By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Willie Hulett's favorite meal is steak, but on Monday you may see him eat cockroaches. Monday, the Havre native will appear on the NBC show "Fear Factor."
The reality television show asks contestants to perform stunts that make them handle scorpions or eels or eat congealed cow's blood or larvae, among other things. There is prize money and sometimes an advance to a future round for the participant who performs three separate tasks in the least amount of time.
"Fear was not a factor," Hulett said of his experience filming the show. The 2000 graduate of Havre High School is familiar with gags and stunts. But he does admit to being rattled a few times in the 100 hours of shooting that went into making the one-hour episode.
"I would say, when you're doing the actual stunt, it's way more intense than what you see on camera," Hulett said.
Hulett auditioned for the show in Las Vegas, where he has worked for the past three years.
A week after his graduation from Havre High, Hulett was on the road. He went with his brother, Rhett, to Denver for a construction job. After a trip to Los Angeles for a convention, he made some connections and set his sights on Las Vegas.
Four years later, he is still on his way toward the goal of working as an actor and model.
Hulett worked first at The Venetian hotel. Now he performs nightly at the Excalibur Hotel and Casino as part of the house show. Between the hours of 6 and 10 p.m., he can be seen on stage dressed in gold lam and dueling in jousts and sword fights. In his free time he has auditions like the one that landed him his spot on "Fear Factor."
Hulett's life in Las Vegas, onstage and off, is a grandiose version of the very things he did in Havre. Trampoline snafus, motorcycle wipeouts, and a lot of goofing around are typical for Hulett, wherever he is. During his eighth-grade graduation, he crossed the bridge of success walking on his hands. Now he continues to make his way his own way.
Hulett is not allowed to tell his family how he did on the "Fear Factor" episode, but his parents are proud no matter what.
"His dad and I have said that even seeing the preview, that's enough" to make them proud, Hulett's mother, Michael, said.
The preview first appeared Tuesday. It shows Hulett falling off a car over the ocean, and later asking, "Can I throw up yet?" That's what he has heard, anyway. He has not seen it himself. But either of these scenes would be typical moments for the show, and not so atypical for Hulett's daily life.
When "Fear Factor" accepts demo tapes, they say no stunts. They do ask for a full-body shot of the applicant, and for a day in the life. For Hulett, there was no way to leave stunts out of his demo because they are a part of his daily life. He included clips of his motorcycle riding, including tricks as well as shots of him riding 180 mph.
"Too fast, too loud, and too strong," Michael said about her son's demo, but she said it with a smile. "He's doing things a lot of people just talk about."
Hulett did have one worry, if not a fear. What concerned him most before filming the show was the smell and flavor of whatever creepy crawlers he would have to eat, Michael said.
"Willie, I cut the fat off your meat until you were 18," Michael said she told him.
But Hulett's biggest problem might have been his rambunctious nature. An injury nearly kept him from going to Los Angeles for the taping. He had gone to the Mirage Hotel and Casino for a party two days before the date of his departure. There was a mock volcano, and Hulett could not resist jumping off of it. The jump resulted in a badly sprained ankle. Hulett iced the ankle, went to Los Angeles anyway and passed a physical. The producers did not notice the swelling until well into the filming of the show.
Hulett is nursing another ankle injury now. After a trip to what he said was a huge warehouse full of trampolines, he came back with two more sprains, one for each ankle this time.
When Willie was growing up, his family had a trampoline on one side of the house, and a 56-foot tower on the other. Willie always wondered, why not put them on the same side.
"We knew why," Michael said. "I've always watched him do things that were dangerous. He's very gifted, but I do want him to be careful with himself."
Next move, Willie hopes to go to Los Angeles to work as a stuntman as a stepping stone to acting and modeling work. To follow that plan, he will need to take mom's advice in moderation.
Behind the guise of a happy-go-lucky kid, Willie does think ahead. "I've seen too many people go out there without a plan. Sometimes that will work too. ... you get your Jim Carreys and those people. For the most part, if you make a plan and get some money saved up," you can last a little longer before starving, he said.
Hulett also hopes to come back to Montana. But only after he can come "with a couple million, have a good old damn time, and buy my friends some drinks," he said.