'Hostile Planet': Bear Grylls Talks Grueling Shoots, Fearing for His Life & Power of Perseverance (Exclusive)

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It's been an emotional ride for Hostile Planet viewers.

The National Geographic six-part wildlife docuseries has taken audiences where no one has ever been before, showing the brutal and devastating life that many animals are forced to battle and endure in an ever-changing planet and climate. It's been heartbreaking for people to watch the severity of life in the wild, but this is how life really is for most species. 

As the nature documentary comes to an end on Monday with its final episode, "Polar," host Bear Grylls takes audiences to frozen poles. Home to some of Earth's ultimate survivalists, including polar bears, penguins and Arctic wolves, viewers will see how their home changes fast -- breaking apart under their feet -- and how their resilience is tested beyond the extreme. See an exclusive clip from the episode in the player above. 

Additionally, ET spoke with Grylls, where he reflected on his Hostile Planet journey, shared his favorite shoot, the biggest challenges he faced, and what is on his bucket list.

Bear Grylls Hostile Planet
NatGeo; African Photo Productions © 2018

ET: What were the biggest challenges you faced on Hostile Planet?

Bear Grylls: The show took 1,300 days for the team to film; that means a lot of nights out, tough conditions, time away from home and daily dangers. I couldn't be more proud of all they have achieved and the footage and episodes that have resulted. Some of this stuff has never been filmed before, and it has been iconic to see it all come together.

Was there ever a moment where you feared for your life?

Through a lifetime of adventures, there have been so many moments I feared for my life! Whether it was parachute failures, bitten by snakes, caught in avalanches or rockfalls or pinned in rapids. They have been powerful reminders that the wild is in charge and to not let your guard down.

You're put in some dangerous and crazy situations. What is your limit, something that you know you won't do?

I may not answer your question the way you thought I would -- but one thing I’d never do is give up. No matter how crazy the situation is, the mission is to never stop trying. Never underestimate the power of perseverance and always find a way to adapt to your scenario. This is exactly what we learn by watching the animals in Hostile Planet. N.G.U. Never give up.

What makes Hostile Planet so special and what do you hope viewers take from it?

Hostile Planet is an incredibly fresh and dynamic reboot of the natural history doc genre, and unique in how firmly grounded it is in the reality of our changing climate today. The series takes viewers right into the heart of real-life survival drama of animal species in six different environments around the world and provides a really up-close view into their daily struggles.

Another way the show is so special within the broader landscape of nature docs is its stunning cinematography, which takes full advantage of groundbreaking tech and amazing direction from our executive producer, Guillermo Navarro, to tell truly epic stories and put viewers right in the middle of the action. For example, we had a drone-racing expert who helped us in our "Deserts" episode to capture some crazy footage of a hawk-and-rabbit chase, which made you really feel like you were flying overhead and seeing the rabbit from the hawk's point of view in the air, and then also following the rabbit on the ground as it ran to escape its predators -- a fully immersive experience.

As for what we hope viewers take from it, I hope that our audience takes away a renewed appreciation for this planet we call home and a deeper understanding of how our actions impact the daily lives of the many wonderful species that also inhabit it. The planet has changed more in the past 50 years than in all the years before that, and this series shows the effects of this rapid change on wildlife around the world.

Hostile Planet Bear Grylls
National Geographic/Cristian Dimitrius/Adrian Seymour

Reflecting on this experience, what was your favorite shoot and why?

Probably the "Jungles" episode. Torrential rain for long periods of time brings a team close and reminds us all that the jungle truly is an environment like no other. They can be terrifying and mesmerizing all at the same time. But above all, you sense that you really are in an alien landscape and the impression of the majesty of nature can last a lifetime.

How did you personally try to make this series different from others you have worked on?

One of the big departures of Hostile Planet versus other series I’ve worked on and other nature docs, in general, was just how much I stepped back from the spotlight to let the animals tell their own story as much as possible. Often with these types of shows, you just have constant narration explaining what's going on, and we all wanted to avoid doing that and let the cinematography and let the animals themselves convey the drama of their lives. I consider myself pretty well versed in survival, but I'm a rookie compared to these animals and it was amazing to watch them do what they had to do to make it.

What is something you wish viewers had the chance to see more of?

Hostile Planet focuses on six terrains around the world that are currently seeing the most devastating effects of climate change on top of the fact that these are harsh environments to begin with. I hope we can continue to shed light on other habitats [like] rivers, swamps... There’s so much to see of this planet. It's not as small as we think.

Watching these episodes has been very heartbreaking at times because of what some animals go through is brutal. What message do you want to send viewers about our planet, animals and conservation?

I hope that viewers of Hostile Planet will walk away from the series with a deeper consideration for and awareness of the impact that climate change has on every species on our planet. Everyone has the ability to play a positive role in addressing climate change and we can all make choices, no matter how small, in our everyday lives to make this planet a healthier one for future generations of humans and animals. But also, I hope the show reminds people just how lucky we are in the first place to be here and to have a home on this Earth. There’s so much wondrous life to explore out there and so much beauty in wildlife. Let's all work together to protect and preserve it all to the best of our human ability.

Bear Grylls Hostile Planet
National Geographic/Oliver Clague

Having been on so many adventures in your life, what is on your bucket list and where is someplace you have been wanting to go and explore?

I’m so lucky to have been to a ton of places, but as small as the world can seem at times, there’s still so much to explore. For me, personally, I’ve dreamt of going back to Everest with my family, even if just to show them the peak from basecamp. It’s an experience I’d love to share with them. I’m also hoping soon to scale some of the unclimbed peaks of Greenland with skis and paragliders. How amazing would that be!? 

The Hostile Planet series finale airs Monday, May 6 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on National Geographic Channel. 


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