Nine months ago, Jeff Powell of Dallas was badly injured in a motorcycle accident.
He spent three weeks in the hospital, four months in a wheelchair.
But you’ll never believe what Powell had the audacity to do after that: He climbed out of that chair and traveled halfway across the world with buddy Chris Winter to compete in a TV wilderness-survival show.
Powell, 29, who grew up in Garland, and Winter, 28, who hails from Rockwall, make up one of 10 duos in Get Out Alive With Bear Grylls, which premieres at 8 p.m. Monday on NBC.
Grylls is a world-famous survivalist and a tough taskmaster for the teams trying to withstand a rugged journey across the untamed terrain of New Zealand’s South Island.
Unlike most Survivor-esque shows, Get Out Alive isn’t a race or a series of games. It’s a wilderness trek in which everyone must work together. Each duo is assigned a specific task, such as being in charge of food, fire or shelter. After each leg of the journey, Grylls sends another team home.
The last remaining duo collects a $500,000 prize.
We talked with Powell and Winter about their trip of a lifetime.
What compelled you to go on this show? Were you in it for money, for adventure or because you had something to prove to yourselves?
Powell: “For me, it was definitely about testing myself. I was walking only for three weeks before we went to go film. I’m usually such an active person, so being in the wheelchair for so long and dealing with the aftermath of the accident was very, very difficult. I wanted to see if I was physically capable of doing the things that Bear had in store for us.”
What was it like roughing it in the wilderness of New Zealand?
Winter: “We knew it was going to be challenging when, during the casting process, they asked questions like, ‘Would you be afraid to do this? Would you be afraid to do that?’ We said we were down for anything. But we really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into until we were there and filming on the first day. We were put in terrains that were so remote and treacherous. And we were expected to live out in the wild with no sleeping bags and making our own shelter. It was very, very difficult at times.”
This is the first season of Get Out Alive . How did you even know to sign up?
Powell: “The way it happened was I had considered doing Survivor a couple of years ago and I stayed in contact with the casting people. Four months after the accident, I was contacted about doing this show. Chris has been my best friend for 11 years. We love doing adventurous stuff together, so I asked him to be my partner. I had no second choice.”
When it was announced that you would be on this show, you were already back home in the States. Was it hard or easy to keep secrets when friends and family pumped you for details?
Powell: “People haven’t pushed too hard. They’ll say, ‘Did you win?’ And we say, ‘Do you think we’re actually going to tell you that?’”
Winter: “And you always get the promise of ‘I’m not going to tell anyone.’”
Powell: “But most people don’t push any harder than that. I think it’s easy not to tell, because I want people to experience it as closely as Chris and I experienced it. Revealing anything would ruin it.”
There are three kinds of competitors on shows like this: good guys whom viewers root for, villains who are cutthroat and then everyone else, the ones who are basically road kill. How do you think viewers will see you?
Powell: “We’re the good guys, although Chris and I didn’t analyze our actions too much in the beginning. We were just doing what comes naturally, which was being helpful and considerate and working as hard as we could.”
Winter: “I don’t think we were cutthroat in any way. That’s just not who we are.”
Powell: “And I think as the series continued, we were perceived that way by the rest of the group as well. So definitely good guys.”