Naked and... cer­ti­fi­able?

Birth­day-suited re­al­ity-TV sur­vival­ists aren’t in it for the money; there isn’t any

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - BRAD OSWALD

HOL­LY­WOOD — The first ques­tion posed dur­ing an in­ter­view ses­sion for the Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel se­ries Naked and Afraid was the best: “Why?” The query was di­rected at a quar­tet of self-styled sur­vival­ists who were par­tic­i­pants in Naked and Afraid’s at­ten­tion­sec­ond and third sea­sons. Why, the ques­tioner (and ev­ery­one else in the room dur­ing Dis­cov­ery Net­work’s por­tion of the U.S. net­works’ semi-an­nual press tour in Los Angeles) wanted to know, would any­one in his or her right mind sign up for the har­row­ing and hu­mil­i­at­ing test the se­ries puts its stripped-down stars through? “That’s re­ally the first ques­tion we get from ev­ery­body,” said Sea­son 1 sur­vivor Jeff Zausch, “It’s ‘Why in the world you would do this?’ and what I al­ways say is, ‘This is who we are. This is what we are made of.’ “Some people were made to be race-car driv­ers. Some people were, you know, made to be CEOs of com­pa­nies. We were made to push the lim­its of what’s hu­manly pos­si­ble. This is what we do in our ev­ery­day lives, so to be on a show like this was just nat­u­ral.” For those who’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced the wild and un­fet­tered re­al­ity-TV charms of Naked and Afraid, the laid-bare lo­gis­tics are these: two par­tic­i­pants — one male, one fe­male, who have never met — are in­tro­duced, stripped of all their cloth­ing and then dropped into an in­hos­pitable wilder­ness en­vi­ron­ment with no food, no wa­ter and only one per­sonal item of their choos­ing, with the goal be­ing to sur­vive for 21 days while mak­ing their way to a pre­de­ter­mined ex­trac­tion point where they’ll be picked up and trans­ported back to civ­i­liza­tion. There is no mil­lion-dol­lar prize for mak­ing it to the end; just the sat­is­fac­tion of hav­ing made it to the end (well, that and per­haps a mod­est ap­pear­ance fee). “The No. 1 re­ward of this show was the pride that we got from com­plet­ing the chal­lenge,” said Zausch, who en­dured 21 days in the Mada­gas­car desert. “And I think I can speak for these (other par­tic­i­pants) — the feel­ing on Day 21, when we were res­cued, was ab­so­lutely the best day of our life. That’s why we did this chal­lenge.” Zausch’s part­ner in that episode, Eva Ru­pert, de­scribed the ex­pe­ri­ence as an ab­so­lute lifechanger. “Be­ing com­pletely naked for 21 days, strip­ping yourself down to the very core of your ex­is­tence, it re­veals a layer of yourself that you can­not know in any other way, shape, or form,” she ex­plained. “It’s only when you are pulled down to the rawest, most cen­tral core of your ex­is­tence that you can re­ally learn who you are, and then, from that, that’s where op­por­tu­nity de­vel­ops. That’s how you grow as a per­son, and that’s how you de­velop and change and (gain) even a greater sense of yourself than what you al­ready (have).” The se­ries, which be­came an in­stant wa­ter­cooler topic af­ter its pre­mière last sum­mer (Dis­cov­ery ex­ec­u­tives say it was the most-watched se­ries pre­mière in the net­work’s his­tory), airs Sun­days at 9 p.m. on Dis­cov­ery. Each episode fea­tures a dif­fer­ent pair of par­tic­i­pants, a dif­fer­ent lo­cale and a dif­fer­ent and unique brand of mis­ery that is recorded by the show’s crew dur­ing the three-week sur­vival or­deal. Se­ries pro­ducer Mathilde Bit­tner said the most dif­fi­cult en­vi­ron­ments for Naked and Afraid’s sur­vival­ists — and the show has tested many dif­fer­ent types, from deserts to trop­i­cal is­lands to Louisiana swamps — have been the ones that ex­pe­ri­ence ex­treme vari­a­tions in tem­per­a­ture. “I’ve been out in about nine dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions, and the hard­est ones are the ones with the ex­treme weather, where it will be re­ally, re­ally hot dur­ing the day and very cold at night,” she said. “We’ve shot in south­ern Africa... an episode that aired a cou­ple weeks ago, and that was it’s ex­tremely hard on the sur­vival­ists be­cause it will be up to 95 de­grees (35 C) dur­ing the day, and it will drop down some­times as low as, like, 50 (10 C), or even high 40s a cou­ple of nights, and that is it’s in­cred­i­bly drain­ing on them as well be­cause it takes so much en­ergy just for them to keep warm. “We would show up in the morn­ing, and they were just sore. Their mus­cles were aching just from the shiv­er­ing all night. And in the day­time, you can barely stay out­side be­cause the heat is so op­pres­sive. So it’s those en­vi­ron­ments that were def­i­nitely the most chal­leng­ing.” Of course, the naked­ness in Naked and Afraid cre­ates a bit of an edit­ing-room chal­lenge for the show’s pro­duc­ers. Bare bot­toms are a fre­quent on-screen fea­ture of the show, but the rest of the par­tic­i­pants’ pri­vate parts must be pix­i­lated be­fore footage is fit for air­ing. “We ac­tu­ally have a group of about six graphic artists that han­dle ev­ery (pix­i­la­tion) ef­fect shot,” said ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Jay Ren­froe. “I mean, we al­ways pull for (the sur­vival­ists) to make some kind of clothes, but most of them don’t. It’s not a big pri­or­ity. So we have graphic artists that ac­tu­ally sit and go frame by frame by frame by frame to cre­ate the blurs.” When asked what the folks who en­dure the Naked ex­pe­ri­ence think of hav­ing their pri­vates pix­i­lated, Ba­hamian-is­land sur­vivor Justin Bullard of­fered a cheeky re­sponse that prompted the ses­sion’s big­gest laugh: “They could have made my blurred spot big­ger. That would have been cool.”


Hey, sur­vival­ist lady! Where’d you get your re­veal­ing but stylish frock?


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