Survivorman Returns for 10-Day Adventures in Isolation
Survivorman (Discovery Channel - Sunday, 8pm). He was exhausted. And, who could blame the guy?
In Survivorman, Les - a survivalist, author and musician, spent a week at a time far from people in decidedly inhospitable conditions. You know, like 120-plus degree heat in Africa or chest deep in snow or in the jungle being chased by a jaguar.
In the four years since Les left the show, he lived with tribes on Discovery's Beyond Survival, he returned to making music and he wrote the book Will to Live. Now, Les is back on Discovery with new Survivorman episodes. This time, he's upping the ante from one week trips to 10-day adventures on his own - no camera crew, no food, no water and no contact with the outside world.
Les spoke with TVFirstLook about Survivorman, jamming on stage and I Am Canadian.
TVFirstLook: OK, what gives? I thought you left Survivorman four years ago.
Les Stroud: I didn't leave the show as much as I realized I wanted to move on to other things. The show Beyond Survival was very ambitious. As a producer, it was very difficult to pull off.
I took a hiatus for a while and, then, I got to talking with Discovery. Dare I say it? It sounded like it would be fun to try Survivorman again. I thought if I came back, 'Why not go for 10 days instead of seven days?' They loved the idea.
TVFirstLook: In the years since you left the show, you wrote a book, Will to Live: Dispatches from the Edge of Survival. What else have you been up to?
Les: My book Will to Live came out. But I also have been doing a lot with music.
I put together a very large multimedia film, talking and music performance. There are big screens [with films] from all around the world while I'm playing my music. I stop to talk and take questions. It's kind of like Peter Gabriel meets U2.
It's a full evening performance. We've been getting standing ovations and encores. I love the stage, so that has been great fun.
I've been calling it Les Stroud: The Earth Tour. A lot of my message has been about connecting to the planet. My work on Survivorman and Beyond Survival fostered that. But it just so happens that I'm a singer-songwriter. I used to write for publishing companies.
So, everything came full circle. I am on stage with films about my work. I tell stories about Survivorman and Beyond Survival. And I play my music.
TVFirstLook: OK, so on Survivorman this season, you go to countries like Mexico and Norway. How do you choose your locations?
Les: It starts with research. Does a place have a good survival story to tell? Will I be forced to do different things?
Some places have better survival stories to tell than others. But, in the end, it's pretty much me saying, 'OK, I'd like to go there.'
Then, I spend about a week on the ground ahead of time. My survival skills translate around the globe. But I need to learn what I can about an area. I need to spend time with local survival experts to learn about plants and animals. 'What will kill me? What won't kill me?' While doing that, my ears are perked up to hear about a place's history.
TVFirstLook: Before TV, you were a survivalist. What did you do?
Les: I don't know what it means to be a survivalist. I spent many years venturing into the wilderness. Part of doing that required that I learn three things: survival skills, primitive earth skills and bush-craft skills.
I'm good at surviving in the wilderness, so the term 'survivalist' is too vague. I teach wilderness survival and I always have. But, it just so happens that I worked in the film and music industry. So, I had those skills, too.
In the end, I'm a filmmaker. I am not a reality show star. I document what it takes to survive in the wilderness.
TVFirstLook: OK, last thing, your song I Am Canadian kind of sums up two big parts of your life: Canada and music. Does it surprise Survivorman fans when you belt out a tune?
Les: The uber-fan knows that I blow harmonica on a lot of my shows. So, they know. And some people have gone to my website to download my songs.
But the other side is, and it's a bit heartbreaking, people don't know. We had a film crew at some of the live performances. Everyone's response is, 'Man, I didn't know you could sing like that.' The musician in me thinks, 'Wow, I've been doing this for 25 years.' So, people are surprised. But, thankfully, they're pleasantly surprised.