Tough As Nails returns tonight on CBS with episode four titled “Release The Bull.” Phil Keoghan’s passion project of over ten years pits two groups of everyday blue collar Americans against each other in both team and individual competitions.

CBS Local’s Matt Weiss spoke to Keoghan about Tough As Nail‘s contestants, his parents and what to expect in tonight’s episode.

MW: Hey there Phil, always a pleasure to talk to you and I’m excited to talk to you about Tough As Nails episode four tonight. I know from talking to you in the past that this show has been a passion project of yours for a really long time. How does it feel that it’s actually off and running?

PK: The first day that we started shooting Tough As Nails and I had these 12 amazing contestants from all over the country from all walks of life from different jobs standing in front of me, it was very emotional. I think it was just a relief of knowing that the show was actually happening. It’s been more than 10 years of really hard work and pushing and getting close then it not happening and happening again; it feels amazing.

Like with any project, it was an idea that starts in your head and then you start to develop the idea, you bring more and more people on and then it becomes everybody else’s project as well and there’s that great feeling of letting go and having other people take ownership of an idea and everybody owning it collectively. That’s the wonderful thing about collaborating, where you work with people who are really good at doing things better than you would be at doing particular jobs. They bring all of that area of expertise to the project and it grows like a like a tree.

You’re the seed, you plant the seed and then the branches go out and then suddenly this thing becomes this beautiful oak tree, that’s sort of what it feels like right now. I planted the seed but now there’s so many people who have had such an influence on the show and make it what it is. That includes the incredible cast of contestants. It will forever be owned by a collective. That to me is the best, that’s the best feeling in the world to know that people have embraced an idea and are a part of it and want to be a part of it; they are proud to have contributed to it.

MW: It also belongs to the fans now at this point too. Obviously these aren’t normal time and I doubt and I hope people aren’t coming up to you on the street right now, but what’s the reception you’ve been hearing about online from people who’ve been watching?

PK: The reception has been really overwhelming. I think people for a long time have been wanting to see people like the cast that we have on our show. Most people in this country are not necessarily wanting to be the next superstar, next singer, the next dancer, the next designer. Most people go to work every day and roll up their sleeves get their hands dirty, get the job done and so I think they’re seeing themselves and they feel the sense of pride.

Drywall Danny at the end of this whole competition, he says, ‘back to work on Monday.’ These people love what they do, Danny is a third generation drywaller. Then it’s a welder, she takes her real pride in building things. Melissa talks about the fact that she goes to work on the farm every day and feeds America. Lee was 62 years old and is going back into his roofing job; he’s got to be America’s toughest granddad.

A lot of these contestants that we have they’re just wising up to what social media is. Somebody like Lee, it takes me forever to track him down because he has one phone that he shares with his family. He’s about coming on this show to show what a 62-year-old can do and that age is not a factor. He shows that with age comes wisdom, but also just that he is really proud of what he does and that he can still kick butt when he’s 62-years-old against some people who are 25.

MW: Yeah, Lee and Michelle are both in their 60s, both yet to be punched out on the show. That’s pretty awesome to see.

PK: Yeah and I think that you bring up a really valuable point. On Tough As Nails, we are not just about how strong are you and have fast are you. We’re looking at all facets of tough; it’s strength, it’s endurance, it’s agility, its life skills. Michelle and Lee, as you mentioned, are both in their 60’s and they have life skills up the wazoo. Then there is also that mental toughness and that to me is what separates Tough As Nails from other competitions.

There are other competitions on television, including sport, where toughness is weighted more towards the physical part of it and what we’re trying to do is spread out the meaning of toughness to include the mental toughness. That desire to never quit, of never give up, that X-factor of toughness I guess you could say. Just because you’re 62 doesn’t mean you can have that.

My mother is 78 and she’s the most mentally toughest person I’ve ever met in my life. She will never quit. My dad just did 400 push ups for his 78th birthday and he’s physically stronger but my mom as far as mental toughness goes, nobody tougher. My mom will do anything for her family, anything for people that she cares about and I wanted to incorporate that into the show. You’re going to see that in the balance of the challenges.

MW: God bless both of them. I’m curious was it 400 straight? Was it 100 every few hours? How did he pull that off at 78?

PK: He did 400 with rest in between, blocks of 40. When I was a kid my dad used to do push ups with my sister and I sitting on his back, he could do one arm push ups. My dad was a rugby player, a really tough guy; he’s part of the motivation for Tough As Nails. My grandfather, because they would always talk about, I come from working class people, and my grandfather was a mechanic; he worked at the same mechanic shop for over 40 years. My other grandfather’s a carpenter, my ancestors are coal miners and gold miners.

My grandparents would always talk about these competitions at the workplace, who could shovel the most amount of coal. My dad worked at a timber yard and a sawmill and he would always talk about who could cut the most amount of wood in an hour. Drywall Danny is a third generation drywaller, he talks about how many sheets of drywall you can put up in a day and his dad has actually beaten him.

There’s that inherent competition that comes from job sites and we wanted to take some of that competitiveness and develop it into being part of the show. We want to show that pride in being able to do more work than somebody else.

MW: Great stuff and now last question before I let you go, what can people expect from tonight’s episode?

PK: Tonight, we are going to the farm. Last week Melissa punched out of overtime; she went up against Young taking tires off a rim. She is a farmer and so now that she’s out of the individual competition she’s going into the team competition and going back to the farm.

This is a moment for her to have some redemption. On Tough As Nails we have the two competitions, an individual and a team competition. Tonight, it’s all about team competition from Melissa. We’re going back to the farm and we’re going to have them do things that you do on the farm.

MW: Awesome, awesome. Well thank you so much Phil always a pleasure to talk to you and all the best moving forward!

PK: Thank you so much, take care Matt!

Tough As Nails airs Wednesday nights at 8:00 PM ET/PT, only on CBS and streaming on CBS All Access. Check your local listings for more information.

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