Exclusive interview: Green Beret Nate Boyer hosts ‘Survive the Raft’ on Discovery

Survive the Raft is hosted by Nate Boyer, former Green Beret, athlete and a Hollywood triple-threat actor/writer/director.
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survive the raft

Survive the Raft is hosted by Nate Boyer, former Green Beret, athlete and a Hollywood triple-threat actor/writer/director. The show airs Sunday nights on Discovery and follows nine diverse contestants who set sail on the Acali II for 21 days to test whether personal interest will sabotage the team’s chance to win a fortune together. The stakes are high: with each successful mission, the team earns money toward a communal cash pot divided equally by those who make it to the end. Every week, participants are tasked with completing physical and intellectual challenges designed to disrupt and divide the group. At the end of each episode, the crew of the Acali II is given the option to continue as a group or swap one of their own for a new participant. Will the good for all outweigh the good for one?

Watch the trailer here:

Enjoy this exclusive interview with Nate Boyer.

WATM: Tell us about Survive the Raft

Survive the Raft is a show on Discovery and people can also view it on Max. Every episode comes out on Sunday evenings on Discovery. It’s based on a social experiment conducted back in 1973 by an anthropologist named Santiago Genovés. He wanted to see what would happen if you put people from all walks of life together in a situation where there was no other place for them to go. What kind of conversations would come up, but more importantly would these people put aside their differences and work together for the common good? To survive the trip essentially. His trip was with 10 people on a raft like we did, and they floated from the Canary Islands in Spain to Mexico across the Atlantic Ocean. It took 101 days, and massive chaos ensued. Many of these people didn’t have a lot of experience on the water. It wasn’t a big group of sailors. It is a big raft; 60 x 40 feet. We recreated it for our show. They had a sail, but you’re drifting. You know what I mean? You are trying to figure out food and all this other stuff.

cast photo

The cast of Survive the Raft.

When the tabloids heard about this trip, they called it the “Sex Raft” because some people had relations on the ship, but the tabloids missed the point. That is not what the trip was about, and that is not what really ended up happening. A lot of these people, although they were from all different walks of life did come together. Now 50 years later, once again we are in divisive times. Back then, it was the Vietnam War, Watergate and Roe v. Wade. Now some of these similar themes are coming back. We wanted to see what would happen if we recreated this experience. We did it in the Pearl Islands, down in Panama. It was 21 days, not 101 days, but still long enough. On day one, there were already people at each other’s throats. The experiment started with nine, and it dwindles as we go. We wanted to see what would happen if people had the opportunity to put those differences aside and work together.  

WATM: Is there a Green Beret tie-in with the teamwork and survival aspects that drew you to this project?

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Cast members (from L to R) Summer, Lashanna and CJ of the show. Photo: Discovery

There is a team dynamic that is very important. In the military, you get those people in those team rooms from all walks of life. Whether it is a Special Forces team or a Marine Division, you have people from all walks of life. From all over the country, all over the world. What we share is what we go through. The training, the experience from boot camp through Army Infantry Training into deployments. We also share the uniform, the camouflage; it bonds us in a unique way. In the Special Forces as well, a lot of our Green Beret training has to do with cultures, customs, and assimilating and trying to understand people from different perspectives. We have to understand people that believe very differently than the average American. The beliefs and customs of people in Iraq and Afghanistan are very different from the U.S. You have to put that stuff aside, and once you spend time with those people – really listen to their story, who they are and what they care about – generally we’re a lot more similar than we are different.

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Cast member Jonathan collecting food for the crew’s trip.

We want what’s best for our family. We want to feel safe. We want to belong. We want to make a difference. We want the basics: food, shelter, clean water, healthcare, education. These things are very similar. Those points uniquely positioned me to be the host for this and attracted me to the show because there is nothing more frustrating than after my time overseas, coming home to a divided nation. Coming home to a place where people don’t even want to listen to one another. It’s like the feeling is they don’t even care what so many of us were to sacrifice to go over there and do. I don’t need constantly thanking me for my service; I want to know what I am fighting for is a place where people are willing to work together. We are trying to make this country better. All of that was so interesting to me and is a small microcosm of a larger problem. When there is money on the line, and you have cameras in your face and people are getting to see the real you, I think you second-guess some things. Maybe you approach conversations differently than you normally would. You grant a little more respect to these people who are different. You are no longer a social media warrior. It is a very different dynamic. That was so cool to me.

Yeah, it is a competition series. Yes, there is money at stake. All these things are interesting because they do motivate us but beyond that, there is this Trojan Horse regarding what the show is really about. Why it really mattered to me. We’re early on here, but we’re garnering some very serious attention. A lot of people are into the show and are following the show. It matters to them and is a very relevant conversation.

WATM: How did you become involved in the show?

Discovery had already cast it and found their crew members for the Acali II. I love that they rebuilt this craft because it is just like the original. They built the show out by recreating this experiment. The last piece of the puzzle was finding a way to connect that crew and the experience as a host – being a conduit to the audience to more of the why we are doing this. I remember my agent reaching out, and I have done more filmmaking, which I love doing. I am very focused on it. From 2019 to 2020, I hosted a show for the NFL before the pandemic. It was called Indivisible, which had elements of an Anthony Bourdain-style show about how football makes a difference in some of these NFL cities. It was really fun and I enjoyed the opportunity to host. I had been up for a couple of other competition series shows. They were good shows and had entertainment value but didn’t have this piece that Survive the Raft has, the experiment, that social aspect that really challenged the audience as well. It makes you think a bit differently and to not always judge a book by its cover. Listen to these people and where they are coming from, too. It is for the audience to interreact in a special way.  

When my agent laid it out for me, I was blown away. I met with people from Discovery before and enjoyed those meetings. They remembered me and loved my story. I got a chance to sit down with them and have a conversation with the whole team. I was in the boardroom in a chair about to explode because I was so excited about it. I am typically not a reality show type, but this was so different and powerful. It has so much potential with the audience members and I really wanted to be a part of it. Fortunately, it worked out, and we were down in Panama a month later. Behind the camera could be its own reality show with the challenges we face with it being a first-season show, the weather and all these factors. It’s just like a mission in the military. You can plan all day and then Murphy’s gonna bite you day one. It’s the Murphy you never knew existed, and all of a sudden, you’re making adjustments and shifting on the fly, while you’re continuing to make this show as good as possible. If you want to make a great piece of content, no matter what it is, that’s gotta come first. This experiment really had to come first. We got it and made something beautiful.

WATM: What are your favorite parts about it?

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The full cast of the show. Photo: Discovery

My favorite parts are the cast. I don’t want to call them cast because it makes them feel like scripted and they are crew members, which is confusing because there is a crew behind the scenes. When I say crew I mean the crew of the Acali II. The shipmates. I remember meeting them the first time which is when the audience meets them the first time as well in Panama City. We met at the dock and the shipping pier. The fishing boats come in and there is a market; this is all real – it wasn’t a set. It’s a real place you should go visit. They are out there buying goods in a limited amount of time and with a limited amount of money. I get there and assess; we in the military assess and make judgments, at least initial ones. I am sizing up the group internally, and then from the jump, they are all surprising. Who is going to be that leader and the one getting things done? We’ve got ones who are conversing about the best way to do it and then we’ve got other ones who are just doing it. Making it happen. Already my own perceptions are being challenged, which is great.

As the show goes on it gets more and more like that. The people I thought would do better in certain situations did better in different situations. And vice versa. Those who I thought would be a slam dunk became quite a challenge. When there is a little bit of stress, true colors come out, and those are things you can’t see until you get to know somebody. Not to mention it was gorgeous on location. It was hot. We’ve seen the first two episodes now and I am just drenched. That is not a spray bottle. We are baking in the sun on the deck of the boat, which is likely twice as hot. That’s what makes it great. It is real. My perceptions were changed with the show and how real it is.

Military-style ammo cans were used as part of many different challenges for the crew members. I made sure they called them ammo cans as well. They weren’t my idea, though. We had a 250-person crew to make this show. We had an art department, the challenge crew and many more who came in on a first-season show. It is tough and you are in a foreign country. There are certain resources you have and others you don’t. That was one thing I was proud of. We had people step up and fly in. We had to figure things out and make it happen. There is a whole other show that was intense and challenging with drama. This is how you get things done in and outside of Hollywood. We must be relentless and adapt. There are a lot of similarities between military training operations and working on a production. I don’t want to say combat because it’s not war, but there are a lot of similarities to that (military) world to be fluid and willing to shift on the fly. You must or you won’t be successful.

WATM: Do you think there is going to be a Season 2?

I sure hope so. I hope there is a season 10. It’s hard to say right now; it’s early on and that’s up to the audience. There should be. I know as this series develops, if we have that opportunity, that concept is going to get stronger, and the twists will change as well. The way that we will conduct the experiment and the types of people we will have on and the lessons learned from Season 1 will add up. Create something even more surprising and different and hopefully educational as we continue with the series.

I think there is a great opportunity to make a big difference and do a lot of good and to help change the narrative of who we are as a nation, as a people and what we’re willing to do. How people are willing to improvise, adapt, overcome and survive. The opportunity is there. I want to see it come to fruition and blossom into something unique and special and change with every season. My hope and dream would be that it is different every season. A unique and special point is that the crew of the Acali II has autonomy over this experience. There are some rules, but not too many. They govern themselves. It’s up to them. It’s your society.

Survive The Raft is available now on Discovery. Learn more here.