Josh Duhamel on the Relatability of ‘Buddy Games,’ His Real-Life Tradition, and More

Josh Duhamel hosts and executive produces CBS’ Buddy Games. New episodes of the reality competition series will premiere Thursdays at 9 PM ET/PT and will be available to stream live as well as on demand on Paramount+.

BUDDY GAMES unites six teams of four deep-rooted friends, who met at various stages of their lives, at a stunning lakeside location for a nostalgic adult summer camp adventure. “Ride or dies” get the chance to play “buddy games” where they will relive their glory days and compete in an assortment of absurd physical and mental challenges in the outdoors while bunking together in the same lake house. Friendships will be rekindled, and rivalries reignited, when these friends are challenged to prove which bonds are strong enough to withstand the competition. The last buddy team standing will be crowned champion and take home a cash prize plus the coveted Buddy Games trophy, and of course bragging rights.

We discussed making the games bigger for TV, why viewers will find themselves relating to the friend groups playing, wanting to be a part of everything as the host rather than staying on the sidelines, the incredible Camp Buddy Games Lodge that was built, and more. Keep reading for the first part of our conversation and stay tuned for Part 2, which is coming soon!

Pictured: Josh Duhamel. Photo: Robert Voets/CBS ©2022 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This show is so much fun. I binged the first three episodes and I can’t wait to see the rest of the season. Congratulations!
Josh Duhamel: Thank you. It gets really good [in episodes] 4, 5, 6, and 7, I’m just telling you.

Well, first of all, I love that this is inspired by your real-life Buddy Games competition with your friends. Can you tell me about the process of turning this tradition into a TV show and what that was like to do?
Yeah, it was an idea that we had early on, based on what we do, you know, what my buddies and I have done for the last 25 years and we just thought that we’re not the only group of friends like ours, people do this everywhere in some form or fashion. So we thought, ‘how fun would it be to get groups of friends like ours,’ they had to be old, ride-or-die type buddies that have been through all the highs and lows of life together in order to really make it the kind of show that we wanted, it was kind of my one ask in the casting process and that was really how it all began. Obviously, for TV, we got to make these games bigger and more grand than we get to do on ours, although every year we do one really stupid event too. CBS really loved the idea of making these games in the same vein that we do, so that was kind of the inception and the idea was to create something like we have and make it bigger and grander for TV. And like I said before, this is something people do everywhere and I think that it’s gonna be really relatable in that way because people are gonna see themselves in these groups. They’re gonna find one group of friends on this show that they really relate to and they’re gonna be like, “God, we could do this, we could get our group and go compete in this,” and that’s really what I’m excited about.

It makes me want to do it with my group of friends. How did you come up with the idea originally? Was it a friend’s idea or did you all try to figure out a way to get together and do something to have some fun again?
Well, there’s a few ways that it all kind of came together. When we were really young, I’m gonna say around seventh grade, we were always either playing wiffle ball in the backyard or we’d be in our underwear, drive down the street and you got to shoot each other with BB guns, really stupid things like that and that was kind of the beginning of it. Then, as we got older and grew up, got married and had kids and had real jobs, it was like a reason to continue, to keep those friendships going, you know? The games were kind of the reason to do it, but ultimately, it’s just about keeping the friendship alive because we knew we had a really special group and we didn’t want that to sort of fade away as we got older, and this was kind of our way of doing that.

Pictured: Host Josh Duhamel. Photo: Robert Voets/CBS ©2022 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Along with hosting the series, you executive produce it. Why were both of those roles important to you? Why did you want to be involved in that way, rather than just being an executive producer behind the scenes or a host on screen?
Well, I think that it was, if I got to produce it with them, I got to keep the essence of what I think would make this show work, which was these ride-or-die, lifelong friendships. It was the silliness, it was the sabotaging and the fucking with each other, I wanted to have that edge and then hosting it for those same reasons. If I couldn’t compete, I wanted to be able to be a part of it somehow and I didn’t want to be the kind of host that sort of stood back on the sidelines and observes it all. I wanted to be down in there with them and they loved that idea, the fact that I was willing to get down in there and actually do these things. I wasn’t gonna ask them to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. So I think that interaction between me, the games, and the competitors is what I really wanted to be part of.

The competition includes not only physical challenges but mental challenges as well. Which do you think is more difficult on the show? I feel like they were pretty balanced overall.
Yeah, we really made an effort to not just make this about physical aptitude, but more about, you know, some of it is physical, some of it is mental, some of it is how well you know each other. So, even those groups that weren’t as physically talented still were able to compete because they were able to rise up in other areas. Team PRIDE is a great example of that. They were not the most athletic team there by far, but were really smart strategically within the house. They knew how to make alliances, they knew how to avoid getting chosen in the sabotages. They knew how to work together. They knew which teammates could do what best and it was a perfect example of what I wanted the show to be, and it’s not just about how big, fast, and strong you are but how well you work together.

Photo: Robert Voets/CBS ©2022 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The location is so stunning and beautiful. What was it like filming there? How did you land on this location? I mean, I would have loved to have my summer camp at the Camp Buddy Games Lodge.
You know what, I saw it and I literally teared up when I saw what they were building out there for this show that me and my dumb friends have done for so long. I was like, “Wow, they’re really putting a lot of effort, time, and money into this and thought and creativity.” We shot it in Bogotá, Colombia, which is a really odd place I thought at first and they said, “Trust me, that house over there that looks like it used to be owned by an ‘80s drug lord is gonna look like a cabin,” and it did. They turned that lake and they built a beach, they built all that out. That’s a flower farm outside of Bogotá, and they built it into a full-on adult summer camp and it was a beautiful thing to witness.

Wow. I think back to that moment in episode one where the teams get to go inside and explore for the first time — I felt like a little kid watching, it was so cool.
I know and I think again, people watching it are gonna be like, “Oh God, how fun would it be just to escape my life for a couple of weeks, my husband will take the kids, I’ll get to go with my group of girlfriends and we’re gonna go compete, and we’re gonna win this fucking thing,” and that was kind of what happened. They really sort of fell into this adult summer camp mentality and it was really fun to watch. I actually wish I could have been in the house with them at night too just to hang out and see all the action.