Disney Vet Brandon Johnson Spends '72 Hours' (And Then Some) in the Wild

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"72 Hours" - Brandon Johnson

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Brandon Johnson, host of TNT's "72 Hours."

TNT's new wilderness show "72 Hours" has a simple premise. Strangers are teamed up to hunt for a briefcase that holds $100,000. But there are a few catches: Players have only 72 hours to find it, and they are given only one bottle of water, a two-way radio, and a navigation device. Yikes.

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You can admit you recognize "72" host Brandon Johnson from Disney's "Shake It Up" — it's OK to watch tween TV. We talked to Johnson about working in the great outdoors.

What makes "72 Hours" stand out?

Well, what makes us different is that every location is different. We went all over the world, from Fiji to Tasmania to Hawaii, and even the southern Rockies within the United States. And every episode has a brand-new cast. These people don't know each other. They're total strangers because we keep them sequestered. We're doing unscripted reality competition. And we had a contestant that said, "You know, I thought I was doing a reality show, but it turns out I'm doing real reality." We don't have scripts. And it plays out for some incredibly dynamic footage.

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Do you have any favorite players?

Well, I have to be very neutral in this area. I think every single episode will always have a couple characters that will stand out. The show is about unplugging people from their everyday [lives] and thrusting them back into the wild, where it all began. We'll take off that mask they're wearing and get down to the core of what really makes them tick. Sometimes we'll expose prejudices they may have, but hopefully those will dissolve and they'll walk away breaking through physical and mental obstacles with a new confidence and a new tolerance. There's no price tag for that. There are incredible sociological elements.

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And, seriously, one bottle of water? Come on.

Exactly, right? Well, I will say that, along their journey, if it gets [to be] too much, they can call in a relief drop. A relief drop will come with water, basic food, and limited items that will help, but it also comes with a 16-minute penalty. If they call it in at the wrong time, another team could blast right past them. It's a big chess match.

Did any team just say, "Forget it, let's find a bed-and-breakfast'?

Well, they're fantasizing about that, but they find ways to stay comfortable in the wild. It's very intense for them. They find ways to stay warm; they have a cuddle huddle. It's cold out there at night, and some people cuddle themselves like a burrito. It's amazing.

What is it about money in a briefcase that makes for such good TV?

Well, here they can make a lot of money very, very quickly — in three days. The money is certainly a motivating factor. I'm not saying it's going to make you happy, but some people are a lot happier when they have it. However, other people are a part of this not for the money but for the sheer adventure, because they're at an age where they want to see if they've still got it. We've got an age range from 20 to 65, from all different backgrounds — stockbrokers, tattoo artists, doctors.

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So, at the end of each episode, people either get rich or they don't.

All three people have to put their hands on the briefcase to claim it. We have extremely close calls where two teams have shown up at the location at the exact same time, and it's like a battle royale seeing who's going to get it, but once [they] get that, the money is theirs.

Did animals get in the way of filming?

Oh my goodness, that's one of the things about being out in the wild. It is wild. Mother Nature doesn't discriminate. We have been in jungles, lagoons, and mountains, and I have come across every organism I think is out there, from snakes to wild birds to sharks. Whatever God can create, it's out there.

"72 Hours" airs Thursdays at 9 PM on TNT.


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