No one knows the wilds, or the life of an Outsider, like Bear. Throughout his wildly successful series, Running Wild with Bear Grylls, the British Special Forces vet and prime adventurist works with some of the most famous people on this planet. For six seasons, survival skills have been the name of the game as he teaches celebrity companions how to navigate some of the most treacherous landscapes on Earth. But the stakes are higher than ever for this seventh outing, leading to a new tagline: The Challenge.
And as Bear tells Outsider amidst traveling the globe, “Nothing creates a bond like being out in the wild and having your life on the line. That brings people very close. And I think Running Wild always creates amazing bonds with these guests and I never take that for granted.”
It makes for excellent television, to be sure, as Bear teaches novices (famous or not) how to cross 100-foot ravines, start life-saving fires, and forage for sustenance out in the wilds. Each of these skillsets features in this season’s premiere episode, in which Bear takes Natalie Portman on the journey of a lifetime.
Up First, Natalie Portman: ‘She’s mighty physically and mighty in spirit’
Portman currently stars in Marvel’s Thor: Love and Thunder, making a triumphant return as astrophysicist Jane Foster. But this time around, she takes on the mantle of Mighty Thor for herself; a role she trained every day for ten months to get into imposing shape for.
“She’s mighty physically and mighty in spirit,” Bear lauds of his companion. “She’s had to push through so many boundaries in her life, and she remains a non-ego lady, a true talent, and a great mum, which is no mean feat when you’ve had her sort of career.”
At the core of Running Wild are these sort of relationships; the kind of ‘do this together or die’ team-building that allows you to truly get to know someone in a relatively short amount of time.
“Many of the friendships last to this day,” he says of his celebrity companions, Portman included. “That’s the heart of the journey, really. You’re creating strong bonds, and therefore they trust you with their story.”
And if anything is on full display in Running Wild, it’s that trust.
‘The wilds are unpredictable. Weather changes. Rivers rise.’
Watching Hollywood stars tackle mind-blowing maneuvers at the drop of a hat is the bread and butter of Running Wild. There’s no faking this stuff, either, which surely has sane minds thinking ‘How on earth does Bear Grylls decide what’s safe and what’s not to attempt with a complete novice?’
I had to know, so I asked. And for Bear, it’s all about knowledge. Never go in blind.
“I have a good idea of the journey beforehand,” Bear grins. “Where we’re going to be dropped off, and roughly where we’re going to end. And I can shorten or lengthen that depending on how it’s going. You can’t make too tight a plan, because stuff happens, as you know.”
“The wilds are unpredictable. Weather changes. Rivers rise, all of that stuff. So we keep it quite loose, but at the same time, I know – generally – the obstacles ahead. We’ll do an aerial scout by helicopter, so the day before I’ll know the rivers and the cliffs so I have an idea of what we need to do to get across those.”
Bear always has “a few different options” in the back of his head, too, in case things go south. “What the guest is like,” and what conditions are present “once we hit the ground” also factor into how Bear moves forward for each episode.
“But the rest is improvising and the fun part, you know? The being resourceful in those moments. I love that part of it,” he grins.
‘A Testament to Our Amazing Crew’: ‘Running Wild with Bear Grylls’ Became an Emmy-Winning Series in 2022
All of the above led to some serious awards recognition ahead of Season 7. A heap of Emmy nominations came from the team’s phenomenal work on Season 6, and come 2022’s Emmy Awards, Running Wild took home not one, but two statues.
“That was a surprise and out of the blue,” Bear offers after a hearty thank you. “We’ve been nominated a few times over the years. I’ve never gone to the ceremonies. We’ve always lost,” he laughs. “So I was a bit, ‘Ah, we’ll never win!'”
This time, however, the crew had a feeling. “We’ve got to go this time,” was that feeling, so Running Wild showed up big for this year’s ceremony.
“The first up was for ‘Sound.’ That came and we lost, and I said ‘Here we go again.’ But then, blow me down, we won for ‘Best Show’ and ‘Best Host!’ Super grateful for that. Very humbling night. It’s a testament to our amazing crew, is what I felt that was. It’s real recognition of how hard they work against the odds. They’re the real unsung heroes of the whole thing for me.”
Running Wild with Bear Grylls: The Challenge premieres July 25 at 9 p.m. ET on National Geographic. Subscribers can stream all episodes exclusively beginning August 10 on Disney+, where all former seasons are also available.
Outsider will be back soon with plenty more from Bear Grylls ahead of The Challenge‘s premiere.