Skip to Content
reality TV reviews, news, and analysis since 2000

Why it’s been ‘a damn tough year’ for Life Below Zero’s cast — watch the mournful preview

Why it’s been ‘a damn tough year’ for Life Below Zero’s cast — watch the mournful preview
Ricko DeWilde and his son Keenan in Life Below Zero season 21 episode 6. (Photo by Pedro Delbrey/BBC Studios Reality Productions, LLC)

While the Emmy-winning Life Below Zero is going strong, entering its 11th year on television, it’s been “a damn tough year” for its cast, as one of them says.

Death, divorce, and disaster from climate change are all looming over the cast members.

LBZ season 21—which is officially season 11, because everyone counts differently—premiered on Labor Day and settles into its usual Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET timeslot on National Geographic tonight, followed by the spin-off Life Below Zero: Next Generation at 10 ET. (Previous seasons are all on Disney+.)

The trailer for this Life Below Zero season is rather melancholy, with the cast members talking about what they’re struggling with—though it ends on a note of optimism. Watch:

Who’s on Life Below Zero now

A snowy landscape and a blue sky with a hazy sun; a single figure in heavy winter gear is visible in the distance
Sue Aikens on Life Below Zero season 21/season 11 (Photo by Lauren ‘Bird’ Dixon/BBC Studios Reality Productions, LLC)

Here’s the cast of Life Below Zero 21—along with what their primary focus is this season, according to a summary provided to me by BBC Studios Los Angeles, which produces the show:

  • Ricko DeWilde and his children, who are increasingly independent, must continue to keep the flame of their Athabaskan culture from dying out in the rugged yet bountiful Alaskan Interior.
  • Sue Aikens will explore areas of the tundra that were previously unreachable, but she’ll need to be wary of the increasing predator activity that looms in every direction.
  • Chip and Agnes Hailstone welcome new grandchildren to the family, and their daughters will look to take the lessons they’ve learned from their parents as their guide as they teach the next generation of Inupiaq residents of the Arctic Northwest.
  • Jessie Holmes recovers from a near-death accident which could thwart his ability to provide for himself in the Brushkana wilderness.
  • For Andy Bassich and Denise Becker, the closure of the salmon fishery along the Yukon River will force them to travel beyond the comforts of Calico Bluff and find a replacement food source for their survival.
  • Cole [Sturgis], the newest cast member of LBZ, struggles with a changing family while carving out a subsistence lifestyle in one of the last remaining float houses in Alaska

While you wait for the next episode, here’s my past coverage of Life Below Zero, focusing on what happens behind the scenes:

Life Below Zero behind the scenes

How is National Geographic Channel's reality show Life Below Zero filmed? What's it like to be on both sides of the camera? How were the show's spin-off series cast? Answers to all of those questions and more are in the stories below: a collection of behind-the-scenes pieces that include interviews with one of its stars and its showrunner, and a first-person account of what it's like to film a reality TV show in the middle of Alaska.

All reality blurred content is independently selected, including links to products or services. However, if you buy something after clicking an affiliate link, I may earn a commission, which helps support reality blurred. Learn more.

More from reality blurred

About the author

  • Andy Dehnart

    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.

Discussion: your turn

I think of writing about television as the start of a conversation, and I value your contributions to that conversation. We’ve created a community that connects people through open and thoughtful conversations about the TV we’re watching and the stories about it.

To share our perspectives and exchange ideas in a welcoming, supportive space, I’ve created these rules for commenting here. By commenting below, you confirm that you’ve read and agree to those rules.

Happy discussing!


Wednesday 6th of September 2023

Sie Aikens is an absolute monster! She should write a memoir.