That’s the simple and straightforward motto lived out by the amazingly bearded Robertson family, who star in A&E’s hit TV show Duck Dynasty, now in its second season. As millionaire duck call makers turned reality TV stars, it’s that same motto that keeps the family grounded as they continue to break records this season, raking in 3.9 million viewers in week two and claiming the top spot as the most-watched cable TV show of the night.
Eric Conn grabbed an exclusive interview with Jase Robertson—son of Phil and brother to Duck Commander boss Willie—who does everything from working in the duck call shop to sinking his dad’s boat in the river. He offered his two cents about life outside the show, his crazy family, and his gut-bustingly funny uncle, Si.
Eric Conn: How has your life changed since Duck Dynasty took off?
Jase Robertson: Well it’s definitely strange goin’ out in public, with our beards and all, we stand out already. People used to think we were either homeless or a threat to their safety, well now they recognize us. So if you want to go to the grocery store, you realize probably you’re gonna be there two or three hours because you’re noticed so much. That still seems crazy to me.
EC: How did you get from duck hunting DVD’s and making calls to a mainstream show on A&E?
JR: I think the key is that we’re not doing this for fame and fortune. We are people of faith and we have our priorities. People just think it’s cliche but we’ve said that our priorities are God, family, and ducks. That’s just the way it is. Really for us it’s a family show that we enjoy doing together. We got a lot of crazy characters in my family with different personalities, and it makes for good TV because that dynamic is funny. We pick at each other, we have fun, and I think that’s what’s appealing.
We’re really a family who happens to duck hunt. You know there are more people who watch the show who aren’t hunters. I think that’s because we’ve tapped into human life, which is what we’re about. I mean I love to duck hunt, but I love the Lord a lot more, and I love my wife and kids more than I love to duck hunt.
EC: Your uncle Si is known for his fantastic storytelling. Is any of it true?
JR: Definitely in his mind it is. His story telling is just epic, because he always embellishes stories, and that’s just Si, he loves to tell these tall tales. You can just pick out the parts you know to be true and pick out the parts you know to be false. A lot of his stories he really believes.
He doesn’t have the greatest eyesight, and he’s spotted all these various black panthers at different stages of his life, and he thinks there are large black panthers roaming the woods in Louisiana. Every time we think we catch him in what we think is proof that he cannot deny, he always comes up with something. The latest story he’s come up with is he said he saw a black panther, so we went down there to where he claims he saw the black panther. Well it turns out it was a black house cat. So you know what he said, without hesitation? ‘Well, don’t black panthers have babies?’ So he had it worked out where it was a baby black panther.
I went to Mexico where they had some black jaguars at a zoo to take a picture and show Si, and of course I was amazed how big they were and I thought ‘There’s no way this is running around in the woods of Louisiana.’ So I showed him the picture and you know what he said? ‘Yeah, I see them all the time. That’s them right there.’ He’s gonna defend it to the end.
I think the funniest story he tells is when he was a kid, that he got chased by wolves, and I’m like ‘Si, real wolves?’ ‘Oh yeah, yeah. Real wolves.’ Apparently he ran so fast that his tennis shoes actually exploded into flames because of the friction on the asphalt. He tells that story all the time, and I’m like ‘Si, your shoes did not catch on fire by running down the road,’ and he’s like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s what happened.’
EC: What’s the number one question you get asked by people?
JR: The biggest question we get, you know people see us with our wives and they’re like ‘How did this happen?’ ‘Cause our wives are beautiful and we’re not. It’s amazing with all this social media, Facebook and Twitter, you hear people say ‘Oh these women married these guys for their money,’ because we’re successful now, but what they don’t realize is that when they met us, we didn’t have any money. We were all poor, and we’ve all been married for lots of years. I always think that’s comical. We really came from humble beginnings. It’s just been the American dream lived out, we do what we love to do, and it just worked out. But you know our wives are with us because of our spiritual qualities, which flies in the face of what most people think.
EC: The beards are a huge part of the show. How did that come about?
JR: My dad has always been a real blunt, simple person, and he always thought people judging a person by external appearance was just laughable. So to go against that you have to be pretty self confident, and my dad is, he’s comfortable in his own skin. So that’s where the beard comes from. He’d say, number one, you’re wasting time, number two God made you for a reason to have hair on your face. He used to always say, ‘God made women to have smooth faces,’ until he did a conference in Arkansas and then he joked that he had to amend that by saying ‘God made most women to have smooth faces.’
In duck season it’s cold, especially going down the river on an outboard motor, the wind chill is ridiculous. When you got whiskers, it’s the greatest thing you could have. It keeps your neck warm and your lips from getting chapped. And then of course it’s great camoflauge, which you know is so important for duck hunting.
The beard also ties into our spiritual faith, that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. I don’t look at another human being and look at just their external appearance. Really I think if we looked at another person from the inside out we’d be a lot better off. I like people viewing me one way and then get around me and realize ‘Man, was I way off.’ Plus I think it keeps you grounded. There’s a lot more to having a meaningful life than outward appearance or how much money you have or whether you’re famous. I’m just not into those things. It’s nice, the blessings of a successful business, but that’s not our motivation whatsoever.
EC: What’s the biggest challenge you face being a part of the show?
JR: You know this is a platform to share our faith and try to show people that we believe there is a God and having a dynamic family life is important and can really bring you a lot of joy. We use it as a platform to make a difference in the world in a positive way. That’s probably my biggest challenge, balancing that with family life, of having the show, because kids by nature are immature. So having to sit down with my two teenage boys and say ‘Look, just because 100 girls tweeted that you’re the finest lookin’ person on the earth does not mean that’s true.’ That has been a struggle.
You constantly have to tell them to have their own faith and be confident in who you are, not to let other people’s opinion of you be the way you live your life. I think most people who get into the Hollywood world tend to live their lives based on what other people think, and that’s a bad trap to get into. So we’re trying to ground our kids and keep their heads in the right place. I credit our wives. They really are great women, spiritual women, who work harder to keep our kids grounded.