Interview with Matt Kunitz of "Kicking and Screaming" on FOX - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite
 

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By Suzanne

Matt Kunitz 

Interview with Matt Kunitz - Executive Producer of "Kicking and Screaming" on FOX Thursday, 3/6/17

Here's a recording of our interview.

I had seen the first episode of this show on FOX's press site and enjoyed it. It has a lot of humor. The show debuts Thursday, 3/9/17.

Suzanne:              Hi Matt. How are you?

Matt:                       Hi, Suzanne. Hold on, let me just close my door, it's a little bit loud. One second.

Suzanne:              Okay.

Matt:                       All right. I'm back.

Suzanne:              How are you doing?

Matt:                       Fantastic. Are you doing well?

Suzanne:              Yeah. Can't complain. Are you looking forward to the premiere?

Matt:                       Yes. It's always an anxious week leading up to the premiere, but very excited.

Suzanne:              Good. Good.

Matt:                       Finally get to share what we've been working on so hard for the last year.

Suzanne:              Oh, wow. Yeah. So, who came up with the idea for this show?

Matt:                       Well, my partners and I came up with the idea. So, that was David Shotsky, Mark Harris, Rebecca Quinn, and I. We were trying to think of a fun way of looking at the survival show through different optics. And we liked the idea of, we're going to take ten survivalists and they're going to wade through the jungle of Fiji. And for a survivalist, that should be easy to do. That's what they're trained to do. That's what they spend their whole life preparing for. But, we're going to pair each of them with their polar opposite, someone that has absolutely no business being in a jungle.

Suzanne:              Right.

Matt:                       And see what happens there. And that's where, to us, where the comedy comes [inaudible]. It's not just the comedy, but also the drama.

Suzanne:              Right.

Matt:                       Because, we believe that diversity brings drama in our casting. And so when we cast at the worst [inaudible] like this, it's sure to be a very dramatic show, but also because of the complete opposites, it turned out to be a very funny show.

Suzanne:              I would definitely be a novice.

Matt:                       Me too. I was. I was out there too, and sometimes we would have to go down to their camp and I would go down to ... we had high up, away from where they couldn't see, we had a trailer where our cameras would be. And we actually had a little [inaudible]. So, once in a while you actually have to walk out and go into the jungle and go up to the camp, and you're standing there getting attacked by mosquitoes. And trying to look cool, because you don't the cast members to see that you can't handle it. I'm definitely more of a novice than I would be a survivalist, for sure.

Suzanne:              Yeah. The people in the show remind me a little bit of the movie Private Benjamin, like before she goes through boot camp.

Matt:                       Yep. Yep. Definitely.

Suzanne:              So, what process ... well, you kind of told me the process already. We'll skip that, nevermind. How long did it take between coming up with the idea and filming it?

Matt:                       It was relatively fast. We went in with the idea around January ... I mean that was Corey [inaudible] at Fox, and so I told her the general idea, and then five months later we were in the jungle shooting it.

Suzanne:              Wow. That is fast. And what is your role? I know you're executive producer, but can you give an idea of what that means on a show like this?

Matt:                       Sure. Well, to me, I would say that the executive producer is sort of like the CEO of the company. So, I'm overseeing many different departments. On a show like this, you have casting, you have the challenge department, you have transportation, you have wardrobe, hair, makeup, production. So, there's many different departments that it takes to put together this huge show. And so, I'm in charge of all those departments and making sure that all the department heads are supported, they have what they need to make the show.

                                             And so I always believe, surround myself with people that are smarter than me, right? So, I'm going to hire a director that's a better director than I am, or a lighting designer that can light a jungle, or we didn't have a lot of lights out there, so that's a bad example. I surround myself with smart people and then it makes me look good.

Suzanne:              That's a good idea.

Matt:                       Yeah.

Suzanne:              So, how was Hannah Simone cast on the show? Was there just an audition process? How'd that work?

Matt:                       She didn't need to audition. You know, Hannah came from Fox because as you know she started on Fox, and she's adjusted pretty well. And we had one meeting and we were like, she's awesome, she's relatable, she's super-smart, she's got a sense of humor. And that was really everything that we wanted in a host. And she was a huge fan of reality, and the genre. I think sometimes if you bring in an actress or an actor, they may have some negative feelings about reality. And she didn't at all. And she was totally into it.

                                             You know, she was producing out there. One day I went into her hotel suite, and on the wall of her hotel she had a diagram. It was like right out of Homeland, I don't know if you've seen Homeland.

Suzanne:              Yeah.

Matt:                       Cut to Carrie, and she'd have like some crazy diagram on the wall. Well, Hannah Had every contestant on her wall, where they were within the episode, and different biographical information about each contestant. She was tracking the story on her wall in her hotel. So, I knew then, she's really dedicated. She loves this. She's into it. We never had to write a script for her, she would just go out there and just be herself. And I think she understood what was going on with the psyche of both contestants better than anyone.

Suzanne:              Yeah, and it's great to see a woman host. There have been other women hosts, but not a lot.

Matt:                       Yeah, she is awesome.

Suzanne:              So, how were the contestants chosen?

Matt:                       We had two different casting companies. We had one casting company that worked just with survivalists. And they're known for doing these types of shows.

Suzanne:              Oh, okay.

Matt:                       And then we have another casting company that worked just with novices. And they cast shows like Big Brother. So, they're very good at finding those big personality, real people.

Suzanne:              Um-hmm.

Matt:                       So, it's a challenge. It's a tough show to cast because it's the first season of the show. So, your novices are going to be actually pretty nervous about doing it, which is what we want. We don't want a novice that's going to be like, yeah, sign me up. I'm ready.

Suzanne:              Yeah.

Matt:                       Well, you're not really a novice, then. So, you want someone who's really nervous. One of our contestants, one of the novices, Julianna, was a model. She had a nice career going as a model. And she told us the first day in her interview, when we brought her in to LA for finals, she said, "I think I need to quit," on the first day. And so it's like, that's great. That's what we want, but also don't want her quitting on the first day.

Suzanne:              Right.

Matt:                       It's that fine balance. She was honest. She was like, "I don't think I can do this." And, what I said to her is, I think you'll be surprised in how strong that you can be, and I think you're going to grow a lot from this. And all I will say is go out there and give it your best. I don't want you going out there going, I'm hungry. I'm going to quit. You know? I want you to go out there and try your hardest and try to grow from this and learn from this. And she did, and it was awesome. And I can tell you she did not quit on the first day.

Suzanne:              Great.

Matt:                       So, that's sort of the challenge that you have with the novices. And then with the survivalists, the challenge you have is ... these people tend to be a little bit macho. They're off the grid. They tend not to be television watchers. They don't really care that much about money, or winning a prize. These are people that are pretty rough around the edges. So, getting those people on board, and convincing them that we weren't going to be making fun of being a survivalist. That's not what the show is about. It's not about making fun of any of them. It's about the comedy coming, and the juxtaposition of these very, very different people. So, that's a challenge too.

                                             And the survival community is a pretty small community. There's not millions of survivalists out there. So, we had to do some pretty significant research to find that perfect mix of people. We didn't want just military survivalists. You have the Boy Scout. You have an off-the-grid sort of ... [inaudible] sort of lives off the grid, not from a military background.

Suzanne:              Yeah.

Matt:                       Then you have military guys, and you have people that come from ... that actually teach a survival school.

Suzanne:              Right.

Matt:                       So, again, we were really looking for a diverse grouping. And we put together a really nice cast.

Suzanne:              Yeah, it seems like a nice assortment of different types of people.

Matt:                       Definitely.

Suzanne:              I saw the first episode. So, did the contestants all know ahead of time what they were getting into? Because it kind of struck me when we saw the ... in the first episode, when you see them coming in on the boat. And they're got the different suitcases and stuff. It kind of seemed like they didn't know. Either somebody told them, bring suitcases and wear high heels and whatever. Or they didn't know at all where they were going to be going. I wasn't sure about that.

Matt:                       They knew they were going to be in a jungle. We told them, bring what you would bring to a jungle. And so, that's what they wanted to bring to a jungle. Now, there were certain rules. You couldn't come in with your cell phone, or ice chests, or a generator. So, they were limited in that sense.

                                             But we told them, bring what you would bring. And so, I think they all sort of naively thought, well, I'm just going to bring a bunch of clothing and then I'll be fine. And then they realized pretty quick, that's going to drag them down. And having that extra stuff, and that extra weight is just going to get in the way.

                                             So, there's some members' growth in this show. Of course, you expect to see it from the novices. I think what was interesting to us was that we started to see growth with the big, tough survivalists too. And I think that that came unexpectedly from the relationships that they were forming with the novices that they were taking under their wings.

Suzanne:              Great. And how was the location chosen?

Matt:                       We looked at a bunch of locations. Obviously, we wanted a place that was very jungle-y and remote, and beautiful. And Fiji answers all of that. One of the great things about Fiji is they have a huge tax rebate for shooting there. So, there was a real financial incentive for us to go and shoot there.

Suzanne:              Oh, right.

Matt:                       It really helped to make the show affordable.

Suzanne:              Sure. How long does the first season run? How many episodes?

Matt:                       Eight episodes.

Suzanne:              Eight episodes. And, do you expect that there's probably going to be a season two? Do you have any idea?

Matt:                       I sure hope so. We'll know Friday morning. Hopefully, we'll get a nice audience to show up and watch the show. I feel like if they show up, they're going to stay because it's a fun show and it is different. It's not Survivor. It's not Naked and Afraid ... Naked and Alone? Naked and Afraid.

Suzanne:              Yeah].

Matt:                       I think it's a unique take on the genre, and I think that people will enjoy it. You just need them to show up to watch it the first night.

Suzanne:              So, you think it will have more viewers who like Survivor? Or others?

Matt:                       I think it will appeal ... and this is what I hope ... I think it will have a broad appeal. I think that if you like survival shows, you will like this. And if you like reality, and the emotion that you can get from watching a reality show, that real emotion, you're going to like it. If you like comedy, you're going to like it. So, I do think that there's a real broad base that we can tap into.

Suzanne:              Yeah, I like that it's ... to me, there's basically two different types of reality shows. There's the ones that are ... you kind of wish you could take a shower afterwards. And then there's the normal people ones. It's not one of those sleazy shows, you know?

Matt:                       Yeah.

Suzanne:              It doesn't play up sex, or whatever.

Matt:                       Yeah, I do think it's just entertaining. We're not abusing anyone. We're not manipulating anyone. Everyone knows what they're getting into.

Suzanne:              Good. Good.

Matt:                       Anyone can leave at any time if they want. I think that it was an adventure and a challenge for everyone. Even for the survivalists. Because they started off saying, it's easy if you're out being a survivalist on your own. But if you have to bring along someone who doesn't have any business being out there, it's tough.

Suzanne:              Right.

Matt:                       It really was an interesting challenge for everyone involved.

Suzanne:              And I [crosstalk].

Matt:                       [crosstalk] producers. It's not easy shooting in the jungle.

Suzanne:              Yeah. So, I assume there are doctors ...

Matt:                       [crosstalk] torrential rain storms, and flooding roads [crosstalk]. There's one location that we were at, where our vehicles couldn't even get up ... it was raining so hard, and the dirt roads going up into the jungle were so steep, that our vehicles couldn't even get up. So, it was challenge, for sure.

Suzanne:              Well, that actually is one of the questions I was going to ask you, is what unexpected things happened? Do you have any other examples you can tell ... ?

Matt:                       Well, I don't want to give away too much, but there's a big medical emergency with the cast. Of course, you know that could happen, and you prepare for it. But you never really know what is going to be the thing that takes out a cast member, so that was unexpected for sure. Again, I think it was unexpected to see so much growth with the survivalists. We really expected to see that with the novices, not the survivalists.

Suzanne:              Um-hmm.

Matt:                       I think it was unexpected to see how well some of these novices did. Some of them, not all of them, but some of them adapted quite well, and I think learned a lot about themselves in the process.

Suzanne:              Well, you're good at anticipating my questions here, because my next question was, are there doctors on hand in case anyone gets hurt? But, I imagine you had that.

Matt:                       Yep. We had a large staff of medics, not actual doctors. We had a local Fijian doctor that was on call 24/7. And then we had hospitals that we knew we could get to. Different levels of hospitals. We even had a jet service that was on standby if there were serious emergencies that we thought couldn't be handled in Fiji, we could fly them to New Zealand. In fact, we had a producer that had a medical emergency before we started, that had to be Medevac-ed out to New Zealand. So, we were able to put that plan to ... I told you we had to use our plan, but that's why we plan for these things.

Suzanne:              Did you say a producer?

Matt:                       Yeah.

Suzanne:              Oh, wow. So, that's not on screen?

Matt:                       No, it happened pre-production.

Suzanne:              Oh, okay. I hope they're okay.

Matt:                       She is okay, but definitely it was scary. For sure.

Suzanne:              Wow. So, you said it was filmed in January, was that 2015 or 16?

Matt:                       It was shot in April and May of 2016.

Suzanne:              Okay.

Matt:                       Well, mostly I'd say May. I think May is safer.

Suzanne:              May? Okay. And would you ever consider doing a celebrity version of the show, if you could get enough celebrities that would be on either camp.

Matt:                       I think we would, but honestly, to me ... I feel like once you go celebrity, it's hard to go back. What the celebrity effect is.

Suzanne:              Um-hmm.

Matt:                       So, I would say probably we would have a celebrity in a normal season. Just one, and not make it a celebrity show, but someone who wanted to really [inaudible]. But I feel like that's something maybe season six [inaudible] celebrity. We had Anjelica Bridges this season, and she was a former Baywatch star.

Suzanne:              Right.

Matt:                       It would be something like that, where they're in the business ... but I just don't see doing a whole celebrity episode this early on.

Suzanne:              I would think the insurance might be something worse for something like that. I'm just thinking, celebrities getting injured.

Matt:                       I don't know. Insurance is pretty high as it is.

Suzanne:              Oh, is it?

Matt:                       I don't know if it would make that much of a difference at that point.

Suzanne:              Yeah. Yeah. Actually I was just reading about a guy on General Hospital, I think Ryan Peavey, I think is his name. He's a survivalist type. So, contact him.

Matt:                       I never thought about having a celebrity survivalist. So, that's interesting.

Suzanne:              Yeah, well, I'm sure there must be others. People that do a lot of camping and rugged [crosstalk].

Matt:                       Well, there's celebrity survivalists that are celebrities because they're survivalists.

Suzanne:              Well, yeah.

Matt:                       Like Bear Grilles, but not a celebrity who's also a survivalist? What's his name?

Suzanne:              Ryan Peavey, from “General Hospital”. I think he's on Instagram, or somewhere I saw where they said that he does a lot of outdoor survivalist stuff, camping in the mountains or something. I don't remember.

Matt:                       Well, I'm going to look him up when we get off the phone.

Suzanne:              Oh, good.

Matt:                       [crosstalk].

Suzanne:              He's very handsome, too. He's very handsome. He'd look good on your show. Let's see, any other interesting behind-the-scenes stories that you can share with us?

Matt:                       Interesting behind-the-scenes stories… When we first started production, so the first day, the contestants were very kum-ba-yah. They all felt like ... they wanted to be really friendly and nice, and they don't want to have to vote anybody off. It was interesting to see how quick that kum-ba-yah [inaudible] turned in the jungle when the competition gets real.

                                             But I think there's an interesting sort of psychology with reality producing that you see. Like day one, it's sort of like, them against us. And then day two, they start to realize, oh, I guess we can trust production. They're not out to get us. And then by day three the real competition begins.

Suzanne:              Interesting. All right, well, those are all the questions I had. I appreciate you taking the time to answer them.

Matt:                       All right. Well, I appreciate you doing this interview and hopefully there will be more interviews in the future. You'll call when we have some big success or [inaudible], too.

Suzanne:              Sounds good. Thank you and good luck again.

Matt:                       All right. Thank you.

Suzanne:              Bye.

Matt:                       All right. Bye-bye.

Transcribed by Anna J. of Rev.com

MORE INFORMATION:

KICKING & SCREAMING” SERIES PREMIERE INFORMATION

CONTESTANTS MEET THEIR MATCH AND FACE THE JUNGLE

ON THE ALL-NEW SERIES PREMIERE OF “KICKING & SCREAMING” 

THURSDAY, MARCH 9, ON FOX

Hannah Simone (NEW GIRL) Hosts!

In the series premiere of the comedic competition series KICKING AND SCREAMING, hosted by Hannah Simone (NEW GIRL), 10 survivalists and 10 novices pair up in the wilds of Fiji to win half a million dollars. As the novices adjust to life in the jungle, the survivalists quickly realize that the competition and gameplay aren’t the only obstacles to overcome in the all-new “Welcome to the Jungle” series premiere episode of KICKING & SCREAMING airing Thursday, March 9 (9:01-10:00 PM ET/PT), on FOX.

ABOUT “KICKING & SCREAMING

KICKING & SCREAMING is a new competition series that teams 10 expert survivalists with pampered partners to face the toughest challenges of their lives.

From executive producer Matt Kunitz (“Wipeout,” “Fear Factor”), in association with Lionsgate Television, and hosted by Hannah Simone (NEW GIRL), the series drops these unlikely duos into a tropical jungle in Fiji, where they must overcome dangerous animals, raging rivers, hunger and extreme weather.

While these no-nonsense survivalists are accustomed to fending for themselves, there’s one thing for which none of their previous expeditions has prepared them: their teammates, who think “glamping” is roughing it. Among them are a former beauty pageant winner, a model and a professional gamer. To win the competition, and a cash prize of $500,000, the experts will have to drag their partners, KICKING & SCREAMING, to the finish line.

Produced by Pulse Creative’s Matt Kunitz, in association with Lionsgate, KICKING & SCREAMING is created by Kunitz, David Shumsky and Mark Harris, and executive-produced by Kunitz and Anthony Dominici. Rebecca Shumsky Quinn developed the project and is a co-executive producer, along with Shumsky and Harris. “Like” KICKING & SCREAMING on Facebook at facebook.com/KickingAndScreamingFOX. Follow the series on Twitter @KickScreamFOX and join the conversation using #KickingScreaming. See photos and videos on Instagram by following @KickingScreamingFOX/.

ABOUT HANNAH SIMONE

(Host of KICKING & SCREAMING)

For her role as “Cece” on NEW GIRL, Hannah Simone won the TEEN CHOICE 2012 Award for Choice TV Breakout Star: Female. She recently wrapped production on Taran Killam’s film, “Why We’re Killing Gunther,” starring Killam, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bobby Moynihan. She also executive-produced and co-starred in the feature film “Miss India America,” which was released earlier this year. The film won the Comcast Narrative Award at the Center for Asian American Media Festival.

Simone also filmed a role in the independent feature “Folk Hero & Funny Guy,” opposite Alex Karpovsky and Melanie Lynskey, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. Her other film credits include “Flock of Dudes,” starring opposite Chris D’Elia and Skylar Astin; and Spike Lee’s “Oldboy,” opposite Josh Brolin and Samuel L. Jackson. She also starred in “H+,” a digital series produced by Bryan Singer.

Born in London, Simone grew up living abroad and participating in local theater productions in Saudi Arabia, India, Greece and Canada. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of British Columbia, where she majored in international relations and political science, before going on to work as a human rights and refugee officer with the United Nations in London. She also has a master’s degree from Ryerson University in radio, film and television.

Simone currently resides in Los Angeles.

ABOUT MATT KUNITZ

(Creator/Executive Producer, KICKING & SCREAMING)

Matt Kunitz is perhaps best known as executive producer of the groundbreaking unscripted network series “Fear Factor.”

In 2008, Kunitz created “Wipeout,” which was produced for 40 countries, making it the third most popular game show in the world. In 2009, “Wipeout” was nominated for the prestigious Rose d'Or award. In 2010, it was voted by Entertainment Weekly’s readers as “Reality TV’s Guiltiest Pleasure.” In 2012, 2013 and 2014, “Wipeout” won the Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite Reality Show. It also won the TEEN CHOICE 2014 Award for Choice Summer TV Series.

In addition to his duties on “Wipeout,” Kunitz produced “101 Ways to Leave a Game Show” and “Celebrity Circus.”

Kunitz was the driving force behind all seven seasons of “Fear Factor,” which broke decades-old network ratings records, while drawing as many as 19 million viewers. In 2011, “Fear Factor” moved to cable as the most successful new series launch of the season, garnering the best time-slot ratings in three years.

Kunitz also served as the executive producer of “Dog Eat Dog” and “Late Friday.”

In 1993, Kunitz joined cable’s “The Real World” for the show’s second season and quickly rose through the program’s production ranks to become its showrunner. He was involved in five seasons of the show. His additional credits include “The Real World Reunion,” “The Real World/Road Rules Challenge” and “A Tribute to Pedro Zamora.”

A native of San Diego, Kunitz graduated from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema and Television in 1990. 

He currently resides in Los Angeles.

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