Phil Keoghan has been gracing America’s television screens as the host of CBS’ The Amazing Race since 2001 and now he is creating an all-new reality competition show called Tough As Nails. Tough As Nails will feature some of the hardest workers in the country competing in real-life challenges that break the mold of the typical “reality competition.”
CBS Local’s Matt Weiss caught up with Keoghan to discuss the inspiration behind the show’s creation, what kind of twists audiences are in store for and what type of person he believes will be the best candidate to audition for Tough As Nails.
MW: Good morning Phil, How’s it going?
PK: Really good, thank you!
MW: So we’re here today to talk about Tough As Nails, your new show that’s looking for real people who are real tough. What was the inspiration for you behind making this show?
PK: The inspiration comes from my grandfather; I was lucky enough to spend all my Christmas holidays during high school with him in his workshop. He was a mechanic, a WWII era mechanic, a gunsmith, an inventor. He’s the one who inspired me to learn practical skills and celebrate those practical skills. So I’ve always admired trades people, I’ve always looked up to my other grandfather who was a carpenter; all my family going back generations are working class, blue collar, hardworking people who worked with their hands. I’ve always seen calluses on people’s hands as a badge of honor, that’s just how I grew up.
I feel like we sort of got away from that a wee bit recently, we kind of look down a bit on people who are in the trades, like ‘oh they didn’t go to university,’ and somehow I feel like we need to put a spotlight back on them. It used to be that we really celebrated those people and then it became all about going to university if you want to have a real life or you want to get ahead. There are lots of great trades that you can make a lot of money and where you can make a good living and these are proud people. I think this show will give people their chance to be in the spotlight for a change instead of the amazing looking gym rat whose ripped who looks like he’s ready for a cover a magazine.
MW: That’s great, like you said, the trades really have seem to fallen by the waste side for young people.
PK: A lot of people are doing some really good work in getting back into schools and saying, ‘hey listen there’s an alternative to you going to university and leaving with a lot of debt and struggling to find a job.’ By no means am I saying that getting a higher education is something people shouldn’t do. I’m just saying that there are alternatives. Some people are really good at working with their hands and they have the street smarts to be really good at being an iron worker or a carpenter or a cabinet maker or doing jobs that we need in society in order to keep this country running and there’s this pride that they have.
I feel like there shouldn’t be this stigma attached to that. If anything we should be thanking these people and celebrating these people so Tough As Nails is really about getting back to our roots, back to what made this country work in the first place and celebrating those people, giving them a chance to be in the spotlight for a change.
MW: Now Tough As Nails is a competition, so what are some of the challenges that we’re going to see the men and women on the show go through?
PK: The challenges will be real life challenges, they won’t be running through obstacle courses like some of these other physical competition shows that you’ve seen before. It won’t be about obstacle courses or a set that’s built specifically for the show. There will be challenges that we find in the real world that real people do every day. You’ll have challenges on farms, challenges out in the country, we’ll have challenges on construction sites, they’ll be in real world locations.
MW: How are the eliminations going to work, will there be one person being sent home every week, or is that something you’re keeping close to the vest. How are we going to whittle down to one winner?
PK: Well, there’s a little bit of a trick to the format, what I can tell you is that so many people work not just as individuals, they work in a crew, they work in a team, so we’re going to have different ways that we will be competing. They won’t just be competing for themselves, they’ll also be competing as a group. What I can tell you is that there are eliminations but there are different ways people are competing. They’re not just competing by themselves.
MW: Sounds like a nice fresh take on the genre of the competition show.
PK: Yeah, it is different. The stakes are still high, one of the great things about eliminations is that it does increase the stakes. The stakes are high, you’re in or you’re out, and a lot of shows are built around that idea. In Survivor they’re voted off, in Big Brother they’re let go, on Amazing Race they turn up last, so you still want those stakes but we’re just looking at the format in a different way with this show, you get that tension and you get those stakes, but then it’s not just a repeat of what’s out there. We have a different mechanism which we think is good.
MW: Castings are coming up this week, what are you looking for in your applicants? What attributes are you looking for?
PK: Real people, real life, real tough. We’re looking for people who are diamonds in the rough. There are always those people on a construction site, on a farm, or a coal mine that everybody talks about, ‘ah man you don’t want to mess with Mary in the fire department, she can dead lift 300 lbs. She can do more push-ups than anybody else, she’s just known to be as tough as nails.’ We want to try and find those people. Those people who are the elite of the elite in their chosen trade. The people who have become legends in their community, in their unions, in their work group. Everybody knows when that person turns up, they bring it.
They’re the people who wear the callouses on their hands as a badge of honor, they’re the people who are going to do just a little more than everybody else that earned their respect from everybody else with their hard work; we want to find those people. People who have a combination of strength, endurance, agility and mental toughness. It’s not very hard to find them once you get it. Like you could go to a local iron workers’ union and you can say who is known to be the hardest working, tough as nails person in this group and people will go ‘oh you’re talking about Mike, that’s this guy Mike and he works point and that’s the guy you want.’
MW: You’re going to a bunch of different cities for anyone who might be interested in trying out themselves or recommending their own “Mike” or “Mary” where can people go to get more information about the castings?
PK: The best place for people to start is to go to toughasnailscbscasting.com. Now if you go there you will see all the information you need, frequently asked questions, an application form. We’re also putting out messages on @toughasnailscbs on Instagram. We’re just about to hit the road to six cities across America, starting in St. Louis on November 2nd, we’ll be in Chicago November 3rd, Detroit on the 4th, New York on the 5th, Cincinnati on the 6th and then we’re going to end up in Las Vegas at big PBR event on the night of the 9th. We’ll be doing this casting in the morning except for in Las Vegas, that will be a night event. You can also find all of this information available at toughasnailscbscasting.com.
MW: Awesome, I can’t wait to see the show, best of luck with the new project Phil and it was a pleasure talking to you.
PK: Thank you so much., Matt!
Be sure to swing by a casting when they come to your city if you think you have what it takes to be crowned Tough As Nails and check back here for more updates and information as it becomes available.