Adventurist and television personality Bear Grylls is headed to D.C. for the second time to host the American Veterans Center’s American Valor Awards, which honors veterans from World War II to present day. The broadcast of the awards will air Veterans Day weekend. We caught up with Grylls to talk about what made him get involved with American veterans, and what to expect from the latest season of his show, RunningWild.
What made you want to get involved with American Valor and honoring veterans? BEAR GRYLLS: I think America and the U.K. have been the greatest allies for decades. I think having served with the U.K. special forces alongside U.S. soldiers many times I’m just proud to have been asked. The American Veterans Center reached out and asked me to host the evening. It’s a huge privilege to champion true American heroes.
In addition to your work with veterans, you seem to be involved with multiple other charities like The Scouts and Tusk Trust. Why is that important to you? BG: One of the privileges of the job is that it gives you a platform and you want to do something half decent with that. Those are the organizations that are especially close to my heart. I love supporting those organizations. To be involved with the Valor Awards tomorrow for me was a no-brainer and a real privilege to be part of. We’re raising money for various veteran charities as well.
Growing up, did you ever dream of being on TV? Were you always an outdoorsman? BG: I definitely didn’t have the ambition to be on TV as a kid. I loved the adventure and that was the heart of it. I found that so much of my adventure bug allows me to explore that through the military as well. I could really get the chance to follow my dreams and to do one of the few things I was good at, which was all the adventure stuff. My dad always used to say that to me as a kid growing up, “follow your dreams and look after your friends along the way” so that’s always been the goal.
What was the riskiest thing you’ve done in the wild? BG: There’s been a lot of narrow escapes over the years with snake bites, crocodiles, sharks, pinned in whitewater rapids and parachute failures, big falls down crevices, avalanches, you name it. I think a lifetime of narrow escapes has made me always grateful to get back in one piece. We pride ourselves on thinking safely and the narrow escapes often mean something has gone wrong. It’s the key to longevity in the wild.
It seems like you’ve done everything possible on any conceivable bucket list, including climbing Mt. Everest. Is there anything left you want to do but haven’t done? BG: My bucket list grows all the time. We live in such an incredible world with huge wildernesses and inspiring places. There are lots of things still on the bucket list. My focus in the moment is Running Wild, which is a pretty year-round schedule that takes us all over the world.
When can we see Running Wild with Bear Grylls return? BG: The new season just finished and is in the bag. It will come out really soon, we just haven’t announced the date yet. We’ve got some great guests this year, the Roger Federer one people are excited about as he hasn’t done a show like this before, out of his comfort zone. It was an inspiring journey. Julia Roberts was on part of the season but that aired early as part of Red Nose Day.
Who surprised you the most while filming any of your shows? BG: It was funny, I never knew the Marshawn Lynch episode would be so popular. I didn’t know who he was. I thought he was a crazy American footballer. The dynamic was really quite fun. He was out of his comfort zone and I was like, come on get a bloody move on! He became a good friend through it all and have since become a big fan of his, he’s a lovely guy. We’ve had so many great guests. The Federer one is one I’ve wanted to do for a while. I’ve known him for quite a few years and spoke about doing it when he retired. He ended up just saying let’s do it and it was a very revealing episode. He’s got good balance, normally you take people out and they’re stumbling all over the place.
What’s next for you? BG: We’re just starting to film the next season of Running Wild in China. We also do a similar show in the U.K. I’ve also got a new book out coming out called How to Stay Alive and it’s all about surviving not just in the wilderness but the everyday disasters from terrorist attacks to a break-in in your car, how to fly a plane in emergencies. It’s all about equipping people with knowledge that could one day change their lives.
Have you ever been to D.C.? If so, what are some of your favorite places to visit? BG: We got invited to go to the White House by President Obama last year. We took the family, it was after we shot Running Wild the summer before. He said bring the family, I’ll show them the White House. It was our first and only experience of Washington. What an incredible man. He is a great inspiration to so many and it was a real privilege to get to spend a little bit of time with him. It was funny because I was much more nervous doing that than I was doing Running Wild with him because I was on his territory. It was a great privilege. This time, I’m even more excited about. We’ll be celebrating some real heroes.