Terry Fossum of Veradale knows how to make an impression, and it got him cast in the new “Survivor”-like Fox reality competition series “Kicking & Screaming” (9 p.m. Thursday).
“The first thing that stood out when we saw his casting tape is that he was a Boy Scout,” said “Kicking” executive producer Matt Kunitz (“Fear Factor,” “Wipeout”). “Anytime you see a 52-year-old man in a Boy Scout uniform, that sort of sticks out a little bit.”
Fossum, a former Scoutmaster for Troop 400 and currently vice president of programs for the Inland Northwest Council of Boy Scouts of America, said his casting on the series began last year when he received an email from a casting company he initially thought was fake. He said the casting company put out a casting call notice on a national Scouting website and someone who’d been through one of Fossum’s leadership courses suggested him.
Initially, Fossum said he balked at the notion of appearing on a reality show, but as his twin stepsons were getting ready to graduate from high school, Fossum was open to his next adventure.
“I pray regularly; in fact, pretty much constantly, and my biggest prayer at that time was ‘God, please show me what you want me to do next. Where do you want me to go with my life? Whatever it is, I’ll do it,’ ” Fossum said. “Maybe that wasn’t the best idea. The problem with asking God for an answer is that when you get it, you’re kind of obligated to follow it, even if you really don’t like the answer. In my opinion, this email was so out of the blue, that I had no choice but to believe it was an answer.”
In “Kicking & Screaming,” 10 expert survivalists, including Fossum, are paired with pampered partners as they compete in challenges and live in a tropical jungle in Fiji. The winning team splits a $500,000 grand prize.
Filmed last May, executive producer Anthony Dominici said in addition to the pairings of survivalists and divas, “Kicking” differentiates itself from CBS’s “Survivor” in tone, too.
“There’s a sense of humor that’s not typical of cutthroat reality shows,” he said.
That’s apparent in casting Fossum, who wore part of his Boy Scout uniform on the series. (Fossum said wearing the uniform was producers’ idea, though he was happy to oblige after clearing it with the national office of the Boy Scouts of America.)
“We’re always looking for diversity in casting because we believe diversity brings drama,” Kunitz said. “And I don’t just mean racial diversity, but also socio-economic, diversity among the types of jobs they have, diversity with personalities. A lot of the survivalists were super-macho young, top military guys, so the idea of having a 52-year-old life-long Boy Scout in the mix was quite appealing to us.”
Fossum, who went on a 6,000-mile driving, boating and backpacking trip to the Arctic Circle a few years ago, prepared for “Kicking” by traveling to Guyana for about a week to learn jungle survival techniques from South American experts, swimming with piranha and picking ticks off himself.
“It helped me an immense amount,” Fossum said of his prep work.
What he couldn’t be prepared for, necessarily, was the person he would be paired with: Natalie Casanova, a 29-year-old, pink-haired, tattooed gamer and YouTuber.
“Imagine her reaction: She’s looking at nine studly people, many young, with buff muscles, and she gets the old Boy Scout,” Fossum said, laughing. “Imagine what she’s thinking: ‘I got the old guy.’ ”
Fossum declined to say how the pair got along (“You’re gonna have to watch the show”) but they are still in touch.
“It was harsh,” Fossum said of his Fijian jungle experience. “A lot of these reality shows are bull, but this is 100 percent real, man. … We were starving, sleeping on the ground in the shelter we made in the jungle with things crawling all over you.”
A former U.S. Air Force captain who’s also worked in direct sales and written self-improvement books, Fossum plans to focus on his work as a corporate keynote speaker post-“Kicking.”
But during the show’s run, Fossum plans to attend 8 p.m. Thursday viewing parties for “Kicking” at the Max restaurant at the Mirabeau Park Hotel & Convention Center, 1100 N. Sullivan Road in Spokane Valley, every week he’s on the show. The viewing parties are free to attend and open to the public.
Karen Meier, Scout executive and CEO for the Inland Northwest Council, said she intends to be at Fossum’s weekly gatherings.
“I think it was a great opportunity not only for him but really to show the survivalist skill set of Scouts,” she said. “We hear it over and over from the boys that once they move on with their lives and into their careers they always reflect on that journey in Scouting that really develops those skill sets to prepare them for life. It’s cool that Terry will really bring out that message.”
From the sounds of it, Fossum will stick around on the show for a while.
“Terry is a true competitor,” Kunitz said. “And I think the two of them will surprise a lot of people in how well they compete. If you look at them and compared them to some of the other contestants and see they’re going up against mercenaries and Marine snipers, people you would sort of expect he’s just not gonna last against, and he does well. I don’t want to give away anything but he’s there past the first few episodes for sure. He played an important role in the series.”
Freelance writer Rob Owen: RobOwenTV@gmail.com or on Facebook and Twitter as RobOwenTV.