There's a substantial list of LDS Church members who have been on a national reality show. This list includes David Archuleta, Carmen Rasmussen and Brooke White on “American Idol.” Don't forget Tyson Apostal on two seasons of "Survivor." Not to mention members who have been on “So You Think You Can Dance,” “The Biggest Loser” and “America’s Got Talent.”
And now the list grows.
ABC’s new summer series “Expedition Impossible,” which premieres June 23, will include LDS competitors: Nicholas Coughlin, an Internet marketer from Clinton, Miss.; and his cousin, Jason Cronin, a business owner in Pensacola Beach, Fla.
On the show, 13 teams of three members will compete in 10 different phases of competition taking contenders across deserts, through rivers and over mountains in Morocco.
Coughlin said his sister practically forced him into the car to go to an open casting call for a different show, “The Apprentice,” last year. He came close but ended up being cut from that reality series.
“It was a bummer to say the least,” he said.
Then he got a call in November from a casting director.
He was told this new show would be right up his alley. He pitched the idea to Cronin, and it didn’t take much to convince him.
“Heck, yeah,” Cronin said. “I’m always up for an adventure. I needed a month away.”
Cronin is not only adventurous, he’s already a survivor. He has survived cancer, West Nile virus and has had Crohn’s disease, an often painful disorder that causes inflammation in the digestive tract.
For the third team member, Coughlin called his best friend, Chad Robinson, who considers himself a Christian and hails from Bolton, Miss.
“I was half asleep and I think that’s kind of how he got me to agree to it,” Robinson said, laughing. He said his response was something along the lines of, “Whatever, man, all right.” He simply trusted his lifelong friend and went for it.
“I didn’t know what I was getting into,” he said.
It seems none of them did. Coughlin described their challenges with crossing the Sahara, climbing in the Atlas Mountains, swimming through rivers and riding camels. For example, the challenges were often to travel from point A to point B, except they were supposed to go over the mountain for a checkpoint instead of around.
Mark Burnett, the creator of “Survivor,” is the show's producer. It has been described as an “Indiana Jones”-type adventure and compared to the likes of “The Amazing Race.”
Robinson said that when he first started the challenge, he kept saying to himself, “What am I doing? What is this? This is crazy.”
“I would say I probably expected it to be a little more Hollywood. There was no Hollywood involved. It was an all-out race,” Cronin said.
“Reality TV is extremely real,” Coughlin said. “I don’t know about other producers, but for Mark Burnett, it is. What you see is what you get.”
Sometimes the team would travel 20 or 30 miles a day. They’d sleep in tents and get up as early as 3:30 a.m. New stages of the competition were not revealed to competitors until the week of the challenge. Even the preparations for this physically and mentally challenging competition required a psych evaluation with more than 800 questions and a swimming test.
The trio, dubbed “The Country Boys” by the show's producers, started working out and preparing as much as possible the moment they found out they were going to be on the show. Coughlin and Robinson worked out together, running 6 to 7 miles and hitting the gym daily. Cronin daily ran about 5 miles, on the beach to prepare for the desert, and swam about a mile. All of them agree that their preparation wasn’t nearly enough.
“I wasn’t enjoying myself while I was there (in Morocco),” Robinson said. “It was torturous.”
“I expected it to be physically challenging, not brutal,” Coughlin said.
It sounds like “Expedition Impossible” just might live up to its name.
Coughlin and Cronin didn't hide their membership in the LDS Church.
“Everybody knew we were Mormon, just by the way we carried ourselves,” Cronin said.
“There’s a unique feeling about the church,” Coughlin added, suggesting that that “feeling” around him and his cousin was one of many things that prompted questions from others in campfire discussions and over the course of the competition.
“Jason and I, it wasn’t like we gave the first discussion to people,” he said. They simply refrained from drinking when the others pulled out the alcohol and responded to questions.
“We didn’t have time to bring up much of anything, except just run,” Cronin said.
However, the cousins had the unique opportunity to share things with people they now consider to be friends.
“In other shows, people hate each other. But I felt like I left with some good relationships,” Coughlin said.
Impossible, grueling, torturous or brutal as it may have been, the Country Boys built good relationships, and it was an experience they were all happy to have had.
“I’m glad he called me,” Robinson said about Coughlin putting the team together. “I feel accomplished.” He added that he would even do it again, but only if he could be teamed with Cronin and Coughlin again.
So far, mum’s the word about the details of the competition results. On the night of the first broadcast, Cronin plans to gather family and friends at a local restaurant.
Cronin said his kids are "super excited" about seeing the show. “They want to see what their daddy did.”
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company