The popular History hit "Yukon Gold" is back for another season and hoping to strike ratings gold again. Last year, it quickly scored a large, loyal audience and became History's number-one Canadian docu-series.
All three gold mining crews from last season are back, including the ambitious second-generation miner Karl Knutson, the wonderfully colourful newbie "Big" Al McGregor, and the resilient Ken Foy, who's hoping for a comeback after a tough year. This season introduces a new miner, too -- Cam Johnson, who can only access his remote mine by boat or plane.
HuffPost Canada TV caught up with Foy to chat about his wife's reservations about the show, the tough life of a gold miner, and what it's like getting recognized everywhere he goes now.
HuffPost Canada TV: Were you surprised by how popular the first season was?
Ken Foy: Yeah, actually. Extremely surprised. You don't really know what to expect, especially at the start when they approached us about doing it. We were like, "Man, who would want to watch what we do?" But as the taping went on and on, I think we got more of the feeling of "OK, what we're doing out here is pretty unique."
How does what we see on the show compare to what you're actually doing? Is it an accurate representation?
Absolutely. Obviously, when you're stuffing months into 10 hours, it's tough to get exactly everything. But nothing is ever acted. If the film crew misses a shot, they miss it for good. We've never re-enacted. We never did anything from script. What you see is what you get. The film crew worked extremely hard to get that story. We have an extreme amount of respect for the camera guys, because, man, they worked hard to not only keep up with us, but stay out of our way. Mining was the number one goal, and the show was obviously secondary.
Since the show premiered, have more people been hitting you up trying to join your crew?
We definitely get lots of emails. A lot of people wanting to join the crew. It's nice. You have to respect them for wanting to come and help.
Have you ever taken any of them seriously?
Not at this point. It is such a hard six months. We really pick and choose people we know will make it from personal experience. I like to know the people before we go in. We're dealing with a lot of money in gold, so everyone you have in your crew, you have to trust like they're family.
I read that your wife wasn't too keen on the show at first -- is she on-board now?
No! [Laughs] I shouldn't say she's not on-board. If you were to ask her, I think she likes part of it. She's a really quiet person herself. When we get that attention, I enjoy it more than she does. She doesn't want to be involved in a big way, but she doesn't mind being involved in it on a smaller scale.
Have you ever been surprised by the types of people who recognize you from the show?
Oh, absolutely. I live in Vancouver, and it was just crazy after a few episodes came out. Me and [right-hand man] Guillaume went out to a bar, and there were six or seven people who came up to us who recognized us, and we were just like whoa, this is weird! [Laughs] And younger people, too. I figured it would be an older crowd that would watch it, and was extremely surprised by how much of a younger audience is watching it.
For people who haven't seen the show before, what do you think they'd be most surprised to learn about gold mining when they start watching?
That it's harder than they think. It's not an easy occupation. Our seasons are so short. This year we had an even shorter season. We had a super-late spring and lost probably five weeks of sluicing there along. And the price of gold was down this summer -- we had a huge hit just from the price of gold. The stuff you can't control. I think they see how hard of a living it is to make. You're not guaranteed anything.
What's a typical day at the mine like?
[Laughs] It's work! Our minimum shift is 12 hours a day. I try to work with the day and night shift a bit. Our crew will go out at 7 a.m. for shift change. I usually go out little later, at 7:30 or 8, but when the guys are off at 7 p.m., I'm usually out there til 1 or 2 a.m. working with the night shift as well. There is no time for nothing else. There is no TV. We're all there to work and make money.
What's your favourite thing about gold mining?
Tough question! [Laughs] If it's a really good season I like everything. But it's not a 9 to 5 job. I love the Yukon. It's absolutely gorgeous in the summer. I like working for myself. That opportunity of hitting the big payload. At today's price of gold, you can make a lot of money in a short period of time. You can lose a lot of money, too, but that's not what we're striving for. It's that draw of hitting the big pocket -- the retirement pocket. You hit one really good pocket and it could set you for the rest of your life. I think that has to be the number one purpose for mining: to try to get rich.
Season 2 of "Yukon Gold" premieres on History on February 26 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.