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Panic Button: Harris to compete on reality show

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by Leslie Moore/Landmark New Service

A Navy veteran and avid outdoorsman, Campbellsville resident Rob Harris says there isn’t much he’s afraid of – unless there’s a snake around, and that’s when Harris says it’s time to go.

Earlier this year, Harris had the opportunity to confront his fear of the slithering reptiles and Thursday, viewers nationwide will get to see it on the series premiere of “Panic Button” at 10:30 p.m. EST on TruTv. It is rated TV-14 for language.

Harris and his girlfriend, Jessie Skaggs of Elizabethtown, were flown to Toronto, CA in May for the show’s filming. According to the TruTv website, “Panic Button” takes contestants through three levels of horror to make them confront their worst fears.

The challenges for Harris and Skaggs included a tunnel of snakes, pitch darkness, rats and roaches.

“You got a big red button in this little clear pocket and when you can’t handle it, when you’re too scared, you hit that button and say ‘panic, panic,’ and the show ends,” Harris, a 1982 graduate of LaRue County High School, said. “Well some people, I mean as soon as it started, they just freaked out and hit it.”

Skaggs said he is very competitive and animated, which is what the show’s producers were looking for to keep audiences entertained. In one part of the challenge, Harris yelled “Is that all you got?” and immediately found out there were more skin-crawling encounters waiting for him behind the next door.

 “And I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, what have I got myself into?’”

“There’s one part of our show where we had to put our heads up in this Plexiglas thing and huge – I mean the biggest roaches – they come out and they’re coming at your face,” Harris said.

He said some the creepy-crawlies also found their way into his clothes.

As for whether he and Skaggs made it through the horrors, at the request of the show’s producers, Harris hasn’t told anyone, only saying “we did well.”

Harris said each contestant was paid $500 even if they hit the panic button as soon as their challenge started. But because he didn’t have to pay a cent out of pocket and got to do a little exploring in Toronto, he said he would have taken advantage of the free vacation whether he was paid or not.

This is not Harris’ first reality TV experience. At the encouragement of his late sister, who told him his “big mouth and personality” were perfect for reality TV, he applied for a spot on CMT’s “Redneck Island.” Although he was sure nothing would come of it, network producers contacted him within just a few days. A few months later, he found out he was selected and appeared in two episodes that aired last summer.  

A producer who was impressed by Harris’ competitiveness later contacted him for “Panic Button.”

He agreed on the condition that he would not have to eat any bugs.

“They don’t want nobody boring – they want somebody that’s going to be excited, just go nuts on them,” Harris said. “And I did.”

He later learned that filming had to be temporarily halted to replace a cameraman who couldn’t stop laughing during Harris’ challenge.

Harris said reality-show hopefuls often ask him for advice on how to get picked for a show, and he said it’s much easier than most people realize. His advice on getting started is to do what he did and Google “reality casting.” He said www.realitywanted.com is also a good place to look.

Just last week, Harris was notified of another opportunity and has already started the application process. He is waiting to hear back from producers.

Harris said at the end of the challenge, each participant was asked if their experience helped them conquer their fears.

“Of course I said yes, I feel so much better,” Harris said. “I walked away and said, ‘I’m so full of crap. I still hate snakes.’”