In an exclusive interview with Huliq, Ice Road Truckers star Rick Yemm speaks about reality television; his real life beyond the small screen; and about being the “bad guy.”
In January, Mechele R. Dillard interviewed Dave Redmon, former star on the History Channel reality series, Ice Road Truckers, discussing his view of reality television, specifically the lack of reality involved.
Today, Part I of a three-part series begins, featuring Ice Road Truckers cast member Rick Yemm, who is also frustrated with the state of reality television which is, as he sees it from the inside, becoming less and less realistic on IRT with every passing season.
“We all get slated in these character roles, and there’s nothing we can do about it,” he begins. IRT fans will recognize Rick Yemm as Hugh “Polar Bear” Rowland’s constant sidekick, always screwing up, always appearing to be the “bad guy.”
“I’m definitely the bad guy, that’s for sure,” Yemm says. Things are a bit different this year, however, with the departure of Lisa and Maya from the show. “This year, it’s like everybody’s got a bad attitude, and that’s what they wanted right from the start.”
The show is produced by Emmy-winning producer Thom Beers’ Original Productions, which is the “they” he refers to.
Yemm and the Polar Bear have known each other for years. “He’s actually been a friend of mine for years, like 18 years now.” But, like Yemm, Polar Bear is not what the producers turn him into for the screen. “No. No,” he states emphatically.
“They take small parts of our personality, like, yeah, I’m brash, I’m not always the most politically correct person and all that stuff. But, that’s not ME. That’s a small part of me that they exploit.”
But, Polar Bear?
“The thing is, they put him off as being this big a******, but he’s really not. He CAN be an a******, like any of us can, but they exploit that, they want that, that it’s all about money, that he doesn’t give a sh** about nothing.
We truck together all the time. If we see another trucker out there, he’ll spend days trying to get the other guy out, because that’s what you do in the trade we do, but they’ll never show that to you. He’s just an a******, it’s all about money, he’s not here to make friends—that’s what they want out of him.”
This season, fans may notice that the Polar Bear has been a bit toned down from his usually obnoxious self—Yemm says Rowland was becoming concerned about how far the producers were pushing it.
“Well, he’s catching a little bit more wind about what it is. He doesn’t watch the show. He refuses to watch it. He finds out from other people, and I think it’s getting to him a little bit that it’s going a little too far.”
But, unlike the Polar Bear, Yemm doesn’t have the option of putting pressure on the show’s producers.
“Hugh doesn’t need the money and he really doesn’t care. He made himself before the show. I’m a struggling younger guy that has a family. I do it because I’m trying to get ahead. So, I need it. And that’s what they know. They can do whatever they want to me, because I am going to try.”
In the long run, however, Yemm can see the positives.
“Oh, yes, it’s completely helped me. I have zero money from what the show did. I put it all into my company because that’s my future. There’s no future for me in TV. At my age and the amount of time I’ve had in this business, I’m way ahead of the game. I have nice equipment, the company has a very good image, so, yeah, it did help. Am I gonna get rich from TV?” He laughs. “No.”
Yemm First-Time Truck Owner?
So, then, his new trucking business is going well?
“I don’t own a truck,” he says flatly.
But, on the show, he does.
“This is all their thing, that they push these stories to the point that we have to go along with it or we’re not involved. So, I don’t even own that truck. Hugh owns the truck. But, they tell us how they want us to drive. We don’t pay for any repairs. … Production pays for any repairs.
“They said that I bought that Western Star from Hugh. I haven’t bought it.” So, in fact, he is not a truck owner. “And, I never will be,” he confirms. “It’s funny, in Season One, Hugh says I was just a carpet cleaner when he met me; I’m just a carpet cleaner now.
I make a very good living doing what I do. In the winter, my work shuts down. No one does anything like that in the wintertime, and it gets really slow. I go to the ice roads. I truck on the ice roads. I used to be involved with the excavation trade—that’s where I got my Class I, because it is a vital part of the business.”
With his carpet cleaning business, Yemm says he has lower overhead than he would have with trucking full-time, and he makes just as much money as he would have as a truck driver, plus he gets to go home to his family at night. So, when he says he put all of his Ice Road Truckers pay into his business?
Yes, he meant the carpet cleaning business, not trucking.
“I enjoy the work,” he says of carpet cleaning. “And, it’s a very successful carpet cleaning company. But, it’s funny, because that’s what everyone assumes, that what the show says is 100% real—that I’m a truck driver, I bought a truck, I’m now trucking here, there, everywhere; no. I come home every night.”
‘Stupid’ Driving Not So Stupid On IRT
Driving isn’t as freestyle on IRT as it often seems, either.
“We have vehicles that are ahead and behind us, we know if there’s people coming. We don’t take any risks for anybody’s safety. We know when it’s clear to do ‘stupid’ stuff, like drift around a corner. All that stuff that we do, it’s all done safely. But, they never put it in the show that way.”
Of course, Yemm is always the one causing problems on the ice roads for Hugh with his bad driving.
“It’s always my fault, always my mistakes. I was very good at what I did at Yellowknife, that’s why I got picked for the show. In the show’s context, I am the heel of the show. And, no matter how many good things I do in a season, every bad thing comes up.”
And, Yemm is always the one breaking his truck, while the Polar Bear jovially plows along the bumpy, rutted-out, so-called roads.
“You’re not even supposed to be taking trucks into where we go,” Yemm explains. “Hugh’s truck, every trip it’s in for repairs, but they never show it. My truck gets one little thing wrong with it, and it’s all over the air.”
Stay tuned for Part II tonight after Ice Road Truckers airs at 9/8c on the History Channel, and find out what Rick has to say about trucking with Dave Redmon and Lisa Kelly on the Bolivia Death Road, including a challenge he issues to IRT:Deadliest Roads truckers Lisa Kelly and G.W. Boles.