Discovery Channel's 'Naked and Afraid' 'not about the nudity,' say producers

naked-and-afraid-discovery-channel.jpgDiscovery Channel's reality show "Naked and Afraid" is about survivalism, say the producers and contestants who spoke to reporters at the show's session at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. It's definitely not about the voyeuristic thrill of watching naked people, nor is it about cashing in on the latest reality craze, they say.

"It's not about the nudity, our show," says executive producer David Garfinkle. "It's about the relationship between a man and a woman and how they're going to engage and survive for the next 21 days, and it's extremely real and extremely honest."

The contestants -- paired men and women dropped into a remote environment completely naked and forced to survive for 21 days without any assistance -- say that stripping them of their clothing just adds another layer of difficulty to an already incredible task. Clothing "is part of shelter," explains contestant Dani Julien. 

"There's a certain order to survival, and without shelter you can die in certain situations in minutes. Clothing protects you from the sun, protects you from bugs," she says.

But, of course, it's a mental thing too. "There's a psychological element to it as well," says executive producer Steve Rankin. "If people don't have any clothes on, then they feel more vulnerable."

The contestants say that the first question they get from most people is: "Why?" 

Says Jeff Zausch, "This is who we are. This is what we're made of. We were made to push the limits of what's humanly possible." But yes, "I promise you it's just as awkward as it looks on television" when you meet your partner in the wilderness, completely nude.

That said, his favorite part of the experience was getting rescued after the 21-day term, but he says it's because of "the pride from competing the challenge." Adds Eva Rupert, it's about "having a life-changing experience. ... Stripping yourself down to the very core of your existence reveals something about yourself you cannot learn in any other way, shape or form."

Yes, producers considered a celebrity edition, but the logistics are difficult. "There's a big difference between being a fan of the show and being a survivalist -- 21 days is a very long time and they have to have the skill set to survive," says EP Jay Renfroe.

Julien says she gained 10 pounds, walked around barefoot for months and even went to the tanning booth so she wouldn't get sunburnt -- and that's in addition to all the mental prep. "I went through every worst case scenario," she says.

Ultimately, including the word "naked" in the title came from a biblical reference to the Book of Genesis. "We have a rationale behind it that helps us get back to the fundamentals of how we survive as human beings," says Rankin.

"We never intended for it to be an exploitative show," says Garfinkle. "This is a family show."

"Naked and Afraid" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Discovery Channel.

Photo/Video credit: Discovery