Discovery Networks has just announced it will be airing Running Wild with Bear Grylls featuring President Barack Obama across Asia Pacific on December 18 at 10 p.m., immediately after its premiere in the US on the evening of December 17.
This special, acquired from Electus International and Bear Grylls Ventures, features Obama trekking through the Alaskan wilderness with host Grylls, while on a visit to observe the effects of climate change on the area.
The Obama special will serves as Gryll’s grand finale, before he begins a new second on January 5, 2016, where he will take Hollywood celebrities Kate Winslet, Kate Hudson, Michelle Rodriguez, Ed Helms, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Michael B. Jordan, James Marsden and Drew Brees on a one-on-one adventure to tests their survival skills and push their mental and physical boundaries.
Meanwhile, below is an interview transcript with Bear Grylls regarding his experience filming with President Obama.
Question: Can you talk a little bit about your impression of President Obama?
Answer: My overriding impression was just he’s really humble, family-centered, lovely guy. I mean, of course, the times along the route I have to kind of pinch myself and think actually this is the president of America. I think there’s a connection when you’re out in the wild with someone. I always say it’s the ultimate learning. He’s a dad and I’m a dad. And he cares about preserving.
One of the big reasons he wanted to do this is that he wanted to see some of the effects of climate change close up. He’s a dad, and he wants to preserve the planet for his children’s future and I feel exactly the same way. I spend all of my life charging around the world and all of these wildernesses and I see the harsh reality of climate change close up.
As you would say as well, we want to protect this incredible planet. It’s the only one we got and we want to make sure our children get to enjoy these wonderful wildernesses. So there is a great connection there.
But as I said, my overriding impression what that he was actually a really lovely guy. He was excited to be there and it was fun to be able to kind of pull each other’s leg a little bit in a way that if you just sort of meet someone in the White House with interview situation, it’s difficult to do. But you’re out there and you kind of light fire together and climb up trees and half eaten salmons and talking about flatulence and the berries and all of that gets out, you know? As the great moments come, so does the connection. This is a huge privilege, but also definitely a fair side of the president you’ve never seen before.
The other day, I watched the final cut with some friends and family at home, and they were just silent at the end. They go “Oh my god, you’ve done it.” I have no idea what he was going to be quite like – quite that intimate, quite that fun and revealing. He talked about what he really fears, what he’s learned and what he struggles with. He also talked about faith and family and stuff. Again, it’s been a huge privilege.
Q: Was there a moment that you impressed with the most when you were spending time with him?
A: One such moment was when we stood beforehand on the riverbank and we have this big journey to get in there, the shot down the airspace. We’re on a helicopter filming so far and then was on foot for the last. It was all quite frantic, you know? Just flying out from the UK the night before and straight in there. Suddenly it all went still and I was waiting at the riverbank and I can see, all the Secret Service and the snipers positioned all around this mountain with the helicopters and it was like, “Wow, I am really genuinely nervous.”
As soon as he arrived and he was just saying, “Hey, I’ve been a big fan of the show and it’s great to meet and let’s go and do it.” It was like, awesome and let’s just go for it.
But I think by the end of it, what really stood out for me was the little thing we did right at the end where we prayed together. It’s funny because it’s sort of such an intimate thing to do but we talked about faith on the journey and how he’d said that one of his heroes is President Lincoln, who said that if you’re not a religious man when you take off, you will be by the end. It brings you to your knees.
And I said right at the end, “It’s been such a privilege. I’d love just to praise you.” And he’s a man who everyone wants something whether it’s poking him in the chest about this or that or what is he going to do to solve this problem and for eight years, that’s all he’s had.
I think that is one of the reasons why he said this is one of the best days of his presidency for all of eight years. He said, “You didn’t want anything from me. We’re just sharing a little bit of our world.” It’s nice to be able to lay hands on him and just say a little prayer to pray for protection, for all the work he’s doing and it was just for ten seconds and he gave me a big hug at the end of it and I thought — you know, this is a real, special moment. I’ll never forget it.
Q: Was there anyone else as part of the entourage that you found funny or kind of a shock to you that they were there other than snipers?
A: Yes. They have this sort of close team right there all the time. There are a couple of moments I was pulling out the bear spray and showing the president how to squirt the bear spray. While I was blasting this around and they were (going a little bit crazy) and when I was pulling out knives and this sort of stuff. But I think it’s a journey. We’re relaxed and they realized he’s having fun and, I’ve got good intentions into heart and it’s all going to be okay.
And by the end of it, we had a good laugh. It was nice to see professional teams doing their job. His guys and my team had had a lot of ex-military people in it. So there was a good connection there. We all felt we’ve done well. We’ve delivered. So we’re done. We’re moving on.
Q: Out of all the activities that you do on your shows, were there any activities that were absolutely off limits with the President? What one activity were you most excited that you got to do with the president?
A: There’s a big petition on the White House saying, “You got to get the president to drink his own pee.” I said, I’m not going to ask you to do that. And it was fun because we had a good conversation about it.
“You tell me what is it with you and pee?” “Why are you known for this?” And he wanted to understand the science again behind it. So it’s a funny sort of our conversation about when pee is good and when pee is bad and how these berries can help people’s flatulence and all this. I would think toilet/lavatory humor is always a great leveler. And he’s a dad. He’s going to get that.
Q: If you were given the opportunity after he’s out of office to do this again with him, would you?
A: Yes, for sure. There’s so much more we could do. He wanted to do more and there were certain confines of the job that’s going to stop him skydiving out of Marine One. So maybe another time would be great but yes. Just as it is, we’ve delivered the program that I feel is the ultimate “Running Wild” I’ll ever do. I watched it, as I said, the other night and I’m so proud of it — the complete show. It’s got heart, fun and adventure and all of that good stuff. And I won’t beat that.
And what’s cool is that no president has ever done anything like this. That, for me, was the shocker. No living president, let alone a serving president, has ever done a TV show that’s not interview. They’ve never done a reality show, let alone an adventure reality show or just a TV show.
When they announced it, some newsreaders were saying “Breaking news, Obama to do Bear Grylls’ ‘Running Wild’ show.” And it was on the bottom of the screen and the lady reading is going “No, no, this must be a mistake. Not while he’s in office. No, no, certainly not while he’s in office. This can’t be right.” And the guy again “No, it’s right. Look, it’s on the bottom of the screen,” and I thought that’s cool, you know, with breaking some rules and pushing a few boundaries and good for him. What a great way to get a powerful message out there.