Singer Craig Morgan can add a new title to his resume: Most Valuable Player.
While competing in “Beyond the Edge,” a new reality series testing the survival skills of celebrities, Morgan earned the respect of his fellow players by sharing his camping, hunting and construction knowledge.
“Without Craig Morgan, none of us would be alive by now,” says model Paulina Porizkova. “This guy knows how to do everything. He taught me and Eboni (K. Williams) and Jodie (Sweetin) how to get food, how to go and forage. Without him, I don’t think we could have done it.”
In return, Morgan says, “no one whined. There were moments when everyone there could have whined and no one would have said anything. When Paulina was absolutely soaking, drenched, wet, she had a positive attitude. When people got hurt, they were upset they may have let people down. It was unbelievable.”
Like “Survivor,” “Naked and Afraid” and other survival shows, “Beyond the Edge” tests participants’ abilities while living in the jungles of Panama for two weeks. While contestants weren’t eliminated, all had the ability to raise money for their charities through various competitions. In addition to Morgan, Porizkova, Williams and Sweetin, the show featured singer Lauren Alaina, Super Bowl star Ray Lewis, NBA champ Metta World Peace, NFL legend Mike Singletary and “Bachelor” star Colton Underwood.
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Sweetin, the “Full House” actress, says Morgan acted like a teacher. “He walked all of us through it – those of us that were nervous and afraid. It was a team effort. It never felt like we just sat back and let somebody else do it.”
Underwood says that spirit of unity emerged because all were playing for charities. “I can suck it up for a few days out in the jungle. I was representing a group of people who have a lung and respiratory illness that is life-threatening. When you put that in perspective with a couple of mosquito bites and scratches…or fighting a monkey, it’s nothing.”
Executive Producer David Garfinkle says there were injuries, ear infections and tooth abscesses, “but they all wanted to stay in the game and not quit. It was incredibly inspirational to watch.”
Singletary, who has faced plenty of adversity as a football player and coach, says “Beyond the Edge” was the most difficult thing he has done, “simply because of the unknown. People talk about training camp and things like that, but I knew what was happening in training camp. But to be able to go through this, being totally out of my element…really threw me off.” During the course of the stay, he and others had to contend with “seeing things I’d never seen before, hearing things I’d never heard before and wondering how close they were to my neck.”
Just going to the bathroom was a challenge. Singletary says. He’d often wake Lewis just to make the trek.
In those “what now?” instances, the nine “leaned on each other,” Underwood says. “Not only to survive but (to get) through the emotional part of it and what we needed out of the experience itself.”
Making new friends “made it all worth it.”
Williams, a “Real Housewives” star, says she bonded with the others but wouldn’t want to repeat the experience. “I am too comforted by my warm bed, three meals a day and knowing which water I’m going to be able to drink,” she says. “It does really require such a stretch (from) every last one of us. I know I was on the struggle bus in this experience.”
Alaina, who knew Morgan from country concerts and events, bonded with Williams, her roommate. “The thing that I took away from the experience was the fact that we are all so different, with different accomplishments, different careers…different everything,” Alaina says, “and we had one common purpose and that was to make a difference for people back home.”
Morgan, meanwhile, was concerned about his new friends’ safety. “I was just hoping that everyone understood the magnitude of what was going on there,” he says. “After that first night, everyone started really going, ‘Oh, yeah, this s— is real.’”
Following the first night, he says he fell in love with the others. Were it not for the series, “we may never have met each other. If we had met each other at some event, there’s a good chance we wouldn’t have spent much time together because we all have these preconceived ideas about who people are and the lifestyle they live. But here, we got to really know each other. I came home and told my wife, ‘I love these people as if I’ve known them my lifetime.’”
Being in the belly of the beast, he says, brought them together. “Sadly, it takes something so drastic and traumatic to impact that. And we are very, very fortunate.”
“Beyond the Edge” airs on CBS.