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Love In The Wild Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

This is an interview with host Darren McMullen on June 22, 2011 about the show Love In The Wild.

Darren McMullen

Question:
Did anyone find real love on the show and, if so, how many?

Darren McMullen:
I fell in love with everybody on the show. They were all awesome. The guys were dreamy and the girls were gorgeous. In all seriousness, without giving too much away, I would say a significant number of people actually found true love, to the point I think they're sneaking around meeting with each other in different towns. Because obviously we don't want them to be caught walking down the street with each other. That would kind of ruin the show for everybody else. I do know that a few of the couples have been calling the producers saying, "Oh I really miss them, is there any way we can kind of meet up in private and blah, blah, blah." So that was quite sweet. I think everybody was genuinely surprised at the amount of people that actually, truly fell for each other.

Question:
So are people still together then now?

Darren McMullen:
Yes they are. Yes, they absolutely are. Yes, which is quite nice. You never know what the fallout will be in a few months. But I'd say there could even be wedding bells for more than one couple. I would say that.

Question:
What type of dangers will the couples face in Costa Rica, both adventure-wise and relationship-wise?

Darren McMullen:
Adventure-wise they really were out there in the elements you know. There was poisonous snakes, deadly spiders, jaguars, wild boars, crocodiles, you name it. And then I guess as the added element of basically trekking for sometimes hours on end in extreme heat and in rather rugged terrain. With regard to the relationships, I guess the dangers they would face are, whenever you put people in this kind of scenario all your feelings are I guess heightened to the nth degree, which was the premise behind the show you know.

It's kind of like that Romancing the Stone movie where you throw two complete strangers into an isolated wilderness and see what happens. And they either really get along or they really don't get along. And we had equal amounts of both. So I guess some of the dangers that were being faced are a quick slap across the face by your partner if they weren't digging you. But at the same time there was lots of people that fell truly and madly deeply in love with each other.

Question:
The elimination round sounds interesting; where the contestants can choose to stay with their partner or switch with someone else. I wanted to know how are they eliminated?

Darren McMullen:
So basically the place that they come on the adventure determines how quickly they will come up to me and decide whether they want to stay or switch. So the first place couple on the adventure will be the first couple to come up to me at the couple's choice ceremony and decide if they want to stay or switch. Now basically this process goes on and on and on until you only have one many and one woman left. And then those two are eliminated.

So it doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be the last place couple because maybe one of the people that came first wants to switch with somebody that came last. So basically we just keep going until there's one man and one woman left. So where you come in the race doesn't determine if you'll be eliminated or not but it certainly does help to come first in the first few places because your chances are going to dwindle the further down you come in the adventure, unless you're a real stud and everybody loves you anyway so you don't have to worry about where you come in the adventure.

Question:
Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you got involved with the show?

Darren McMullen:
I'm originally Scottish and I moved to Australia when I was a teenager and I finished school there and then I was a bit of a corporate whore, I like to call it. You know, Monday to Friday nights at 5:00, suit and tie, and you know, I thought I was going to go down that path, and you know, own a bunch of Fortune 500 companies. Not one mind you, a bunch. I soon learned - because I did work my way up quite quickly up the corporate ladder and I realized quite quickly also that I really wasn't doing something creatively that I wanted to do and wasn't really kind of kicking all the boxes I guess.

So I remember I had a ceremonious burning of all my suits and ties and I took off 'round the world and I just kind of did a bit of soul searching. And I was somewhere back in Scotland actually, I was waking up every morning watching this kid's show and I was setting my alarm to do so because I'm not a morning person at all, and I was like, "Why the hell am I watching this? I mean I hate this show." And I realized it was purely for the host. He was edgy, he was raw, he was making the stakes, it wasn't fake you know, it was a real guy on television. I thought, "Wow, I've never seen that before. I want to do that. I want to be a guy that people tune in just to watch. It doesn't matter what show I'm doing."

So I flew back to Australia, because that's where my parents were, and basically that was my goal and I had it in mind and I wasn't going to take any other jobs that wouldn't get me close to that. And I always remember I was in the poorhouse basically. I spoke to friends in the industry and they said, "Look, you need an agent. That's the first thing you need." And you know, I couldn't even afford to feed myself anything other than two-minute noodles by this stage. And I had to borrow my mom's car to go in and have this meeting with this agent. And it was one of these awful agencies, you know the ones that just employ anybody off the street and they try and charge you to join the agency.

And I said, "Well I'm not going to pay to join your agency. That's ridiculous." You got, "Oh we need to for photos and stuff like that." I said, "Look, I've got photos here, my friend's - I mean he's one of the best photographers in Sydney." And they said, "Well you know, it's not just the photos. If you just sit on our books and don't get any work there's administration costs and you cost us money." And I said, "Well excuse me, if you want to be my agent and you think I'm going to sit on your books and not get any work then I really don't think you're a very good agent. Do you? So I think this has been a mistake." And I got up to leave and they chased me down and said, "Okay, we'll give it a go, we'll see how things pan out."

And I always remember this because I could barely afford to eat. I was really questioning if had I made the right decision because in my industry it was quite small in the corporate sector I was working at, so people knew I was back and I was getting head-hunted. And I was like, "No, no, no. Can't do it. Can't do it." And I walked out and had inadvertently parked in a bus zone and I had a $175 parking ticket. And I was like, "Oh my god." I was almost in tears. I'm like, "This is a stupid idea. I'm going to go back and buy a suit and tie and get back into the corporate world." And I got a phone call the next day from that terrible agency saying, "You said you want to be a TV host yes?" And I was like, "Yes, I absolutely do." He said, "You know anything about cars?" I said, "Absolutely nothing. But I'll do it."

And I went to a series of auditions and I got the job for a car show called Ignition. And that was my starting point. And through doing that and then finding out where good celebrity parties were around town, and me and my buddy would walk up and sneak into the party basically and stick a camera in a celebrity's face and just start interviewing them. We had this terrible rickety old home video camera, but we used to attach a flashlight to the top so in a party it looks quite, you know professional. All they see is the light and the microphone and they're like, "Oh, okay."

So I built up a really good show real I guess from doing that. And then went to get a better agent. And through that better agent I got my first show that I helped write and develop, which was kind of like Entertainment Tonight, it was called Exclusive. And then did that for a couple of years. And then moved on to MTV, hosting a kind show like that Hugh Hefner show back in the day that was just like a big party and he was the host of it. So it was kind of like that but for the modern age, you know there was four international bands, some young emerging bands as well, four different stages. We'd get all the kids in there; they'd be drunk on J??germeister and Red Bull and just have a great old time. And I was kind of the facilitator of this party which was actually a TV show.

Then I started writing and developing shows for MTV. And then I was given the opportunity to go on primetime network with a company called - a network called Channel 9 in Australia. And I did this commercial breakdown show and I wrote and developed that as well. And then I got offered Minute to Win It, which you have here I believe, Guy Fieri does it on NBC. I did that on a network called Channel 7 in Australia. And even when I was doing Minute to Win It and the Channel 9 show, I was actually living in America by that stage. I had rather a long commute to work. Because America was always where I wanted to be, not just for work but I have always felt at home here. I love America and they tend to love people with accents, which is great. You know and I've always felt really at home here.

Whenever I touch down into LA or New York it kind of feels like I'm home, even when I wasn't living here. So yes, I just always wanted to be here. And then this opportunity came up. Murphy's Law, living here for a year and a half and I went back because my dad was sick and I got a phone call from my agent, "You've got to come back and audition for this Love in the Wild show." I was like, "Dave I can't, my dad's sick." He goes, "Can you not just jump on a plane?" I was like, "It's family first, I really don't care about the job. You know, my family's more important." And he said, "Well can you at least get something on tape?" I was like, "Yes, I can do that."

I found a forest in Sydney, well a couple of trees anyway. And I got my friend with a camera, the same guy that used to crash parties with me by the way. And I was like wading through the trees and doing this thing to camera and I got bit by a spider. And I started freaking out, you know. And the next thing you know my leg's just swelling up. And he's like, "Dude, I've got to get you to the hospital." I was like, "Did you get the take?" He's like, "Well of course not." He's like, "You jumped halfway through it because the spider bit you."

I was like, "Quick, we'll do one more than we'll go to the hospital." He's like, "I really think you should go to the hospital man. That doesn't look good." I said, "Just do one more." So I did this rush take, got it in the bag, went to the hospital. We captured the spider in a bottle and turns out it wasn't a poisonous one luckily. But it definitely wasn't my best face for camera by any means. But they seemed to like it. And they asked to see me in LA. And the rest is history I guess.

Question:
As you spent time with these people and you got a sense of who everybody was and how they were interacting, did you start to get a sense of who was going to make it to the end of the show?

Darren McMullen:
Well not necessarily to the end of the show. Where you come in the adventure doesn't determine if you're going to get eliminated or not, but it certainly helps. So towards the end when everybody started to partner up with each other, and they weren't going to switch because they were truly falling for each other, then it comes down to your skills in the adventure.

We all got a sense early on of who was falling head over heels for each other, but the way the adventure pans out, if you come first, you can actually have a guaranteed switch with somebody. So you can ask anybody to be your partner and they can't refuse. So you could be really cozy and falling for this partner, and you know, really happy that you're sharing a cabin with them every night, and then somebody could have come in first and just, they want to you know maybe, get to know you a little better so they can steal you I guess, off this person.

So there was a bit of that going on. And that definitely muddled things up and unfortunately pulled people apart. But I would say in the end, when it came down to the last kind of three couples, I'd say the right three couples were in there, you know? They were in there for the right reasons, they were genuinely into each other and I'm sure they have a long-term relationship ahead of them.

Question:
In the beginning I'm assuming people chose each other based on superficial reasons because they didn't know each other yet. But as the game progressed did you find that skill and the challenges and things like that became important as well?

Darren McMullen:
No. Bizarrely enough, no it didn't, which we thought it would. We thought people would pair up just because that guy or girl was a strong competitor and would win the adventure. But I think everyone was genuinely there for the right reasons. And the reason being is, I guess, is there's no million dollar prize in this. So if you were just bumming around Costa Rica in the hope of having a free holiday with somebody that you don't even really like. I mean you'd be an idiot because let's be honest, nobody likes traveling with somebody you don't like. It's more of a hindrance than a prize. And that was the ultimate prize; was to travel around the world with that partner and hopefully kick start the relationship.

So as the show goes on and progresses, you really do see at some point you'll even see people bow out because there's nobody there for them anymore, which I thought was quite sweet. And at that point you realized that everybody was there for the right reasons. It was like, "Look, there's nobody here for me now. So I'm kind of going to take myself out of this." So yes, I don't think the competition aspect came down to it, people were there to find a partner.

Question:
Earlier you mentioned poisonous snakes and wild boars and other things in the jungle. Did you have any close calls with the wildlife yourself?

Darren McMullen:
The only close call I had was with the local people, or probably call them wildlife if you will. I happened to get in an altercation with a drug baron in the town of Las Fortuna and I learned a very valuable lesson there and that is, "Don't get into altercations with drug barons," because not only was he carrying a handgun, he also had a machete and an AK-47. Now one of those items would have been enough to scare me to death, but he had all three. And it kind of kicked off and all his people jumped in. And God bless my crew, they were so loyal they all jumped in as well. And you know, it was kind of like pulling people off each other.

And eventually the drug baron's brother came up to me and said, "Look, just you know, my brother, he's very angry. He just broke up with his wife." I'm like, "Your brother's crazy man. Why did he pull a gun on me?" And he grabbed me by both shoulders and he looked me dead in the eye, he goes, "Yes, my brother is crazy. Okay? You understand? He is crazy." I was like, "Okay, I get it. Okay." Maybe if he just had a handgun I'd take him on, but not an AK-47. I draw the line at machine guns. So that was the only close call I had in Costa Rica.

Question:
Does any jealousy pop up for you when you see some of these guys?

Darren McMullen:
I don't think I get jealous. You know I'm pretty comfortable in my own skin. I think there's somebody for everybody out there. I think there's probably several people for everybody out there. I was jealous of the fun they were having. Yes, I will be honest there. I mean these guys are going on crazy adventures, zip lining, repelling off waterfalls, you know going on these crazy adventures on horseback and paddling down croc infested rivers, and then getting to get drunk at night in the Jacuzzi and party with each other. And so I was definitely jealous of the fun they were having, yes.

Question:
You've been around the world, but you've never been anywhere quite like this Costa Rica setting. What things struck you once you were there?

Darren McMullen:
The first thing that struck me was just what a massive production this was. I mean I touched down in Costa Rica and got taken onto set and they built this mini kind of universe for these people to live in. Like every inch of it was covered in cameras. And even in the rooms you had all these electronic cameras. Even when the lights are off now, it's not green like it used to be, it actually brings out real color, which just blew me away. There was over 200 crew on this show. And I was like, "Oh my God, this is a pretty big deal here." You know, helicopter shots, you know cameras zip lined to trees and all that kind of stuff.

And I guess as far as Costa Rica goes, what really blew me away was the people; the people were just obviously not the story that I was just telling about the drug lord. But drug lords excluded, the people were just so friendly, so lovely. Very easy on the eye too, they're such a beautiful race. And what a diverse country that is. You know, I had no idea. You have these beautiful tropical, almost like rainforests. Then you have these crystal clear flat lakes, these beautiful mountains. And then you know, at the other end you have white sandy beaches and oceans that are the temperature of bathwater and monkeys.

And the wildlife is just insane; toucans, monkeys, jaguars and crocodiles -- all of which we saw while we were there. So that was what really blew me away about Costa Rica. I love the place. And the only disappointing thing for me was really that I wasn't getting to explore it. I was there to work, ultimately. But it's definitely somewhere I will be going back to when I have some free time and can actually really enjoy the place.

Question:
What the process was like, and the requirements, for the individuals that were chosen. Were you involved with that also?

Darren McMullen:
I wasn't, so I can only comment on what I know. basically the producers were adamant they didn't want people that just wanted to be famous and get drunk and take off their clothes to be on television. So they specifically chose people that had real jobs. And jobs they were going to go back to so professional golfers, firemen, marriage planners, people in the corporate sector. That was probably the second prerequisite. The first prerequisite was they had to be looking for love. They had to be people that were genuinely looking for a lifelong partner.

I think they did a pretty good job of weeding the wannabe celebrities out, because you know, the guys were fantastic. And as I was saying to an earlier interviewer, "There was a point where you could really see that people were there for the right reasons because maybe there wasn't anybody left that they could connect with so they effectively pulled themselves out of the game." So yes, they were the two main prerequisites I guess were; they had to be looking for love; and they had to be real people with real jobs who weren't coming on this just to be famous.

Question:
Were there any during the filming that became uncomfortable with what they had to do and bowed out because of that?

Darren McMullen:
To my surprise everybody really took all the adventures head-on. We had people that were scared of heights, were scared of water, were scared of enclosed spaces, and all of those elements came up for those people. And we were all, "Oh, what's going to happen here because such-and-such is scared of heights. This is going to be crazy. They're not going to do it." But they did it and I guess they didn't want to let their partner down or show any kind of weakness. I think a lot of people conquered their fears on the show.

You know a couple of them were uncomfortable I guess at sharing on a bed with somebody they barely knew. But you'll see that within the first couple of episodes. After that, people get to know each other a bit better. And even if they're not necessarily into each other that way, and they're just there to get to somebody else, they're a little more comfortable I guess with sharing a cabin with each other.

Question:
It seems on shows like The Bachelor people often fall in love because of the romantic dates they go on. But in this show, the challenges aren't very romantic. I'm sure there's a struggle emotionally, physically; do you think this is a better way for someone to get to know someone?

Darren McMullen:
I honestly believe it is, yes. Because I guess everybody, when you first start dating somebody, has a game face on. You know, it's called the Honeymoon Period I guess. And the one thing I took away from this show is, there's no point in the game face. It's stupid. You can waste three to six months with somebody not really showing your true colors, and then when you finally do they're not for you. So I think it's just best that see who that person is from the get-go. That's what I've taken away from that.

And I have been dating; since the show I'm recently single so I'm getting back on the dating scene again. And you know, I'm just 100% myself. And you know, for some people that's way too crazy, which is fine. But there will be that one person I guess that will come along who's like, "You are crazy, but I love it." So I guess the main thing is that when you're in these kind of scenarios, you know if you're paddling down croc infested water and your raft's falling apart and you're falling into that water, you've got no time for game faces, you really see that person's true colors very quickly. And you either like that or you don't like it.

So I do agree with you, I think you know, when you're going on limousine rides, and you know, drinking champagne and having amazing dinners on the top of skyscrapers, when you come down to the day-to-day living and the stresses involved with that, you might be a different person. So yes, I think probably it is a better way to find a true soul mate.

Question:
Those shows haven't had a great track record in people staying together, so perhaps this one might be different?

Darren McMullen:
Hopefully. Hopefully and you know, definitely at the end of the show there was several people who were coupled up. And from you know, them speaking to me on email or Facebook or whatever, in the last few weeks I'm constantly kind of asking how they're all going, and many of them are still together. And I think there might even as I've said before, There might even be a lifelong connection there, maybe even one, maybe even more than one.

Question:
There are elements of Survivor, there are elements of Amazing Race, and those shows can be intensely serious. This one actually seems a little lighter. Do you think that's a fair assessment?

Darren McMullen:
Yes, you hit the nail on the head, that's exactly what it is. I was adamant going into this too, after they saw my audition tape and I went and met with the guys in LA. By that stage I thought it was just an audition still. I said, "Look, if you're after a host to sit in front of a camera and be cheesy and read lines and be overly dramatic and serious, it's not me. You know, I'm lighthearted, I like to have a bit of fun, I like irreverent humor. And I'm a little bit edgy. I'm cheeky but never rude."

And they said, "That's exactly what we're looking for." They said, "We don't want this to be serious. We don't want this to be like other shows. We want it to be like that romantic comedy." And I've seen the first two episodes now, and I was really jazzed with the tone of the show. I really felt we did nail that romantic comedy thing. It feels like you're watching a romantic comedy. And there is pauses for the laughter. It's lighthearted which kind of suits my personality as well, because I couldn't be one of these overly dramatic hosts who talks very slowly and dramatizes every word. Because it just doesn't suit me and it's not the reason I got into this industry. So I'm so glad they did what they did with it.

Question:
Why do you think personally that the American public have such a fascination with reality television and reality dating television?"

Darren McMullen:
I don't know. I really don't know. I mean, but I wish I knew what people would watch because I'd be a multi-multi-millionaire. I don't know if people will watch this show. You know, it certainly has all the right elements in it for people to watch. But you just never know. There's so many factors isn't there; it's what your lead-in show is, it's what show you're up against, it's if you're promoting the show well. If the show premise could be amazing, but then if the characters aren't lovable then nobody's going to watch it either.

So the biggest compliment I can give this show is, I don't like reality television. And I specifically hate dating shows. But I actually was really into this show. To the point that when I would finish like an elimination ceremony, which we call a Couple's Choice Ceremony, I would, rather than going back to my hotel and going to sleep because I was up in a few hours filming again, I would be straight into the video village, going back and looking at all the cameras and hearing what everyone was saying about the elimination, and who was hooking up with who, and who was talking about who. And I got completely obsessed with it.

And I thought, "Wow I mean, and I hate those kind of shows." And that was me seeing it in the raw form as well, so I can only imagine once I've seen all the episodes and they're cut together and they're packaged nicely that I'm going to love it. I really don't know why everybody's fascinated with reality television, but I really hope they still are on June 29 when this launches. And maybe just give me a few more seasons then we can move on to a different genre.

Question:
Do you think the high adrenaline situations heighten the attraction level for the contestants?

Darren McMullen:
I don't know. As I was saying before, what I think it does do is it puts you and the relationship under amazing stress. And some people work really well under stress and it brings them closer together, and some people don't. So I don't know. I mean yes, maybe. I mean some of these things are within minutes of meeting these people for the first time they were sent off on this six hour adventure through the jungles of Costa Rica and having to dodge dangerous or poisonous animals even and really work as a team and have all their stress levels tested.

So that's an incredible first date, isn't it? It beats a movie and a dinner. So yes, there's probably a nice romantic element to that. But at the same time we really did see people that just couldn't blend well together at all in that kind of high stress environment. But maybe if they had gone to dinner and a movie they would have; they would have continued to date for two, three months, before they realized that you know, "This person isn't for me." So I think it definitely fast-tracks feelings. Whether they be positive or negative completely depends on whether that couple have the chemistry.

Question:
What is the strategic gameplay like on the show? Is it similar to the backstabbing that occurs on, for example, the Paradise Hotel?

Darren McMullen:
No it's not actually. It's not really mean spirited at all. There's no backstabbing involved, to my knowledge. There were certain people who were obviously more attractive to the majority than others. So there'd often be situations where girls would come up and talk and the like, "So I'm just wondering how you and such and such are getting along and, you know - because you know, I think maybe that we could maybe go on a date together, blah, blah." And they're like, "No, no, no. No, no, we're getting along just fine thanks. We're getting along fine."

It was all in the open, you know what I mean? And so the - I don't think you'll see too much backstabbing. There was a lot of surprises. So people maybe thought their relationship was a lot more secure than it was, and it turns out that person had a wandering eye I guess. And when it came to the Couple's Choice Ceremony, they elected to switch. As we were getting down to the last few episodes, when we thought everything was kind of in stone, we thought, "Okay, this is going to be a boring, run-of-the-mill Couple's Choice Ceremony. Everyone's going to stay together so therefore the last place couple are going to go home." It never went down like that. In fact, the ones that we thought were going to be the simplest were always the ones that just left us gobsmacked.

Question:
Have you found people are willing to going for the kind of dates you had planned?

Darren McMullen:
I can only go from what I saw before and after the adventure, and sometimes they lie to me when I ask them how things are going. I'm sure when I actually watch the full show and see the cameras following them that things probably weren't all peaches and cream like they made out. Every time I would announce an adventure that they were going on that day, they'd all get really excited. Even when I would list some of the horrendous tasks that were in front of them, you know a few people were like, "Oh God, you know I'm scared of water and that's in the water," or "I can't swim," and you know things like that.

They took every adventure head-on. Even ones that they were shaking in their boots over. And then when they came back I'd always ask you know, "How was it," and they'd always go, "Yes, it was great." But to be honest I think there was a little bit of lying to me going on there because a few of the - I could - you know, a few of the couples would blow-up at each other off camera after I said goodbye to them. So I'll be really curious to see how they work together in the adventures as well.

Question:
Well what would you like audiences, at the end of the show, to feel about watching it?

Darren McMullen:
When you watch reality television you end up leaving your living room about 20% stupider than when you went in, I always find. So I don't want that to happen with this show. I want people to watch this and go, "It's a nice, fun show." I just want people to say, "It's a nice, fun show that we can watch for some good lighthearted entertainment." And yes, it is under the realms of reality. But it's not scripted in any way whatsoever, this is - these are real people looking for real love. And really, that's the biggest drama of all. I mean you couldn't script some of the scenarios we had in there. I want it to be a show that I'm proud of doing, you know? And I think everybody at NBC is like that too. If it doesn't do American Idol ratings, that's absolutely fine if it's a show that we can proud of doing and say, "You know what, that was a great show that we did. And we couldn't have made it any better." And yes, that's what I want from it.

Question:
When you were talking earlier about them coming in contact with possible poisonous snakes and things like that; did the men tend to be more protective or did the women hold their own during those precarious moments?

Darren McMullen:
Oh the women absolutely held their own. Yes, these were very strong, fiery women that we had on this show. So in a lot of ways they probably set situations where the men should have and didn't. I'm talking about with the raft building specifically in the first episode. And you know, like these guys are like standing around kind of watching while the girls are like picking up these huge logs and trying to get them together and make a little raft out of them. I really noticed a lot of the guys didn't step up. I've only seen the first two episodes. But yes, the girls were definitely fiery and could hold their own, and probably even outcompeted the guys, I'd say.

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