TV

Jeff Probst On 'Survivor Canada' Potential And His New Book

06/18/2013 11:10 EDT
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APIA - SEPTEMBER 20: 'Just Annihilate Them' -- Jeff Probst, during the immunity challenge, 'Odd Shaped Bottoms', during the eighth episode of SURVIVOR: ONE WORLD, Wednesday, April 4 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS via Getty Images)

Most people know Jeff Probst as the host of original reality TV phenomena "Survivor," but the man who made "The tribe has spoken" famous is also an author.

Probst is set to release "Trial By Fire: Stranded, Book Two" this week, the sequel to his first work of fiction "Stranded," written with co-author Chris Tebbetts.

Never one to rest for long, Probst took time out from shooting "Blood vs. Water," the upcoming season of "Survivor," to speak with with HuffPost Canada TV about his new book, his favourite TV shows and whether "Survivor" is ever coming to Canada.

Will we ever see a Canadian edition of "Survivor"?

I don't know if you'll see a Canadian version. Any country can do a version, you can buy the rights to it. We've talked about shooting in Canada a couple of times, and usually what we come back to is that we need the tropical environment for that wish fulfillment, because part of being stranded is being stranded on a beach with a palm tree. That's what you think of with a shipwreck or an airplane crash. So every time we think about Canada we've talked about some rolling hills, a valley or doing something like that. And whenever we really look at it, we think "Man, it just doesn't feel like 'Survivor.'"

Why did you decide to get into writing fiction?

Twofold. Number one, when I got married to my wife Lisa, she brought two kids into our relationship, and there was nothing out there in fiction for blended families. So Lisa said: "Why don't you write a book, about kids, but put it in 'Survivor'?" And it took us about five minutes to sell the book to Penguin. It was just such an easy fit. You don't do a kids' book for the money, I have a job that pays money. I loved this process. Loved it. But what's fun is getting photos on Twitter from moms saying, "My son read it in one night, can't wait for book two." I remember when I was a kid and I read the "Hardy Boys" or Encyclopedia Brown," and I was so sad when the book ended and I couldn't wait for the next one. I love the idea of a kid doing that with "Stranded."

What, if any, challenges have you faced being part of a blended family?

I think I've been very lucky in that, when we met, the kids were young enough that they just see me as another dad and they see Lisa's ex, who is also remarried, they see their new mom as another mom. The best story ever was, we were rollerblading one day, the four of us, and Michael said, "I'm the luckiest kid in school. I'm the only kid who has two dads and two moms." That was it.

We honestly haven't had any issues. I think we're lucky because everyone gets along. So there is harmony and everyone wants to raise the kids. Fom the families I've seen who struggle with it, it seems to have more to do with the parents not getting along than the kids.

What do you do when you're off-screen during the shooting of "Survivor"?

We test block a challenge without cameras, and then we refine it. And then we rehearse it with cameras, and then we refine it. And then we shoot it. So when you figure out how many challenges we do in a season, or if we have Redemption Island, how many duels and challenges, it's a lot of looking at challenges and going over them. So there is a great deal of time spent on that. Then usually, when we're shooting the first season of a summer, like we are right now, we do two back-to-back. Once we're about a week or 10 days in we have to start prepping the next season. So there's a lot of time spent on the creating of "Survivor." It's very misleading.

When I literally have nothing to do, I'll do any number of things depending on where we are. If we're in a water-based place we might scuba dive, or a lot of guys go out fishing for an afternoon. The last two years, I edited a movie that I made called "Kiss Me" while I was on location, and then this season I've been writing "Stranded." My guilty pleasure is I catch up on television shows by just OD'ing on them.

What's your favourite show at the moment?

I can't resist a new episode of "Mad Men" but I can't say it's my favourite show. But then again, I would watch it every day if it was on. Definitely "House of Cards" was my favourite show of the year so far, but I devoured that with my wife over a weekend so I can't even watch it now. I didn't have the patience to put myself on some sort of a ration. We just sat down and said "Let's do it."

Would you ever consider competing on the show yourself as part of a survival experts season?

"Survivor" is about casting, number one. It's never been about survivalists. We get that suggestion a lot, but "Survivor" is about politics, which is way more interesting to me than whether or not guys can actually start fire with nothing other than air. I know there are guys who can do that, but I'm more interesting in how that mother of three going to deal with that 19-year-old idiot. Because she has to. She's on a tribe with him.

So, I think we would do a season of "Survivalist" if we found 16, or maybe we would do one tribe of survivors vs. one tribe of city slickers, that might be interesting. But it's hard finding a group of people when you categorize them that way.

As far as me, I would be such a disappointment. I think I could play socially pretty well, and I could start fire, but man that game is so complicated. Every time we do a new season I find myself leaving a Tribal Council after yet another blindside and thinking "How would I ensure that wasn't me?" And there's no way, because at sixty percent of the Tribal Councils someone will say "Well, I know I'm safe tonight," and a few seconds later I'm snuffing their torch. And they were certain they were safe. The game is so complicated.

A lot of people have complained you spoil the show by live-tweeting. What are your thoughts on that?

I don't want this to sound like whining, because it's not, but you can't please everybody. On one hand, we have this amazing thing in social media. You can connect with fans. Think about when you were a kid, if you could have got a hold of your favourite TV star and he might write you back. It's mind-blowing. But we can now. I can actually get Don Draper to write me back if I follow Jon Hamm on Twitter and get him on the right day.

So fans of "Survivor" reach out and I reach back and they say, "Why don't you hang out and watch the show with us?" And the people say, "Wait a minute, why did you do that? I wasn't watching!"

And that's when I go, "I'm not sure which is better. Should I give some people the experience of watching it together? But if we watch it together I'm going to give something away." So do I just say, "Listen, if you can't follow me, I'm sorry, I don't mean to spoil it for you." Or do I just say, "I'm not going to have any interaction at all when it comes to the show." I'm open to suggestions, people can write me at my Twitter handle. I listen. I'm not trying to screw the show up for anybody, I'm actually trying to make it a better experience.

"Survivor: Blood vs. Water" will air Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Global in Canada and CBS in the U.S. this fall.

Jeff Probst is releasing a sequel to his New York Times bestseller "Stranded." "Trial By Fire: Stranded, Book Two" is scheduled for release in Canada on June 18. Both books are for young readers and co-authored with New York Times bestselling author Chris Tebbetts.

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