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March 07, 2017

Welcome to the Jungle

Ten urbanites will leave their comfortable lifestyles to try to stay alive in the jungle.

Juli Schafer
  • Hannah Simone

  • Fox
  • Fox
  • Fox
  • Fox

What do a video gamer and a Boy Scout leader have in common?

Nothing. And that’s part of the fun on FOX’s new reality competition, Kicking and Screaming.

Kicking and Screaming pairs 10 expert survivalists with 10 pampered partners to face the toughest challenges of their lives. Produced by Lionsgate, the series drops these unlikely duos into a tropical jungle in Fiji where they must overcome dangerous animals, raging rivers, hunger and extreme weather. The prize? $500,000 and serious bragging rights.

Host Hannah Simone, who also stars in FOX’s comedy New Girl, adds her sense of humor, love of adventure and passion for travel to the show. 

“We’ve gameified staying alive in the jungle, so that is the first big challenge....just staying alive! The teams have to learn to make fire, get food and then go on to do the challenges that we’ve prepared for them,” says Simone, who is very glad to be the host and not a contestant as she witnesses first-hand what the contestants endure, overcome and eat to survive. “They have to survive each other, and the jungle, and the game.”

The pilot episode opens with visually stunning footage of the South Pacific’s Fijian jungle and pans to Simone addressing the hard-core survivalists who include a fourth-degree black-belt ninja, a combat diver, an Air Force SERE specialist and a military sniper.

“Surviving this game will be the hardest thing that you’ve ever done, because you won’t be paired with each other. You’ll be paired with these guys.”  Simone flips her thumb to point to a small, wooden boat approaching shore. On it there are 10 passengers wearing makeup, false eyelashes, trendy clothes and snazzy jewelry. They are waving and cheering as if arriving on vacation.

The “screamers” as they are also called include an NBA cheerleader, a Baywatch actress, an etiquette expert and a professional club-goer whose primary method of survival depends on his mom’s credit cards.

Simone describes the newly arriving cast mates as “novices who have never spent a night camping in their own back yard, let alone surviving in the wilderness.”  The survivalists’ eyes widen as their faces fall, setting up the show’s premise.

“As the group was waiting to set up the shot, they looked around and saw like-minded people with similar experience. They were independent, they knew they could do what they needed to survive in the wild, they are tough -- there’s no fear in that group – and all of a sudden they were thrown out of their comfort zone. It was shocking,” Simone said.

She added, “That’s one of the things that I appreciated so much about that this show. This is not a show about people who are so comfortable being thrown together with people who are highly uncomfortable. Everybody’s uncomfortable! Everybody’s having a brand new experience, and that’s what was so interesting to watch!

"This really is a show about human relationships. Can you survive being paired with someone who is your polar opposite, in really difficult conditions, when you have a common goal?”

The dynamics of the team pairings are one of the highlights of the show. Simone gave some insight into two of the teams that made standout first impressions.          .

“I was standing in the middle of the group, getting to hear everything.  I had seen the pairings on paper, but when I saw them in person, one of the pairs that struck me immediately was John and Nakeisha - the warlord and the Atlanta cheerleader. I was so excited to go to work every morning to see how their night went, not only for Nakeisha’s answer, but to watch John’s reaction to it. It was one of my favorite things to do,” said Simone, laughing.

“The second was the video game player and the Boy Scout master. That was such an interesting pairing because video game players have a whole culture unto themselves and here is this man who has lived by this very proper code his whole life. They were amazing to watch.”

Aside from competing in challenges and practicing survival skills there are other situations that arose on the show.

John and Nakeisha’s struggle to align is apparent in one of the show trailers. Nakeisha threatens to leave and John tells her to “just go.”

“I’m not worried about the jungle,” John says in another scene. “I’m worried about my partner.”

Simone gave insight into relationships that formed, “There was definitely romance brewing. We were in Fiji for a’s natural. You put 20 people out there in the jungle. People are uncomfortable so they are going to find comfort, and there’s a lot of very cute people walking around! And what happens when two people like the same person? So, there’s a love triangle, too!”

Executive producer, Matt Kunitz, adds an additional layer. “If you love action you’re going to see contestants propelling down waterfalls. If you love drama, you’re going to see relationships forming and romances forming in the reality that we’re shooting. And if you love humor, you’re going to see this incredible humor of these people that really don’t belong in the jungle trying to survive out here.”

Kunitz is no newcomer to reality television. He is best known for his work on ABC's Wipeout, NBC's Fear Factor and MTV's The Real World.

What sets Kicking and Screaming apart from other survival shows is the humor.

“Comedy is a big part of who I am so it was great to do a show that was light. The whole family can watch and laugh along with it and relate to the characters” says Simone.

The funniest moment for Simone came during an uncomfortable scene. “I say it during the show and I said it repeatedly off camera, that I am very grateful that I am just the host of this show. It was tough. The conditions are real. The one thing I couldn’t get out of as a host was we did a challenge where they had to eat living, gross things that were found in the jungle.

"I thought, I don’t know how I am going to stand a foot away from the creature, that’s one problem, and second of all from a person putting that creature in their mouth and trying to choke it down.”

Simone admits she couldn’t enjoy the first few weeks in Fiji because she knew that was coming.  “It actually turned out to be one of the funniest experiences because it was when I was fully at my most uncomfortable, trying to get through it and confront one of my own fears.”

For Simone, making the transition from starring in a sitcom wasn’t a stretch.

Simone became host of Canada’s Home and Garden channel’s television show Space for Living for its first season and went on to co-host WCG Ultimate Gamer in 2009-10 on Syfy.

“I guess I don’t compartmentalize parts of myself. I shoot New Girl and I love our series. I get to hang out on set and act like an idiot with my friends all day and thankfully people enjoy watching that.  But in my spare time, I mean every weekend, I usually pack up and go on an adventure and travel somewhere. That’s been a part of my life well before New Girl. That’s an intrinsic part of who I am,” said Simone.

Travel has played a major role in Simone’s life right from the start. She was born in London and spent her early years in Calgary, Alberta. From the ages of seven to 10, she lived in Saudi Arabia and moved through three more continents with her family. She then went on to live in Greece, India, back to Canada and finally Los Angeles, so being the host of this show is a dream opportunity and a perfect fit for Simone.

“When I heard about (executive producer) Matt Kunitz putting together this new series set in Fiji, it was so exciting for me to go to a place I’ve never been before, so it’s a brand new adventure, and I would get to be a ‘fly on the wall’ alongside twenty people who were having a brand new experience, in a brand new place. That is just like heaven to me.”

“I watch every travel adventure show because it’s one of my personal passions to do that in my real life, and the idea that I could crawl inside my TV set and be there and speak my mind was perfect. It was made for me,” Simone added.

Simone is eager for the premier to air Thursday, March 9 at 9pm eastern.

“No one has seen the show yet, so I haven’t heard anything. You spend your time making a show that you love and you enjoy and then you kind of wait for the premiere to see how everybody else reacts. Do they like it as much as you do?”

Spoiled, pampered, well-tended, and now they have to eat scorpions and sleep in the mud. What’s not to like?

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