Sunday, January 23, 2022

From a sangoma and adult content creator to its first transgender housemate: Here are South Africa's 18 new Big Brother Mzansi contestants.


by Thinus Ferreira

After a 7 year absence, 18 housemates out of 9 000 people who entered for the revived reality show, walked into the camera-house in Johannesburg on Sunday night during a 2-hour premiere for the 5th season of Big Brother Mzansi, including the show's first transgender person, a sangoma and an adult content creator.

The 18 housemates range between 21 and 31 and will compete to be the last one standing over 71 days when the winner is announced on Sunday 3 April at 18:00.

The 5th season of Big Brother Mzansi (previously also branded Big Brother SA) is produced according to the Banijay format, with Amanda van Wyngaardt as art director, Dineo Phantshang as series producer, OJ Meketsi as series director, Gbenga Kayode as consulting series director, Jessica Setati as production manager, and with Cecil Barry and Natalie Bleksley as the co-executive producers.

Lawrence Maleka is the presenter.

Sunday night's 2-hour premiere episode on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) that will run daily and weekly highlight shows, with a 24-hour Big Brother Mzansi channel running on MultiChoice's DStv channel 198, featured performances by Kamo Mphela, Chicco, Mello and Sleezy in front of a limited socially-distanced live audience.

"Congratulations to the new housemates on an experience like no other, and one that will undoubtedly change many of their lives," said says Shirley Adonisi, M-Net director of local entertainment channels.

"We're excited to have the show back on air as it's something viewers have been anticipating, and we have no doubt that they will not be disappointed."


The 18 housemates who entered Big Brother Mzansi on Sunday night are:

Adindu Asuzu aka Zino (21), Johannesburg 
self-confessed mommy’s boy, this season's youngest housemate describes himself as both bubbly and mellow. He reckons he won't start drama – but will be the one to end it. He says his Nigerian side won't let people take advantage of him.


Gashwan Brandon Mthombeni aka Gash1 (28), Pretoria
Having overcome a troubled past, Gershwin is a deep thinker with varied interests and talents. He's deeply spiritual and enjoys giving people advice and motivation.


Gugu Refiloe Bonga aka Terry (26), Johannesburg
Honest almost to her own detriment, the adult content creator says she has a very big personality and stands for acceptance and non-judgment. She doesn’t like fake people and considers herself to be very open.


Keamogetswe Motlhale aka QV (23), Mahikeng
The easy-going Keamogetswe is a sharp-shooter and straight talker, she has no interest in keeping her annoyance to herself when someone gets on her wrong side. She describes herself as a tomboy.


Libo Njomba aka Libo (32), Johannesburg
Born in Uitenhage, Libo is an avid lover of life who enjoys the outdoors. He says people are his weakness and as a result, he tends to befriend "strange characters" – but also considers himself a loner.


Luthando Mthembu aka B.U (31), Johannesburg
The aspiring musician says one of the highlights of his life was quitting his high-flying corporate job to follow his artistic dreams. A vegan, he is focused on centering himself.


Michelle Dimpho Mvundla aka Mphowabadimo (27), Daveyton
The sangoma describes herself as outgoing and kind, but says she has "zero tolerance for nonsense". A doting mom, she is a nurturer who loves cheering people up when they're not feeling their best.


Mvelo Ntuli aka Mvelo (28), Johannesburg
Describing himself as loud and lovable, Mvelo is a lover of people who is passionate about education. Bubbly and candid, he hides a more complex side behind his infectious humour.


Naledi Mogadime aka Nale (24), Pretoria
A self-described "fine gyal, not a sad gyal", the model is as much a firecracker as she is calm and zen. Her strength is being able to understand and analyse people. Naledi says she might not be everyone's cup of tea in the beginning.


Norman Nhlapo aka Norman (24), Johannesburg
The daycare worker has an adaptable personality and is a sporty person. Despite a tough upbringing, he says his life has been a "bundle of blessings". He runs a non-profit organisation and daycare with his mother.


Rethabile Potsane aka Dinkybliss (29), Johannesburg
Fashion-loving and bubbly, Rethabile describes herself as "loud and proud" and says she can transform people’s moods and lift spirits when she is around. More of a boys' girl than a girls' girl, she enjoys socialising.


Thando Mcopela aka Acacia  (30), Soweto
Family orientated, Thando describes herself as a free spirit and a risk-taker. She's a foodie who loves community and togetherness. She considers herself relatable and is as comfortable ekasi as she is in upmarket suburbs.


Thato Mokoena aka Thato (28), Vaal
Not one to limit herself, Thato is an accountant and TikToker who describes herself as a "world within worlds". Bubbly and energetic, she's bluntly honest and is comfortable with her transparent nature.


Themba Karabo Mabaso aka Themba (30), Johannesburg
The heavily inked tattoo artist describes himself as "simple", "basic" and "normal", and says despite his attention-grabbing looks, he doesn't actively seek the spotlight.


Thobeka Mtshali aka Venus (25), Richards Bay
In her own words, when it comes to her "you just never know what you're gonna get". She embodies creativity: she writes music, makes beats and plays the piano. She considers herself to be a layered person. 


Tulani Madala aka Tulz (28), Johannesburg
A velvet-voiced straight-shooter, Tulani has a softness beneath his tough exterior. He says he's single because he was badly behaved in the heyday of his radio DJ career.


Ukho Samela aka Sis Tamara (25), Johannesburg
The multifaceted and bubbly Ukho goes by the pronouns he/ him/ she/ her/ they/ them. Known as Sis Tamara, they describe themselves as "a gender non-conforming experience". They are passionate about trans and queer representation.


Yolanda Glover aka Yoli (30), Durban
Outgoing and effervescent, Yolanda describes herself as "Berocca without the medicine". She loves being around people and says they are drawn to her infectious energy. She can sometimes be too honest and upfront and says she’s an open book.


Saturday, January 22, 2022

Veteran actor Patrick Shai has committed suicide.


by Thinus Ferreira

The veteran and prolific South African actor and director Patrick Shai committed suicide on Saturday.

Patrick Shai, born Patrick Molefe Shai, hanged himself in the garage of his home in Dobsonville.

"It is with great sadness to announce the passing of veteran actor Ntate Patrick Shai. He passed away this morning," the family said in a statement on Saturday.

"We sincerely ask you to give the family time to process this painful loss. More details will be shared in due course."

Patrick Shai appeared in various series, ranging from Generations to Soul City, Zero Tolerance, Skeem Saam and 7de Laan

The actor started his career as a dancer, according to Wikipedia, at Safari Ranch with Mzumba African Drama and Ballet, and joined the cast of SABC1's drama series Soul City in 1994.

In 1995 he wrote and acted in the film Hearts & Minds and appeared as the character of Christmas in the BBC mini-series Rhodes in 1996.

Other TV series he appeared in, include Noah's Arc, Moferefere Lenyalon and Hola Mpinji, all on SABC2, Zone 14 and Uzalo on SABC1, as well as Isidingo and the competition show I Love South Africa.

Other TV series he appeared in ranged from Screenplay, Jacob's CrossMMG Engineers, Mission Top Secret, The Principal, Yizo Yizo, Behind the Badge, Hillside, Life is Wild and Chandies

Most recently he was Phasha in Mzansi Magic's The River and in e.tv's Ashes to Ashes telenovela he appeared as Selogilwe "Selo" Namane.

Patrick Shai's extensive filmography also includes appearing in the movies A Place for Weeping, Red Scorpion, Blind Justice, Diamond in the Rough, The Last Samurai, Schweitzer, The Sheltering Desert, Taxi to Soweto, Cry, the Beloved Country, Danger Zone, Inside, Stray Bullet, La ferme du crocodile, Fools, The Place of Lions, The Gates of Cleveland Road, The Bone Snatcher, Critical Assignment, Zulu Love Letter, Discreet, Life, Above All, The Bang, Bang Club and Gog' Helen

He appeared on stage in the play Sophiatown that toured globally.

In 2019 Patrick Shai was shot 11 times in his neck, back, legs and arms by the South African police when he took part in public protest action in Dobsonville, Soweto over disconnected electricity.

In 2016 Patrick Shai's wife Masechaba spoke about the decades of emotional and physical abuse she had suffered and how she had lived in fear of her husband and how it started when his career took off.

"Fame got to him and he turned into a monster. He became a monster I feared daily. He started attending A-list events and would come home drunk at night."

She said Patrick Shai changed after he took the role of an abuser in SABC1's Soul City in 1997, and changed his abusive lifestyle after he started to see himself and his damaging behaviour in the character, and went for counselling. 

Patrick Shai eventually started a non-governmental organisation called Khuluma Ndoda to help abusive men and appeared in a "Brother for Life" TV commercial speaking out about abuse.

The couple filed for divorce several times but never fully went through with it.

In a 2018 TV interview Patick Shai said "I'm a reformed perpetrator in gender-based violence. I've put my wife through a whole lot of things. I'm saying if I could change and become this person that I am today, you too can."

In mid-2014 Patrick Shai was one of the 16 actors who embarked on a strike at Mfundi Vundla's Generations, demanding better actors' rights and compensation. The cast eventually got fired.

In a 2018 interview with Afternoon Express, Patrick Shai said "I discovered that the fire in me - as a kid who threw stones in 1976 - who inhaled tear gas, who then joined and formed a group of four of us who were in a quartet gospel group - because we were all politicised by the black consciousness movement."

"I realise now there was a purpose in God plugging me in there so that I can bring out that which I wanted to bring out through revolution - throwing stones - but I can do it through the arts."

The SABC in a statement on Saturday said that the South African public broadcaster "is deeply saddened by the passing of Ntate Patrick Shai. His immense contribution to the entertainment industry will never be forgotten".

"It is with great sadness that the SABC has learnt of the untimely passing of veteran actor Patrick Shai. Patrick Shai is known by many as Nkwesheng, the character he played on the iconic SABC2 drama series Bophelo Ke Semphekgo."

"He also appeared on SABC dramas such as Zone 14, Soul City, Moferefere Lenyalong, Skeem Saam, 7de Laan and most recently Uzalo where he spoke out about gender-based violence (GBV) in the storyline involving Nosipho."

"Patrick Shai appeared in numerous feature films and he has made an immense contribution to the arts. His dedication to his work will be sorely missed."


■ If you or someone you know needs help with suicide, anxiety or depression, call the South African Depression and Anxiety Group's 24-hour helpline at 0800 456 789 or 011 234 4837 or the Whatsapp chat number 076 882 2775, the Suicide Crisis helpline at 0800 12 13 14, or Lifeline SA at 0861 322 322. 

Jeremy Mansfield battling liver cancer.

by Thinus Ferreira

The South African TV presenter and radio legend Jeremy Mansfield is battling cancer again - this time a type of liver cancer.

The 58-year old known for his years on radio and as a presenter on SuperSport, Front Row, the host of A Word or 2 on SABC2, voice-over and MC work and who is the author of humour and cookbooks, revealed his cancer diagnosis on his Facebook page, saying that he has cancer again.

Jeremy Mansfield had leukaemia before.

"Haven't posted for ages, reason being I’ve been in hospital battered by tests as I was not feeling 100%. Turns out I have a form of liver cancer," Jeremy Mansfield wrote.

"Docs not sure which type so I’m back in next week for more biopsies to find the right cell. That way the oncologists can design the right treatment. Been here before."

"Kicked leukaemia’s ass 13 years ago after 9 months treatment. Don't f#€k with me jou vrot ding! First thing I'm going to do on Monday? Stride into my Mansfield2day office and start creating some of the best damn YouTube content to go onto the tube from 31 January Now THAT'S how you kick back! Attitude baby!"

Jeremy Mansfield currently presents Mansfield2day on his YouTube channel.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Mzansi Magic and [SIC] Entertainment dump Idols judges Randall Abrahams and Unathy Nkayi before season 18 auditions start on Sunday.


by Thinus Ferreira

In a shocking and unexplained move, Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) and [SIC] Entertainment is dumping both Randall Abrahams and Unathi Nkayi as judges for the upcoming 18th season of the struggling Idols reality show.

"The channel will not be renewing their contracts with for the upcoming season of the popular singing show," says Shirley Adonisi, M-Net director for local entertainment channels, in a statement issued late on Friday afternoon.

"We are taking a fresh approach to the judging panel to retain audiences and stay competitive in the Sunday night timeslot."

The axing of the long-serving Randall Abrahams and Unathi Nkayi follows after Somizi Mhlongo departed in 2021 following serious allegations of physical abuse after which Idols immediately lost a third of its Sunday evening ratings on Mzansi Magic as viewers tuned out.

Unathi Nkayi also dented her public image in 2021 after she was engulfed in a scandal at the Kaya FM radio station and then fired following a verbal fight with fellow radio host Sizwe Dhlomo and was accused of trying to bully him.

Randall Abrahams was an Idols judge since the first season with Unathi Nkayi, then known as Unathi Msengana, who was added as a new judge from the 7th season in 2011, replacing Mara Louw.

Auditions for Idols season 18 start on Sunday 23 January with director and executive producer Gavin Wratten and co-producers Anneke de Ridder and ProVerb (Tebogo Thekisho).

"We salute these great icons of South African entertainment and thank them both for great innings on Idols," Shirley Adonisi says in the statement. "Randall and Unathi have demonstrated high levels of professionalism and made an impact on the South African entertainment scene that will continue to be felt for some time to come. We wish them well in their endeavours."


From Tut’s tomb to Cleopatra’s downfall are explored in season 3 of Lost Treasures of Egypt on National Geographic.


by Thinus Ferreira

There are more lost treasures in Egypt covered in the third season of Lost Treasures of Egypt on National Geographic (DStv 181 / StarSat 220) that starts tonight at 19:00 on the channel for 8 new episodes, ranging from Tutankhamun's tomb and the rise of Ramses to Cleopatra as Egypt's last pharaoh.

In the series, National Geographic's cameras follow top international archaeologists during their various excavations across Egypt as these modern-day explorers on the frontline of archaeology battle searing hear and inhospitable terrain to make the discoveries of a lifetime.

Lost Treasures of Egypt combines cutting-edge technology to bring the digs and discoveries up close like never before, combined with personal testimonies from the archaeologists on the ground.


In the new third season Dr Mohamed Megahed enters the largest pyramid of any queen of ancient Egypt and is able to reach her burial chamber – something nobody has done since it was first built over 4 000 years ago.

 

Elsewhere in the series Dr Kathleen Martinez is in the temple of Taposiris Magna, where she explores a secret tunnel network beneath the temple for the first time. The temple dates back to Cleopatra's era and inside the tunnels she finds a hidden doorway that she believes could lead her to the lost tomb of Egypt’s beguiling last pharaoh.

 

Archaeologists also hunt for clues to explain one of Ancient Egypt’s great mysteries – the rise of mummification. 


They investigate what could be one of the oldest mummies ever found, and break into an intact tomb to learn how mummification endured beyond the end of Egyptian civilisation. Meanwhile, an unexpected tomb packed with bodies reveals how ordinary Egyptians tried to reach the afterlife.


Lost Treasures of Egypt is produced for National Geographic by Windfall Films with Tom Cook as series producer and Dan Kendall and John Fothergill as executive producers. 



Here's a rundown of the third season's 8 episodes:


1. Mystery of Tut's Tomb

Archaeologists investigate the mystery of Tutankhamun’s small and poorly decorated tomb. Tutankhamun’s reign was shaped by the life of his father, a pharaoh who led the greatest revolution in Egyptian religious history. Was this revolution, and the political intrigue that followed, the cause of Tutankhamun’s banishment to a tomb unfit for a Pharaoh?


2. Legend of the Pyramid Kings

Archaeologists hunt for clues to the mysterious kings of Egypt's "Pyramid Age". They search the tunnels of the Great Pyramid; unearth a new tomb among the pyramids of three later kings; find evidence of a Pharaoh's temple lost for more than 4 000 years; and shed new light on the legacy of the most powerful rulers in the history of Ancient Egypt.


3. Ramses' Rise to Power

Archaeologists investigate Egypt's most powerful king, Ramses the Great. In front of the world's oldest pyramid at Saqqara they unearth a labyrinth of tombs and treasures belonging to one of Ramses'  generals. In a necropolis where Ramses' Nobles are buried, they enter a new tomb and they investigate his most impressive temples to find out how Ramses became the most celebrated pharaoh of all time.


4. Rise of the Mummies

Archaeologists hunt for clues to explain one of Ancient Egypt's great mysteries – the rise of mummification. They investigate what could be one of the oldest mummies ever found, and break into an intact tomb to learn how mummification endured beyond the end of Egyptian civilisation. Meanwhile, an unexpected tomb packed with bodies reveals how ordinary Egyptians tried to reach the afterlife.


5. Secrets of Egypt's Queens

Archaeologists hunt for clues to how the queens of ancient Egypt ruled in a society dominated by men. They enter an unexplored pyramid in search of the burial chamber of a mysterious queen who lived 4 500 years ago. They investigate how one of the few women to ever rule as a Pharaoh rose to power and uncover the surprising role queen Nefertari played in the reign of Ramses the Great.


6. Pyramid Tomb Raiders

Archaeologists reveal how robbers looted the pyramids and tombs of ancient Egypt, and the clues they left behind. In a necropolis for the elite, they investigate a lavish sunken tomb, raided and reused for centuries. They explore one of the ancient world's most audacious robberies, a daring heist on a giant and heavily protected mastaba tomb. And at Egypt's oldest pyramid, they reveal how builders constructed elaborate defences to protect the treasures within.


7. Tutankhamun's Unsolved Secrets

Archaeologists are on the trail of Tutankhamun. To piece together his story, they search his tomb for secrets missed by the first explorers. Near the site of his quarry, they find evidence of a temple he restored to worship the crocodile god, Sobek. And beneath a mysterious fortress in the Eastern Desert, they unearth clues to how he amassed enough gold to fill his tomb with unimaginable treasures.


8. Cleopatra, Egypt's Last Pharaoh

Archaeologists hunt for clues to the dramatic downfall of Egypt's enigmatic last pharaoh: Cleopatra. They unravel the true story behind Cleopatra's famous relationships with Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony. They discover a 2 000-year-old painting in the heart of the desert dating from her reign. And they hunt for her lost tomb in a secret tunnel beneath an ancient temple near Alexandria.

Big Brother Mzansi: Season 5's 71 days starts Sunday – with a daily Shower Hour.


by Thinus Ferreira

Voyeur television returns on Sunday night for 71 days when Big Brother Mzansi starts as a 24-hour DStv pop-up channel for a 5th season and on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161), including a titillating Shower Hour.

MultiChoice and M-Net hope that by reviving the South African version of the Endemol reality format, they can capture the same obsessed audience staying glued for the antics of a collection of housemates living together in a camera-filled house that have made the pan-African beamed Big Brother Naija an ongoing pay-TV success in recent years. 

Big Brother Mzansi, returning after 7 years with new host Lawrence Maleka, will kick off this coming Sunday 23 January at 18:00 with a live, 2-hour season premiere episode shown on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) and the Big Brother Mzansi channel on MultiChoice's DStv channel 198, introducing the various housemates.

After that, from 20:00, the Big Brother Mzansi channel will run for 24 hours per day for DStv Premium, DStv Compact Plus and DStv Compact subscribers, with a collection of daily shows and weekly highlights on Mzansi Magic.

The 5th season of Big Brother Mzansi is expected to end with another 2-hour, live finale announcing the winner which will be shown on the 24-hour channel and on Mzansi Magic on Sunday 3 April at 18:00.

In-between there will be daily, half-hour Big Brother Mzansi highlight shows on Mzansi Magic, starting on Tuesday 25, that will be shown at 22:30 from Tuesdays to Fridays, as well as an hour-long weekly Big Brother Mzansi highlights programme on Saturdays at 21:30, starting on 29 January.

Dstv subscribers will be able to watch who is getting nominated to possible get evicted in an upcoming week in live, half-hour Big Brother Mzansi nomination shows which will be shown on Monday nights at 19:30 from 31 January.

Big Brother Mzansi eviction shows will take place on Sunday evenings as live, hour-long episodes on Mzansi Magic, starting on Sunday 30 January.

There will be 4 pre-recorded Big Brother Mzansi Shower Hour episodes per week shown on Mzansi Magic, with the half-hour episodes tucked away as late-night shows from Mondays to Thursdays at 22:00.

Friday Night Games will be shown live as 2-hour shows on the Big Brother Mzansi channel on Friday nights from 19:00, starting 28 January.

Saturday Night Parties will be shown live as 2-hour shows from 21:00 on the Big Brother Mzansi Channel and Channel O (DStv 320), starting 29 January.


Cape Town Carnival 2022: Back on 19 March with 5 hubs and 25 shows.

by Thinus Ferreira

After it had to be scuppered because of the national lockdown period for the Covid-19 pandemic just days before it was supposed to take place in 2020, the reimagined Cape Town Carnival 2022 will be back as an in-person event after two years on 19 March with R10 tickets and reinvented as a hop-around, pop-up experience taking place across five different hubs, each with five shows during the day that will celebrate the city's diverse cultures and stories.

Instead of floats and large crowds lining the streets, the Cape Town Carnival 2022 is being spread out into five different hubs to make social distancing easier and to still adhere to Covid-19 safe protocols, while people get to enjoy 30-minute shows and performances while they explore Cape Town, its streets, restaurants and galleries.

Adhering to the number of people allowed in a venue, the hubs will be sanitised before every show and visitors will be screened on entry, with compulsory mask-wearing in place. 

There will be a 1-hour interval between each show for venues to be sanitised and it will take a visitor about 10 to 15 minutes to enter a hub as they go through Covid-19 screening protocols and ticket check-in.

"This year's Cape Town Carnival will move people like never before. Literally. Visitors curate their own experience as they move between five distinct outdoor Carnival Hubs across the city," explains Jay Douwes, CEO. 

On 19 March the Cape Town Carnival 2022 will take place at five different hubs from 14:30 to 21:30 on the day: The Mountain of Memories at Hatfield Street Hub, the Cultural Roots at the National Gallery Hub, the Tales of Camissa at the South African Museum Hub, Imswenko at the Heritage Square Hub, and The Drum Era at the Green Market Hub.


Visitors will be able to visit any or all of the differently colour-coded hubs, in any order, at a showtime they choose with each hub that has varying capacity depending on the size of the space, ranging between 2 000 to 4 500 attendees.


"We're driven by the fundamental belief in the power of creativity. This inspired the Cape Town Carnival team to find a new way to bring joy to the city once more," says Professor Rachel Jafta, chairperson of the Cape Town Carnival Trust.

The Cape Town Carnival has historically been a free event, but for the Cape Town Carnival 2022 will require confirmed attendance with visitors supplying Covid-19 track-and-trace information through booking and purchasing a R10 ticket per person, per show, at the official Cape Town Carnival website at https://capetowncarnival.com

For R50 a visitor will be able to experience five different and unique shows. 

Tickets for Cape Town Carnival 2022 will also be sold on the day at each of the five hubs, online at the official website, or www.webtickets.co.za, or at Pick n Pay. One ticket is valid for one show, at one of the five hubs.

No food or drink will be sold in or at the hubs but the Cape Town Carnival partnered with local businesses and restaurants in the area where visitors will be able to buy food and refreshments. People will not be allowed to eat or drink inside the hubs since the Carnival wants visitors to enjoy the experience with their masks on.


Covid-19 temperature screening will be done before someone can enter a hub, a visitor must wear a face mask, children over the age of 6 will need to wear a mask, and sanitisers will be available at entry to each hub.

Geordin Hill-Lewis, Cape Town mayor, says that through "Outdoor dining, open-air experiences and the reimagined Carnival hubs, we're excited to bring people together and support local businesses in a Covid-safe way".

Collen Dlamini, group executive for corporate at MultiChoice, with the pay-TV company that is one of the partners of the Cape Town Carnival 2022, says "The Carnival has a tremendous social impact and MultiChoice is proud to be able to once again be a partner in this celebration of culture that creates opportunities for community participation and networking, builds social cohesion, creates jobs and drives tourism".

Brad Baard, Cape Town Carnival creative director, says "The ultimate vision of the Cape Town Carnival is that we come together, see each other, appreciate each other and celebrate each other".

Thursday, January 20, 2022

INTERVIEW. Fred Lewis of Discovery Channel's Gold Rush on digging for treasure: 'If you let emotions get in - that's gold fever - and it's going to make you make bad decisions.'


by Thinus Ferreira

Fred Lewis of Gold Rush on the Discovery Channel (DStv 121) is going for gold - in the cold - with his "Misfits" crew and says that he's not just trying to create a business but a business family as they look for precious nuggets in tons of dirt.

The military veteran is a recent addition to Discovery Channel's long-running, iconic and hypnotic reality series that's been on TV for over a decade, in which cameras capture miners facing every single obstacle imaginable as they dig for gold in a very short window of time across Canada and the United States.

I sat down with Fred Lewis to find out what it takes - and the stakes - of digging for gold.

You're a military veteran, and also did some various different school jobs. How did you get involved with gold mining?
Fred Lewis: Oh, yeah. Well, it's been a journey. I got out of the military in 2009. I served for 14 years - 7 years as a Korean linguist and 7 in Special Forces. When I got out, I went right into college and started off with a degree plan for veterinary studies. 

Then I moved out to Kentucky and my father had been diagnosed with cancer. So I changed my degree to agriculture. I got a degree in agriculture with an emphasis on livestock production; started some farming and was doing some small plot intensive garden classes to teach veterans how to grow food in their gardens. 

I did that for a few years, and then I got invited to work back at the medical facility on Fort Bragg, where I learned all my medicine. I did that job for several years, but I still didn't feel like it was what I wanted to do.

So, I started going to college, got a degree in education. Then I got offered a job to teach high school biology. I went and did that for a semester and I actually really liked the job.

 It just wasn't ... it wasn't enough for me. It didn't give me enough. I coached wrestling. I coached high school volleyball. And then I ended up getting a teaching job, teaching middle school history. Meanwhile, I was trying to get a degree in web design and got about three-quarters of the way through that degree. And it wasn't what I wanted to do.

So I gave that up and I basically stopped studying that. And that's when I got a spot on American Ninja Warrior, I went and did that twice. 

That kind of got me to realise that people were interested in my story and my background and everything I'd been through. 

So, I started putting my name out there and was invited to go with Parker Schnabel to Papua New Guinea as a security element, because of my military background and that's where Gold Rush came in. And the rest everybody's been able to watch on the show. I just got a good old case of gold fever and went with it. That's a long story!



You've also been to Afghanistan and Iraq and Korea, and also even Africa. I'm wondering, where were you in Africa and what did those experiences in all of those countries instil in you and what did you learn?
Fred Lewis: Yeah, I think my travels both as a civilian and in the military have absolutely shaped who I am.

I've been to Afghanistan, Iraq, South Korea. I spend a lot of time in Africa, up in the north, in Niger, Algeria, Nigeria, Tunisia, Morocco, some time in Mali. 

All those humanitarian missions and counter-terrorism missions got me living with the people. It wasn't just like going there for a few days. It was six, seven, eight weeks living with villagers.

And that cultural experience kind of just taught me that hard work is something that the rest of the world does a lot more than we do. And you look at our history as a country and you're like, man, we need to start working harder. 

That kind of got me to want to do something in life that was complicated and challenging because I see so many people just swiping their card, checking in and checking out. And it just, I don't know, it's not for me.



A lot of the guys on the team or your team are also former veterans. Why is that? And is that why they work so well together as a team, because of their previous training, do you think?
Fred Lewis: Yeah. When I started this company, I wanted to give veterans a chance because I've worked closely with veterans over the last 10 years of being a veteran and I've formed non-profits.
I've worked with non-profits, I've done classes to help veterans learn how to do things.

The one thing that's in common with all of us is we all need a purpose. And when we get out of the military, it doesn't just come to us. No one delivers us a purpose. We have to find it and it takes a long time and a lot of work to do that. 

So, when I saw myself become so interested in gold mining, I knew other veterans would have the same exact response. So, what I've done is I put together a team and tried to recruit people I felt like, needed it - people that were in a spot in their life where they didn't quite know where they were going. 

I know that the military has already put a selection process through most of our special operations. So, I focused on special operations knowing that the individuals I'm hiring have already proven themselves, they don't have to prove themselves to me. I know they can work. 

When you put these people together and we're all thinking the same, we're all from the same backgrounds, it's really amazing what we can do. And I think that's what I want to showcase on Gold Rush.


Viewers see you doing conflict resolution and you seem to be really good at diffusing situations when people fight and are angry. Is that something that you learned or is it from having been a teacher or how did you develop that skill?
Fred Lewis: I think that's a result of all the leadership I had throughout my military career and all the coaches and all the ways that I've been taught to coach in the civilian world. 

I am not the kind of person that likes conflict. I've been through enough of it in my life. I've seen what it does. So, when I see a problem, I think it's the best thing to do to solve it quickly. 

The biggest thing for me is I'm trying to create a family. I'm not trying to just create a business, to make money, to find gold. I'm trying to make Misfits Mining into a family that changes everybody's lives. And I think that when conflict comes up, just like a family at home, you've got to solve it and you've got to get through it.



The gold mining business seems like such a high-risk, high-reward business and I'm wondering, how difficult is it to maintain your distance emotionally while you're working? You're in a situation with limited time, limited resources and all of these dangers and breakdowns and costs mounting. How do you not get swept up in the stakes and emotions?
Fred Lewis: Yeah, that's the challenge of gold mining. My method is to come into the beginning of the season, do all the math, do all the analyses, do all the numbers, crunch everything so I know what I'm looking at and then shut emotions off. 

You have to run through the entire season, being confident that you've set up your budget correctly, confident that you have the supply system you need, and confident that your tests are right - and that the goal is going to be where it's going to be. If you let emotion get in, that's gold fever, it's emotion.
And if you let it get in, it's going to make you make bad decisions. 

So, you've just got to be confident and shut those emotions off. And I think that's another thing being former military that really benefits guys like us. 

We can shut our motions off whenever we want, and you've just got to lean forward and trust yourself. And that's why most gold mining operations fail. They don't trust the system and they don't do their homework.



And then once it starts, how many hours are you guys able to sleep? How much do you actually have to be awake for and work during the few days you have?
Fred Lewis: Well, we kept the mine running 24 hours a day. So, it's never down. 

For us, we're working probably between 14, 16 to 18 hour days depending. And I try to give everybody a day off every 12 days. I know it sounds horrible, but when you break down gold mining, it's a numbers game and you can input the amount of fuel you're using. 

You can input the number of man-hours going into, versus the gold coming out. And you're going to know how much you have to work to make money. So, it's not like a choice of comfort. It's just the name of the game.


What would you say you've learnt from your Gold Rush experience so far?
Fred Lewis: Man, there are a few things I've learned that was unexpected. I think one thing that was unexpected was the number of haters I was going to get. 

I figured coming on the show and being the new guy, I'd get a little bit, and failing last season was a little rough, but man, I'm almost to the point where I think I might have to start an anti-bullying campaign or something. 

Luckily, it doesn't bother me personally. It just surprises me the number of people that don't give us a chance to prove ourselves - that don't give us a chance to defend ourselves. 

It just assumes that we're over our heads when we – we are over our heads, but at the same time, we're confident that we can do this. And it's just surprising, I don't know, I get a lot of really good messages from veterans every day, flooding my account, just like thanking me for giving them motivation and asking me for work, which is great. But I get a heck of a lot of hate too.


Gold Rush is on the Discovery Channel (DStv 121) with double episodes of season 11 on weekdays at 10:30 and season 12 from 1 February as single episodes. The latest season 12 is available as a box set on DStv Catch Up.