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What happened to Forged in Fire host Will Willis?

What happened to Forged in Fire host Will Willis?
Wil Willis, former host of Forged in Fire (Photo by Miller Mobley/History)

Do you know what happened to the host Wil on Forged in Fire? —Michael

Wil Willis hosted Forged in Fire—a History Channel reality competition that’s like Chopped but for creating knives, rather than using them—for its first seven seasons. But as fans first learned when the trailer for season eight came out in November, he no longer hosts.

He’s been replaced by Grady Powell, who was once on NatGeo’s Ultimate Survival Alaska and has since twice replaced other people on reality shows:

Why was Grady brought in for season eight? The official reason, according to what History told Trib Total Media TV writer Rob Owen:

As with any legacy series that has had the privilege of being on the air for five-plus years, fans will notice new names and faces from time to time. While we appreciate Wil Willis and everything he brought to the series we are excited to start this new chapter and welcome Grady Powell into the ‘forge’ as our new host.

So, in other words, the network isn’t saying much on the record. There are all kinds of reasons a show can replace a regular cast member, from something as simple as a scheduling problem to someone being fired. It could be a contract issue, which could range from an expiring contract to the inability to come to agreeable terms for a new contract.

So, basically, we don’t know anything. But we do have insight into what Wil’s job was like.

Wil Willis: Forged in Fire was ‘the slowest, most boring process in the world’

Forged in Fire, J. Neilson
Forged in Fire judge J. Neilson tests a weapon on a block of ice. (Photo by Miller Mobley/History)

In a more than two-hour interview on the B3F Podcast posted in late December, he talked at length about his time on the show.

“The majority of my time at Forged in Fire was spent sitting inside of this hotbed of shit,” he said of his trailer. “The smell was outrageous. … I swear to God it was probably 4 feet by 6 feet total. It was not a big space.”

He said that it took “three to five days to film an episode—it’s the slowest, most boring process in the world.”

But he praised the people who worked behind the scenes to make Forged in Fire come together—they’re “making sure that all of these pieces that make Forged in Fire what it is come together into this show that everybody loves,” he said.

“While I’m doing all that waiting around and fucking complaining,” he said, “the whole time that I’m freakin’ doing this, there’s a crew that’s setting up shots, getting lighting right, getting all the anvils where they need to go,” including “herding the [contestant] smiths from interview to interview.”

There’s “250 hours of footage—now throw in the set up, the cameras, all the work that goes into that. It’s a huge, huge production.”

He said that he’d tell contestants to “fuckin’ relax, we’re all just dudes,” and tell them “there’s going to be takes, there’s going to be retakes” and they should “just be patient with all of that shit.”

But he said that, eventually, the production would fade to the background. “That’s when the reality starts: when the clock starts. … While the clock is going, that’s the real stuff.”

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.

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