Aldo Kane is a world-record-setting adventurer, explorer, a Fellow at the Royal Geographic Society, producer, author & TV presenter with a penchant for the world’s most dangerous, extreme and remote locations. A former Royal Marines Commando Sniper, Aldo is an expert in all environments, making him the go-to man for TV & Film companies around the world.
Over the last seven years, Aldo has worked on well over 45 TV & Film productions, appearing on many broadcasters from the BBC, to Discovery, Nat-Geo, Channel 4, PBS, ITV, Channel 5, History Channel and many more. Aldo was recently the on-screen Expedition Leader for National Geographic’s feature-length Natural History series Welcome to Earth, hosted by Will Smith.
In 2021, he was cast by James Cameron as Mission Ops Leader for the adventure and conservation series OceanX, to air on Disney+ in 2023. Also last year, Aldo wrote his first book, Lessons From the Edge: Inspirational Tales of Surviving, Thriving and Extreme Adventure, published by Yellow Kite to great success.
What is your role on The Bridge?
My background is ex-military and an extreme and remote hostile locations expert, so I look after people around the world on expeditions. AJ’s role on The Bridge is to give the challenges to the teams on the beaches and it’s my job to oversee the challenges from a sort of quality control point of view. But ultimately, it’s for me to see who’s fully worthy of getting the cash prize.
So you make sure whoever wins has really earned that jackpot?
Yes, they’re going to earn it. Effectively, I’m the puppet master pulling the strings on the challenges. It’s one of the biggest cash prizes in TV at the moment, so it’s pretty full on. The winner must be worthy of it and will have to work hard for it.
Why did you want to get involved with the show?
It’s something very different for me and I like a challenge. I spend my life operating in extreme, remote and hostile places and I have done for 20-odd years. So, this was about seeing other people in those environments. Being on a beach in Vietnam isn’t extreme, remote and hostile generally, but for these guys it’s quite a tough environment, there’s no running water or electricity, it is quite extreme for the teams and to be able to impart knowledge to them was pretty cool.
Were you impressed with the contestants? Did people surprise you from your first impressions of them?
Every single one of them. It’s funny when you put a group of people together like that, there’s a lot of showing off. But the challenge was designed to weed all that out of people and it was good to see their growth. Even people who left early had grown in the time they were there. Being in an environment with seven other people you don’t know is quite stressful, then on top of that you have the added stresses that go with building a bridge, not eating properly, not sleeping properly. And the obvious friction that builds up between people.
What are your top tips to the teams to help them succeed?
Both teams are given a pack that tells them how to do it, so really, they’ve already been given the answer to probably the biggest problem in their life at the minute, which is ‘how do I earn £200k?’ All they have to do is build a bridge and there are instructions, so to me that is fairly simple. But my biggest piece of advice is work as a team. Even though you’re in it for yourself, you must work as a team, you have to provide service for the rest of your teammates in order to ingratiate yourself with them to be worthy of winning the prize at the end. You have to be altruistic to win the money which goes against quite a lot of their character traits. My biggest advice was follow the instructions and work as a team, it is literally that simple.
In episode one it takes both teams a while to get going on building their bridges. Was that frustrating for you, especially when you’d given them instructions?
It’s the frustration that they’ve been given everything they need to win £200k, yet they can’t seem to follow simple instructions. So that’s obviously very frustrating. I’m used to working in very high functioning teams in quite high-risk areas so it’s quite amazing to see that people struggle with basic commands or with working with people they don’t know.
You’re always quite nice about it. Do you ever lose your temper with the teams?
It’s not really my thing to shout at people. It should be much more apparent to them what’s at risk, I’m not there to bawl at them like they do on SAS. There’s £200k at stake, so there’s a much more self-induced pressure which can be worse than someone shouting at you. It comes down to individual needs and wants and questions of why they’re there, and if that why isn’t big enough then they’re not going to do the hard work of getting up early, staying up late, getting cold…
I get frustrated and maybe lose my temper very slightly once or twice, but it’s out of frustration that they’re being given a chance very few people will get in their life, and they can’t seem to organise themselves in a way that works. It isn’t easy, but if there was £200k at stake, I would listen to the person who wrote the rules and do everything they said, word for word.
The teams are set challenges, can you tease what some of those are and how much harder it makes the competition?
Every challenge they face is designed to get to the core of the person or the team’s reason for being there. Some of them are financially motivated, some of them want recognition or some are there to escape and to learn. Some of the challenges are incredibly physical, then there are mental and emotional tests that test the very moral fibre of every single person there. Individuals may be asked to do something that basically allows them to profit early on, but the others won’t and the others won’t know about it, so there are some very moral questions.
Does the stress of the challenge and the incentive of £200k drive people to do shocking things?
It does. I was quite shocked about how cutthroat people are but they’re there to win money for themselves. At the start, everyone was there for themselves, they knew about the money and what they had to do to get it, but then after one or two days of hardship, some people had almost forgotten about the prize money. I had to remind individuals at certain points that they were playing for money. The bonds that are forged in expeditions or hardship are second to none, so team becomes more important than the goal for a short period of time, until towards the end when you have to remind everyone they’re there for themselves and for the money.
Are there any contestants we should be looking out for?
I could talk for hours about every single one of them. I learned a lot from all of them. They come from such a broad, diverse collection of backgrounds. It’s a hard challenge, there are tears and it’s pretty full on and brutal so it’s not for the faint hearted. But having spoken to everyone since, they all feel better for taking part even if they didn’t win, because they’ve learned a lot about themselves. I think everyone came away a little bit richer for knowing more about themselves.
What was it like filming in Vietnam? Did the weather conditions help or hinder the teams?
I’ve been to Vietnam quite a few times and when we were planning it, I was thinking ‘this is going to be lovely’. But when we got there it was cold, we had temperatures between 10 and 12 most days and it was misty and rainy. The teams were cold and wet, the South China Sea was cold and if you’re in that water for eight or nine hours a day like they were, hyperthermia is a real risk. And they still have to work in the wind and the rain, they only have 12 days to build the bridge.
What was it like working with AJ? She’s quite competitive, do you think she’d make a good contestant?
Yeah, she would do. It was great to work with AJ. It was the first time we’d met but I’d watched her on SAS: Who Dares Wins and knew she’s hard as... She’d do well on this show. We had quite a few moments discussing what we’d do in the teams’ shoes, she’s very competitive and I’m much more about get everyone through and everyone’s alright. It was a very cool project to work on, AJ and I had quite a laugh.
You go on expeditions and adventures all over the world. Was it nice to have a hotel for this one and not be camping out in the wilderness somewhere?
Usually when I’m working I’m in a jungle and not coming out for three or four weeks at a time. It was strange in a way, because you’d have two teams of eight living on two different beaches in these bubble environments where everything is stripped back to the basics, food, water, shelter and hard work, that’s it, that’s their life. So it was funny to go into that each day. I was staying in a hotel and would get a boat in every morning all fresh eyed and they’d be more worn down, more tired, making more mistakes and finding things harder each day. It wasn’t the normal MO for me, but it was very cool
What does it take to win The Bridge?
It takes a combination of mind, muscle and nerve to win the money. It’s one the biggest cash prizes on TV so it can’t be easy. It’s brutal and it tests every moral fibre of each of the contestants.
The Bridge: Race to a Fortune
Tuesday 7th June, 10pm, Channel 4 & All 4