San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

‘Love in the Wild’ host Darren McMullen tells all

See the latest in our “Love in the Wild” blog here.

Darren McMullen never pictured such a massive operation in the jungle for a TV show. But in the verdant area surrounding the Arenal Volcano in northern Costa Rica, McMullen found himself surrounded by a 200-person crew and cameras hanging from trees and helicopters.

They were here to capture “Love in the Wild,” a new reality TV show (Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on NBC) hosted by McMullen. Even in the middle of Costa Rica’s rainforest, it would be impossible to miss who was hooking up with whom. McMullen, who was born in Scotland but grew up and started his acting career in Australia, narrates the action as 10 women and 10 men randomly pair up to take on adventures as couples hoping to find “Love in the Wild.”

After watching all the participants enjoy the country’s hanging bridges, bat caves and ziplines, McMullen extended his stay in Costa Rica by 10 days to enjoy the beaches of the central Pacific coast’s Manuel Antonio, explore the capital and practice his “dreadful” Spanish with Ticos. Look out for the shaggy haired Scotsman in Costa Rica again before the end of the year trying to survive some white-water rafting. McMullen talked with The Tico Times about grotesque worms, what made him jealous on the set and whether anyone really did find love in the wild.

Excerpts follow:

TT: How did you get involved with “Love in the Wild?”

DM: When the initial concept was described to me I didn’t really understand it, to be honest. It sounded a bit weird. But then after I met the producers, I sent in a tape. I was in Australia at the time and I sent in a tape of me wading through some jungles, well, not jungles, but a couple of trees. There’s no jungle in the middle of Sydney. And I actually was bitten by a spider and I had to cut the shoot short and went to the hospital to make sure it wasn’t a poisonous spider. My leg swelled up initially. It wasn’t the best work I’ve ever done in front of the camera but they seemed to like it.

Growing up in Australia, how does the outback compare to Costa Rica’s jungles?

I had no concept of how amazing that place was, beautiful lush rain forest to lush sandy beaches. The closest thing we have to the rain forest we were in near La Fortuna is the Kakadu National Park, which is beautiful, absolutely beautiful. And we have crocodiles as well. And here you have your toucans; you have jaguars and all these beautiful snakes and spiders. It really blew me away, crystal clear flat lakes, beautiful fields filled with green, green grass, volcanoes. I was totally stunned by it.

Did you get to explore Costa Rica while shooting?

That was the biggest thing I was jealous about. A lot of people ask me, oh were you jealous about these guys getting to hang out with all these gorgeous girls and party with them and get to go on adventures with them. And I was like “no not really. There’s sexy girls anywhere in the world, but there’s only one Costa Rica.” I was jealous about all the things they got to do. Hike up volcanoes. Rappel down waterfalls. Crawl through bat-infested caves. Hike down mudslides and ride horseback through the countryside. And to see the really beautiful ocean on the Caribbean side. That’s what I was jealous of. …

I [wanted] to go white-water rafting, but I think the producers were a little afraid of that. I told them that if I die the ratings would go through the roof. It’s the best thing they could ever hope for.

Did you have any uniquely Costa Rican experiences?

Well, I don’t know of it was uniquely Costa Rican, but we were in the middle of filming the final episode and one of the cameramen, his finger starts to move and something comes up [out of his finger], and it looked like that movie “Alien,” something was about to come out. And sure enough out pops this worm. A worm. I don’t know how it got in there. [It] dug under his skin. And it was crawling under his index finger while he was operating his camera. He was just this laid-back Aussie guy. I probably would’ve fainted at that point but he just said, “Aw it’s just a worm,” pulled it out and continued on shooting. And I was like, “It’s just a worm. Just a worm? How do you know there’s not a million other worms in there?”

What was life like for the crew at the lodge while everyone on the show was flirting and fighting and fooling around?

Every time I came to the hotel I was well up in the jungle. There was a snake in my room or a spider and there’d be this constant battle to get the guy up and chase out the snake or the spider. And then I worried that’d he’d return and get revenge on me. …

 It might’ve been kind of annoying to some of the crew, but I got obsessed with the show. I’d love to see what everybody was up to and who was hooking up. I’d go straight to the video room as they call it. This is the room where all the cameras can be watched. And you can see every camera on the perimeter. And yeah I was obsessed. I stayed there all night until two or three in the morning, drinking glasses of wine, going “oh my God” look what’s happening now. These people are having an argument. Look over here. He’s making out with this girl now. So I probably annoyed the producers on the show.

Does anyone actually find love in the wild?

Surprisingly there is. Several couples too. I think we were genuinely surprised by the number of connections that were had there, because it was a bit of a worry for us. It was a new format, never been tried before or tested. We got 20 complete strangers [and] we didn’t know how’d they react. They could all hate each other, and the show would be a complete disaster. But at the same time if they all loved each other and they all got along then the show would be a complete disaster too. But basically it was a mix of that. People loved each other. People hated each other. And some of the people that loved each other continue to be together.

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