Two Florida natives are competing in a new primetime series that puts strategy and critical thinking to the test. Hunted follows nine teams of hunters and fugitives as they engage in a real-life game of cat and mouse. The fugitives must stay on the run and off the grid as they attempt to evade capture without leaving a digital footprint.
Teams of hunters employ their real life military and law enforcement skills to locate clues from potential hiding places and comb through their internet and cell phone histories to establish behavioral patterns. They report their findings to investigators in the Command Center as they track the fugitives within 100,000-square-miles of southeastern landscape. A grand prize of $250,000 will be awarded to each team that successfully avoids being caught for up to 28 days.
Hunted premieres at 10 pm Sunday following the NFL’s AFC Championship game. The show moves to Wednesdays with a special two-hour episode at 8 pm Jan. 25. EU Jacksonville spoke with hunter Chad Light of St. Augustine and fugitive Hillmar Skagfield of Tallahassee to glean some insight into what it takes to hunt and be hunted.
“We have to be very adept at finding and following clues. But we definitely need more than just field skills. We need to be able to interview people effectively, witnesses and that sort of thing,” says Light. “We all drew upon long years and decades of experience to effectively pursue our objectives through the course of hunting.”
With chiseled features and a piercing, thousand-yard stare, Light looks like living prototype for an action figure or comic book super hero. Turns out, he’s just as bad ass as he looks. A member of Bravo Team, Light is former member of U.S. Army Special Forces with over 25 years combined experience with the military and various NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations). As an Airborne officer, he traveled to many countries and theaters of operation to train with various Allied military personnel.
“I was contacted by production because of my military background,” says Light. “As soon as I heard the premise of the show, I realized that my particular skillset was a perfect match for what they needed for the show. The more I got into the preproduction, the more I realized this was something I wanted to be part of. And as we got into production, I knew that this was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.”
In addition to his military background, Light is also an actor and sculptor who created the monument as tribute to the El Faro at the base of the Dames Point Bridge. He was featured as a conquistador in a commercial promoting St. Johns County on the beach with a bikini clad girl and he portrayed Pedro Menendez for the city of St. Augustine for its 450th anniversary celebration.
“I was on the balcony with the King and Queen of Spain so I’m not unaccustomed to attention but this is a CBS show. This is a big deal. I’m pretty positive people will watch one episode and be hooked. It’s going to be nail-biting. People will be yelling at the television,” Light says. “There are a lot of moving parts to it. As someone in the military, I can tell you that this was a huge logistics maneuver and they pulled it off. All of us had such a good time. If they gave us a call to do a second season, none of us would hesitate.”
Bravo Teammate Jermaine Finks also has a military background with more than 26 years combined military, state and federal law enforcement experience. He joined the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11 and was responsible for countering terrorist threats on U.S. soil and abroad. Finks served in several theaters of war, including Bosnia and Iraq and has participated in numerous classified, high profile targeted missions.
“Everyone who is a hunter has some sort of military or law enforcement background. All of the skillsets that you can imagine that would be required for efficient law enforcement and military skills with regards to working inside of a different country and getting people to help you. All of those come into play,” says Light.
“Although it’s a different type of pressure, it’s still an adrenaline rush. Our goals and objectives are still very important to us. We don’t want to look bad. We’re all Type A personalities. You get us all in the same room and give us a mission; we want to get it done. We fell into a work pattern very quickly. Both of us have multiple years of military experience. My partner spent years in federal law enforcement so we very quickly fell into a familiar routine with each other. That worked very effectively.”
While both members of Bravo Team display Alpha Dog characteristics, Light says there was never any tension when it came to dividing tasks and assigning responsibilities. “There was no disagreements, no arguments. We didn’t even really speak that much to each other. We just knew what the other one was going to do. There was a lot of telepathy going on because we didn’t have to explain a lot of things to each other,” he says.
“To say whether working with someone else would work as well, you could never say that until you work with someone. We all became very close and everyone was very professional. If I had been paired with anyone on any of the other teams, I don’t know that we would’ve been ineffective. But I was very happy with who they paired me with.”
For Skagfield, he joined Hunted as a fugitive at the last minute with his real life best friend Lee Wilson. The 28-year-old IT consultant was in bed, playing a game of chess on his cell phone when he received an unusual text from Wilson, who owns a series of escape rooms in the southeast.
“He was originally contacted by casting to participate in the show and he needed a wing man for the run,” says Skagfield. “At the eleventh hour, I got a text from him and he goes, ‘hey what are you doing right now’? I was like ‘what’s going on? What’s wrong’? He said ‘do you want to go on the run from the FBI for 30 days’? I thought about it for two second was like, ‘yes’!”
As fugitives, Skagfield and Wilson rely on their combined skillset to stay a step ahead of the hunters. The pair carefully calculates the implications of every decision and tries to put themselves in the position of the hunters before making their next move.
“It really is a modern manhunt. You don’t realize how much information the FBI can glean off you just by the technology you use and how it’s being used. Facebook, email, cell phone, they are all capturing different types of information. How frequently do I message my best friend? The FBI can get ahold of all that and use it to track you down,” he says.
“Is there a high probability that you call that friend when you have a bit of an issue? What habits and relationships do you have that would influence the hunters to go knock on the door? It’s not a great idea to call your mom. You have to be aware and be intentional about going the other way. It was very interesting to see how emotionally exhausted we were at the end of the day in addition to being completely paranoid. The one thing Lee would always say is ‘you’re only paranoid if someone isn’t chasing you’.”