Celebrities, and That Nickname + What to Watch This Week

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our new column, Reality AF. Every Monday, Terry Terrones will check in and talk about the state of reality TV, plus provide a Top 5 list of what’s coming up this week that you should not miss.


Extreme adventurer and survivalist Bear Grylls, a former member of British Special Forces, has been sharing his love of nature and passion for outdoor education on TV for what seems like forever.

But did you know Bear once made Natalie Portman drink water filtered through his underwear? Yep, the mother of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia drank underwear water thanks to Bear Grylls.

It’s all part of the fun in Running Wild With Bear Grylls which is currently airing its second season on National Geographic. The series features Grylls taking some of the most well-known people in the world—President Obama, Kate Winset, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts—on extreme adventures that would test anyone’s mettle.

I recently caught up with Bear and asked him about his unusual nickname, the celebrities he’d most like to take into the wild, and what he packs into his backpack. Here’s our conversation:

1) On the show you’re essentially an outdoor education instructor. What’s your process for teaching survival skills to people who don’t have any?
All of our guests come on Running Wild because they want to challenge themselves and experience some of the magic that the wild can give us. This season I really try to also teach them some essential survival skills and then have them put what they’ve learned to the test at the end of each episode. Whether it is knots or navigation, ultimately the journey will come down to a point where it’s all on them. That pressure can be tough when you’re tired and a little afraid but it’s amazing to see them overcome and succeed.

A recent journey for the series had me with Ashton Kutcher in the jungles of Costa Rica where he had to use his new skills to cross a huge gorge on a thin line and it’s a tricky technique of balance and strength but he did brilliantly. The wild always rewards the persistent and the resourceful. And the best way to teach is something I learnt in the military: explanation, demonstration, imitation. It’s just that on Running Wild that can all happen pretty quickly.

2) In the episode with Natalie Portman you grabbed some pitons from her Jeep and later you filtered water using your underwear. Were these ideas planned or spontaneous?
The underpants were a bit in desperation as I was looking for something to filter the water through but the pitons I knew were in the back of the jeep and I knew they’d be great to use on the way.

3) How far into your trek do people suddenly realize, “Oh boy, this is for real.”?
It tends to happen fast and early. That’s the fun of Running Wild!

4) When you do an episode of the show, what’s in your backpack and what’s in your pockets?
Being prepared is so important, it sets you up for success from the get-go. Research the area and know the key items that will help you. For example, in the snowy mountains a set of spare gloves can be a life saver. Ditto a small down jacket that you keep waterproofed and tucked into a small pounce in your backpack. Staple items are multi-tool, waterproofed comms such as an iPhone or satellite phone if off grid. A small first aid and a fire starter kit. Protective clothing – a hat and long sleeved shirt for desert and waterproof jacket for mountains. On top of that we bring a few extra ropes and satellite communications.

5) What do you tell your celebrity guest to bring?
I tell them to come on their own, no entourage, and to trust the process. They will love it! And that’s about it.

6) Which celebrity did you learn the most from and what was the takeaway?
Maybe Rob Riggle, who had done the show before and we share a lot of our military background in common. A sharing of values with good friends is always special.

7) Who was the most capable person you’ve ever worked with on the show and who was the biggest surprise?
To be honest every episode had its moments, that’s the wild for you. It’s highly unpredictable. We’re out there and taking risks and for most of these celebrities the journey pushes them beyond anything they’ve ever done. That’s the thrill of the show for me: being beside these huge stars in some raw and high intensity moments. With Simu Liu we went to the Canadian Rockies and had to trigger an avalanche to clear a path. This can be extremely dangerous if not done properly. That journey was a wild ride for sure and ended up with us both in a frozen river in our underpants in zero degrees. A moment I won’t forget! But Simu was amazing and 100% up for the challenge.

8) Who’s the one celebrity you’d most like to take on this adventure that you haven’t yet?
Probably The Rock. He’s a great guy and I am sure it will happen in due course. And also Justin Bieber who is such a good human and has had quite a journey in his life with much struggle.

9) What are 2-3 survivalist things you always carry with you no matter where you are?
Number one, a sense of humor and number two a never say die spirit. Those things win all. But if I were to pick a physical item it would be either my trusty Luminox watch or a good blade.

10) How did you get the nickname Bear?
From my older sister when I was growing up. I was christened Edward but she thought that was boring so from day one it has always been Bear. I used to feel a bit self conscious as a kid with the name but I’ve grown into it I guess.

Running Wild With Bear Grylls airs Mondays on National Geographic


5 Reality Shows to Watch This Week

1. Running Wild With Bear Grylls (National Geographic, August 8)

Why you should watch it: After hiking through the deserts of southern Utah with Natalie Portman and taking a soothing ice water bath with Simu Liu, Bear will be bumping around the jungles of Costa Rica with Ashton Kutcher. Hopefully he pulls at least one prank on the former Punk’D host.

2. Hard Knocks: Training Camp With the Detroit Lions (HBO/HBO Max, August 9)

Why you should watch it: The 17th season of one of my favorite reality series premieres today. Even though the phrase “hard knocks” could probably apply to the entire city of Detroit and I have no interest in the team, I’ll watch anyway because of the inside look at the NFL this series always provides.

3. Password (NBC, August 9)

Why you should watch it: Another game show is being rebooted because Hollywood likes nothing better than dusting off a classic and putting a fresh coat of paint on it. This new version is hosted by Nope star Keke Palmer and the opening episode features Jimmy Fallon and celebrity guest Jon Hamm helping two contestants try and win $25,000.

4. It’s CompliPlated (Food Network, August 11)

Why you should watch it: If you watch Chopped you know that Food Network loves to play with dorky puns so this new series, which has a pun right in the title, fits right into the cable channel’s wheelhouse. The premise even sounds similar. The show features celebrity chef Maneet Chauhan and a rotating panel of guest judges, each with a very particular palate and tricky food requirements.

5. Cosmic Love (Prime Video, August 12)

Why you should watch it: You know I love a good dating show and this one had me based on its description: “In this one-of-a-kind social experiment, four individuals attempt to find their perfect spouse via astrological matchmaking. Each individual represents one of the four elements of astrology (Air, Fire, Water, Earth). Their romantic adventure takes place at a retreat run by a mystical guide, the Astro Chamber. They mingle, match, date, eliminate, and eventually make the biggest decision of their lives… will they marry their match, based solely on their astrology?” Count. Me. In.

Terry Terrones is a Television Critics Association and Critics Choice Association member, licensed drone pilot, and aspiring hand model. When he’s not applying for Survivor, you can find him hiking in the mountains of Colorado. You can follow him on Twitter @terryterrones.

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