Having recovered from a broken back to successfully climb Everest, it's safe to say that Bear Grylls is one resilient dude. Now, on Discovery Channel's Man vs. Wild (new episodes premiere Friday at 9 pm/ET), the former British special-forces member is getting himself into — and then out of — some hairy situations.
TV Guide: How'd Man vs. Wild come about?
Bear Grylls: Well, I did a TV series for British TV on what it was like to join the French Foreign Legion and go through basic training, and that was quite popular over here. And on the back of that, Discovery said, "Come and do something for us." For me, it was the perfect blank canvas [on which] to paint a fun picture. So I said, "Why don't we parachute me into lots of cool places with very little, and sort of film the adventure?"
TV Guide: Ever worried you wouldn't make it out of a precarious place alive?
Grylls: No, because at the end of the day I know it's all TV and the great thing about doing these sort of shows is that I've spent so much of my life doing the big, long climbing expeditions for months on end. TV is great, and I always know that if things get too much, I can always put up my hand and get on the radio and get help in. Actually, it's a good sort of cushion for me — I know that if stuff is ever really bad, within five minutes a helicopter is there, with all the safety guys. Having that net gives me confidence to really be ambitious and push myself to go to places that I know are going to be especially hard work. For example, going into the jungle without mosquito nets and machetes.
TV Guide: What adventure so far was the scariest or most difficult?
Grylls: The Alaskan one [airing this week] was a real privilege for me to do. It's somewhere I'd always wanted to go because it really is America's great wilderness, quite an intimidating place. We were there in the summertime, so there are mosquitoes as big as your thumb. That really stretched me, Alaska. But when I look back over my life — especially after I broke my back — to be able to do all these things now, professionally, is a real privilege. The other side of it is hard, being away quite so much, and it's been such an intense year of filming. The hardest stuff for me is not the snakes or the mosquitoes or the parachute jumps, but missing my two little boys.
TV Guide: What's worse: being really cold or really hot?
Grylls: Being really cold. I have been unfortunate enough to spend much of my life being really cold, and I lie at home now in a hot bath and complain to my wife that there's not enough hot water. She says, "If people could know how pathetic you really are."
TV Guide: What do you do for fun?
Grylls: We have a little private island off the Welsh coast. One little house, no electricity. I don't want anything exotic. [And] I went to see Borat the other day. I hadn't peed in my trousers in a long time, and I was rolling around the cinema laughing.
TV Guide: But you have peed in your shirt and worn it as a head wrap to keep cool.
Grylls: I did do that. It didn't win me many dates.
TV Guide: You've climbed Everest. Do you consider that your greatest accomplishment?
Grylls: I think that was the pinnacle, in some ways, in that I've dreamt of it for so much of my life. My late dad gave me a picture of Everest when I was about 8, and taught me to climb, so growing up, that was something I've always aspired to do. After having my back accident... I feared it was a dream that wasn't really a possibility anymore.
TV Guide: How did you recover from breaking your back?
Grylls: Very slowly. People often say, "Oh, you must be very positive to go from a broken back to the top of the world," but it wasn't like that. It was a stumbling sort of journey, a much darker journey, slowly trying to piece your confidence back. They didn't know if I was going to be able to walk again. What I [kept coming back to was] the one thing I always could do well, which is to climb, and Everest became a massive focus of that recovery to me. But at the same time we've had three and a half months and had four people killed up there, and slowly the reality sinks in. The big summit seems so far away. Life is like that: The big goal is hard to focus on. You just have to keep moving on the little things every day. I came away from Everest feeling very lucky to have got to the top but also to have gotten off that mountain in one piece. So much of it does come down to luck, and I definitely have my fair share of that.
TV Guide: What's the next big adventure?
Grylls: I'm going back to Everest next year to fly powered paragliders over the summit. They want to call it Bear Grylls: 50/50. I haven't told my wife about this yet. They'll have to make up different titles for her!
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