Willie Robertson, an avid outdoorsman and family man, gets to spend his days hunting and fishing in the Louisiana wilderness while working with his large, eclectic family. Sounds like the dream life, right?
Well, it is, but it’s one Willie says he never really pictured himself pursuing as he was growing up. And now that he’s in it, even the dream life has its ups and downs, all of which will be laid out in often hilarious detail in A&E’s new reality series Duck Dynasty, premiering March 21. It follows Willie, his brother Jase, their parents Phil and Kay, and their uncle Si as they try to retain their close ties while running a profitable business.
The Robertsons are not strangers to being on camera, having had their own series on the Outdoor Channel, as well as starring in several hunting-related DVDs. But Duck Dynasty takes a more personal approach, opening up the family’s relationships to the viewing public. It’s a prospect Willie says at first gave him concerns over how the family would be portrayed, but as always, he figured they would be fine just as long as they remained true to themselves.
“If you are who you are, they can only portray you one way,” Willie says. “We do what we do. You know how it is, if there’s a camera in your face, obviously you know it’s there, so you know it’s not quite reality, I guess. But I think it’s come across really good. I’m just proud of the family, how successful we’ve been. Not just financially, just how good we’ve been as a family and we always work together. We came from nothing, it was just a hope and a dream.”
With their long hair, shaggy beards and proudly backwoods ways, the Robertsons are among the more unlikely millionaires you’ll ever encounter. They preside over the Duck Commander duck call empire started by family patriarch Phil back in the early 1970s. The double-reeded duck call he developed is widely regarded as one of the most trusted in the business, and the family owns and operates the Duck Commander line of products that also includes hunting apparel, cooking products, DVDs, CDs and novelty items all bearing their brand.
Willie — along with his wife, Korie — heads up the business side of things these days, which sometimes puts him at odds with other members of his family who would rather focus on the, um, product development portion. Like Jase, who lives by maxims such as, “If you’re too busy to go hunting, then you’re too busy.” In the premiere episode, Jase nearly sends Willie into a conniption with his impromptu idea to flood the company’s loading dock and turn it into a pond for researching ducks.
Despite their many disagreements, the Robertsons do find ways to get the job done and still remain on speaking terms. In fact, every episode ends with the big family eating dinner together and saying a prayer.
“There’s probably no shortage of egos in this family, but I think our faith keeps us in line,” he says. “We’re all Christians. That keeps our heads clear. I think what will separate us from the other shows that I’ve seen is, man, you’ve got some really strong characters just from who we are, top to bottom. Heck, when I watch it I’m fascinated by some of the stuff my dad says, and my uncle and my brother. Everybody’s really confident and really secure and just really strong characters and strong men, which is another thing we really wanted to show.”
Viewers will also probably find themselves surprised by the backgrounds of some of the family members. Despite their rough appearances, for instance, Phil and Willie both have college degrees, with Phil even having a master’s in English. Willie’s course study took him on a different path for a while. Having grown up in the business, helping with more menial tasks like staining barrels and folding boxes, he didn’t think he’d end up taking over someday. But his heart eventually led him back home.
Contrary to many reality shows, which tend to break families and friends apart, Willie says working on Duck Dynasty has actually made his family closer.
“We were traveling so much that we were all kind of on different schedules, and what the show’s done is actually pull us together,” he says. “We spend so much time together now. It’s been really nice just being able to hang out. … We thought we were pretty dang close before, but you learn more about each other every day and we do this show as a project together. Some days you get sick of it and wish there wasn’t a camera around you because you don’t feel it, and that’s when [another family member] steps up. It’s funny, somebody else will pick it up and they’ll be on that day, and we just encourage each other every day.”
Photo: © 2012 A&E Networks Credit: Zach Dilgard