Tonight, FOX premieres its new comedic reality competition series from executive producer Matt Kunitz, Kicking & Screaming
. The series, hosted by New Girl
's Hannah Simone, teams ten survivalists with ten high-maintenance novices in the jungle of Fiji for a prize of half a million dollars.
Simone recently talked to SciFi Vision in an exclusive interview about her time on the show.
SCIFI VISION: Can you start off by talking about why people should watch this show? What is it that will draw viewers in?
I can tell you what pulled me into it. I am a massive fan of the genre. I love travel; I love adventure. I've lived my whole life that way. My family moved countries every three years or so since I was one year old, so that's such a huge part of who I am. Doing New Girl
is an incredible job, but it keeps me here in LA for about nine months of the year.
So my escape when I'm here is watching those travel adventure shows, and it's always been one of my dreams to host one.
And then they pitched me the idea of the show, of a travel adventure series, where you're not only in this kind of remote jungle learning to survive, but you're also then paired with someone who is your polar opposite. So you're not only learning survival skills, but you're learning social survival skills, and I thought that was fascinating. It gave me the opportunity to kind of crawl through my TV set and see how it all happens, and to see how these people dealt with each other in a really extreme situation. How do you think you would do if you were a contestant on the series?
I don't know, actually, now that I think about it. I'm not sure how I would do. So much of what seems like a successful partnership as the show progresses is really in how they deal with each other, which I think is kind of interesting in the different angles that this show has. Because it really became, as opposed to seeing all the differences in the other person, and what was frustrating about the other person, or why you couldn't handle being partnered with the other person, about when you started to realize what strengths they had, and both ways, from the novices to the survivalists and vice versa. That's what made a stronger team. So if I had a really good partner, where we could find those commonalities, I think then we probably would do well, and I would be able then to deal with the bugs. Speaking of bugs, I know you obviously didn't stay in the jungle like the contestants did, but when you were with the group, did you feel any of their misery at all, like did you get bit up?
Yeah. If you scroll back through my Instagram to when we were in Fiji, if you scroll back to around May of last year, I came home from the jungle one day and I took my pants off, and I was covered. I was covered from my toes, ankles, all the way up, in severe bites. And there was a bite on my leg, that by that evening had grown about four times the size [laughs]
, and usually, as with anybody, I think that would have freaked me right out, but by this point, we were a couple of weeks into the jungle and shooting, and it was so funny. I was like, 'Bring me the medic and a shot of whiskey, and we'll get through it. It will be fine; I'll see you guys in the morning.' I was kind of surprised at myself. In my own way, I was surviving my own jungle incident. What are some of the dangers that the contestants faced that viewers might not automatically think about?
I mean, there are a lot of dangers. They really are in the jungle, sleeping out there, finding their food, and I mean, people really got some serious, I don't want to say injuries, but they suffered a lot, and I think that was quite humbling to watch as I would go out every single day. You would just see the level of bites and bruises. You'd see the impact of people being hungry and really trying to handle the conditions. And then you'd see the emotional toll that takes, because you're kind of being stripped of all of your comfort, and that's when you started to see - and this was the amazing part of this social experiment - people who on day one were very standoffish and in their ways towards their partner, start to slowly start to gravitate towards the one person that they really had to count on. Is there anybody out of the group who surprised you the most in particular?
I mean a lot of people surprised me. For a lot of people this was so wildly out of their comfort zone. I mean, we had a cheerleader from Atlanta, Nakeisha [Turk], who was freaked out at the idea of eating fish in a pan. So watching her growth was incredible.
But there were so many people. We had a video game player [Natalie Casanova], who is so deep into that culture, who all of a sudden is now surrounded by a ton of people out in the wild, when she is used to just sitting behind a computer.
And then on the survivalists end, we had like a war lord and a marine sniper. These are lone wolves, people who are just used to completely being by themselves. Once they get an order of what they're supposed to do for the day, that's what they're supposed to do. You don't ask questions; you get it done. You don't complain; you do not whine. That's what happens. And now all of a sudden they have a person going, 'My eyelashes are lifting, and I need a minute to fix it,' and they're just like, 'What is happening to my life?' I know you said you don't know how you would do as a contestant, but is there someone you sort of related to? Is there a contestant you saw yourself in? Someone who you thought you'd kind of react like them, or did you not really think about that?
Ooh, I don't know. My heart kind of felt for a lot of the novices that came in [laughs]
, who I think were taken aback that, you know, our show is real. It's not just for TV; they really were going to live and sleep out in the jungle. I mean, a lot of these people they were paired with had military training and are not there to be their buddy and their friend. They're there to just get the job done and win. So I could understand the shock that they felt.
But we also had some really amazing survivalists. We had a female survivalist named Jessie [Krebs], who was incredible. She was an incredible coach to her partner, Mike [Forbes], who was scared of everything
. She had to [laughs]
gently guide this gentle giant to not be scared of a spider, so he could focus on making fire, so he could win the challenge and not be kicked out of the game. So, I mean, I loved the way that she dealt with people, and that was her strongest skill. She was an incredible survivalist, but her strongest skill was how she dealt with Mike, I thought. I also have a question about gameplay and strategies and one thing that wasn't specifically mentioned. At the end of the episodes, two teams who are up for elimination compete, and the loser leaves the game, but the winner who stays also gets to choose a team to go down to compete in the next elimination. That team, are they safe from the next competition, or can they end up going down a second time in a row?
So they go back, and they get to pick who will go up. Then whoever comes in last place from the next challenge is also up for elimination. So yes, if they lose the next challenge, they're going back in.
So there was a lot of strategy that had to happen, because if you aren't maybe the physically strongest team - because a lot of those challenges were physical - and you end up placing last, you could be picking your competition. So do you want to really put up the strongest people in the game that you want to get out, because you don't want them in the finals? Do you want to put them up for elimination? Because you might face them, which means you might go home.
The strategy was super fascinating, and again, as a massive fan of the genre, I was like, [gasp].
You know, I'm sitting there watching it happen live, and I would come home and be like, 'What are they thinking? What a crazy choice to put those people up next.' It was fascinating. But that's again, where you saw all these personal relationships start to come into play. People would build their alliances, and that's where that became important. Is there anything you learned from working on the show, either a survival skill, or just in general?
I mean, for me, it was really cool to just to host a show like this. I grew up watching these shows, and I've never seen a female host of a travel adventure series like that; it's usually men hosting. So it felt so cool to know that there was space for that, and because I'm such a big adventurer myself and I've traveled so much myself, to kind of feel like I could be part of that voice of representation. So I just kept having these sort of 'pinch myself' moments out there, you know, leading these challenges and helping guide people through these really funny, interesting, different experiences. It was surreal. I really enjoyed it.