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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
Hi Matt. How are you?
Hi, Suzanne. Hold on, let me just close my door, it's a
little bit loud. One second.
All right. I'm back.
How are you doing?
Fantastic. Are you doing well?
Yeah. Can't complain. Are you looking forward to the
Yes. It's always an anxious week leading up to the premiere,
but very excited.
Finally get to share what we've been working on so hard for
the last year.
Oh, wow. Yeah. So, who came up with the idea for this show?
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.
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.
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
I would definitely be a novice.
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.
Yeah. The people in the show remind me a little bit of the
movie Private Benjamin, like before she goes through boot
Yep. Yep. Definitely.
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?
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.
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?
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.
That's a good idea.
So, how was Hannah Simone cast on the show? Was there just
an audition process? How'd that work?
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.
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
Yeah, and it's great to see a woman host. There have been
other women hosts, but not a lot.
Yeah, she is awesome.
So, how were the contestants chosen?
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
Then you have military guys, and you have people that come
from ... that actually teach a survival school.
So, again, we were really looking for a diverse grouping.
And we put together a really nice cast.
Yeah, it seems like a nice assortment of different types of
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.
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.
Great. And how was the location chosen?
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.
It really helped to make the show affordable.
Sure. How long does the first season run? How many episodes?
Eight episodes. And, do you expect that there's probably
going to be a season two? Do you have any idea?
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.
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.
So, you think it will have more viewers who like Survivor?
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.
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?
It doesn't play up sex, or whatever.
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.
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.
It really was an interesting challenge for everyone
And I [crosstalk].
[crosstalk] producers. It's not easy shooting in the jungle.
Yeah. So, I assume there are doctors ...
[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.
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 ... ?
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
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.
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.
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.
Did you say a producer?
Oh, wow. So, that's not on screen?
No, it happened pre-production.
Oh, okay. I hope they're okay.
She is okay, but definitely it was scary. For sure.
Wow. So, you said it was filmed in January, was that 2015 or
It was shot in April and May of 2016.
Well, mostly I'd say May. I think May is safer.
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.
I think we would, but honestly, to me ... I feel like once
you go celebrity, it's hard to go back. What the celebrity
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.
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.
I would think the insurance might be something worse for
something like that. I'm just thinking, celebrities getting
I don't know. Insurance is pretty high as it is.
Oh, is it?
I don't know if it would make that much of a difference at
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.
I never thought about having a celebrity survivalist. So,
Yeah, well, I'm sure there must be others. People that do a
lot of camping and rugged [crosstalk].
Well, there's celebrity survivalists that are celebrities
because they're survivalists.
Like Bear Grilles, but not a celebrity who's also a
survivalist? What's his name?
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.
Well, I'm going to look him up when we get off the phone.
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?
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
Interesting. All right, well, those are all the questions I
had. I appreciate you taking the time to answer them.
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],
Sounds good. Thank you and good luck again.
All right. Thank you.
All right. Bye-bye.
Transcribed by Anna J. of
& SCREAMING” SERIES PREMIERE
CONTESTANTS MEET THEIR MATCH AND FACE THE JUNGLE
ON THE ALL-NEW SERIES PREMIERE OF “KICKING
THURSDAY, MARCH 9,
Hannah Simone (NEW GIRL) Hosts!
In the series premiere of the comedic competition series
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 &
March 9 (9:01-10:00
PM ET/PT), on FOX.
KICKING & SCREAMING
is a new competition series that teams 10 expert
survivalists with pampered partners to face the toughest
challenges of their lives.
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
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
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/.
of KICKING &
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
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.
(Creator/Executive Producer, KICKING
Kunitz is perhaps best known as executive producer of the
groundbreaking unscripted network series “Fear Factor.”
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.
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
in three years.
Kunitz also served as the executive producer of “Dog Eat
Dog” and “Late Friday.”
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.”
native of San Diego, Kunitz graduated from the University of
Southern California’s School of Cinema and Television in
currently resides in Los Angeles.
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