Exclusive: 'Deadliest Catch' captains talk about 'emotional hell' of temporarily quitting beloved show

deadliest-catchImage Credit: DiscoveryAn emotional hell that was “more stressful than crab fishing”:  That’s how the Time Bandit captains who quit Deadliest Catch last week described the ordeal that temporarily threatened the future of Discovery’s most popular franchise. Speaking exclusively to EW from Alaska, Andy and Johnathan Hillstrand explained what led them and Northwestern Captain Sig Hansen to make such a drastic decision.

“It was a lot about our rights to do our own brand,” said Andy Hillstrand, who together with his brother and Hansen, went on a speaking tour in September that supposedly conflicted with production of Hillstranded, a set of specials the brothers shot for the network that’ll air next June. “There was a lot of misunderstanding,” Andy Hillstrand told EW. “We thought Discovery had everything they needed but then they came back and said they needed pickup shots so our schedule was pretty much screwed. It got to the point in our relationship where something had to change and we just said enough’s enough. So we butted heads for a while.”

Hansen handed in his walking papers too because “it was the right thing to do,” he told EW. “We are brothers. I told these guys a long time ago, it’s fishing first. We made a lot of fans. We’ve affected a lot people in positive ways. People like us because we are real and what they see is what they get. All of a sudden, things got a little out of kilter. So what you see is what you get.”

“It kind of made it look like me and Johnathan were doing this and then Sig stood up with us but Sig was with us,” added Andy Hillstrand.

“Emotionally, it was hell,” continued Johnathan Hillstrand. “We didn’t want to be sued. We didn’t want all the fans hating Discovery.” The trio was also told not to discuss their status with the other Deadliest Catch fisherman, who like the Hillstrands and Hansen, were in Alaska’s Dutch Harbor this week preparing to set sail for the show’s seventh season on the night of Oct. 14. Captain Keith Colburn, however, didn’t have much to say about the matter. “I’m going to take the fifth,” he told EW from the deck of The Wizard in Dutch Harbor this week. “There’s enough animosity between the fishermen at times on stuff. I don’t need to generate any more.”

 Fortunately for the show’s legion of fans – some of whom fired off angry letters to Discovery – both sides came to an agreement and now the Hillstrands and Hansen are signed for two more years of Catch. The trio can also continue with their speaking tour that took them throughout Canada and the east coast in September.

“We just want our lives back, sort of,” said Johnathan Hillstrand. “But it’s a little too late for that. So we’re sticking around. We are glad to be back and we’re glad that everyone is happier.”

In Hillstranded – which will air after Deadliest Catch debuts in April 2011 – the siblings will investigate myths and legends around Alaska, including a Lochness-type monster in a local lake. “Our personalities have just been silly and kind of different,” said Andy Hillstrand. “We had a lot of fun doing them.”

Comments (130 total) Add your comment
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  • ty

    how very friends of them

  • LoveBug68

    And all is right in the world!

    I could lose the Hillstrands…but not Sig and more importantly not Josh Anderson!

    • LoveBug68

      check that…Jake Anderson!

      • Myra schlosser

        Thank u….. Does she really watch the show…..

    • Lunna

      Agreed! I like the Hillstrands, but I could have done without them. But without the Northwestern boys? Heck no!!! I love that Jake Anderson kid like he’s my brother!

    • C MacNeil

      No we cannot lose the Hillstrands. NO WAY!!!!!!!!!!

      • Angela

        I agree no Hillstrands no deadliest

      • Lemonpie0

        I almost cried my family told me the hillstrands were leaving but now i read this and i said thank you to GOD

      • teresa

        cant imagine no time bandit. its the only reason we watch.

    • Myra schlosser

      That’s Jake Anderson dear

  • sdm

    Oh boo hoo, you signed a contract, you failed to fulfill the contract. Discovery was in their right to sue. The Hill’s and Sig don’t make DC, Discovery does. I say let them go and bring in different captians.

    • Clearly, you do not understand the relationship fans have with this show – and these captains – at all. Discovery may have caught lightning in a bottle when they decided to film these guys, but it’s the captains, crews and the boats themselves that are the beating heart of “Deadliest Catch.” Discovery clearly understand this better than you, or they wouldn’t have caved.

      • …!

        ^ This.

      • Ms. Dipesto

        Thank you! sdm clearly is clueless..

      • Diane

        People like me who have become fans of this show feel like we actually know the players and to lose them? no way!~!

    • NANCY

      Ita not about man’s law. GODS LAW. NATURES LAW. LOVE THY NEIGHBOR. Thanks Capt Phil for your truth and passion. God bless your friends and the boys. Well done Phil, well done!

      • daylene

        Nancy, really??? Why is it that Phil has become such a saint that any time ANYTHING pertaining to this show or any of the guys, some moron speaks of Phil’s amazing fatherly skills or how brilliant he was?? Just so you know, Phil was not a saint. He lived hard and he played hard and he died from both. He is no saviour. I have nothing against the guy, but why does Phil have to overshadow anything else going on in any of the others’ lives? it is COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT, and quite disrespectful, if you ask me. The Hillstrands and the Hansens should be known for their accomplishments, not for being sidekicks to the almighty phil.

    • STEPH

      One question? How many of ya’ll would like to walk in their shoes?? I did’nt think so. They do not even have time for personal life issues, due to so many demands on them. Just my opinion.

    • Lemonpie0


    • Myra schlosser

      R u crazy. These capt’s. Made the show what is today. Go cry somewhere else…

    • rjm1116

      Actually Fremantle Media subdisiary Original Productions makes the show, Discovery airs it, so the contract dispute wasn’t between the Hillstrands and Discovery, it ws between the Hillstrands and money grubbing Original Productions. Discovery is based in Maryland and Original Productions is in California…

    • ben dover

      up yours!! go back to watchin oprah or the view,you candy ass!!

    • Steve

      I’m with SDM. Maybe the Hillstrands need better lawyers. Just saying they signed a contract and just like everyone else they had a legal obligation to live up to that contract. Just because you become famous and can get a better gig, doesn’t mean you get a free pass.

      And the Hillstrands don’t make the show, collectively all of the Captains and their crews make the show. It was no different than when George Clooney left ER or Farrah left Charlies Angels. Their careers were taking off and they wanted more. So they walked and a lot of people were upset, but you know, those shows replaced them and remained successful. Happens all the time.

      Oh and by the way, Discovery (or Orig Productions) didn’t cave. The Hillstrands realized they had to live up to their contract and they decided to live up to their responsibilities.

    • Gail Jordan

      When the Hilstrands and Sig go, so do I. Contracts, whatever. I’m only along for their .


    Those who work on the sea no the value of life. My heart and prayers are with them. Its not just crab,its the best REALITY show that there is! Know that Phil is with us always. Sail on! your brotherhood can teach many what life is about. In the name of Phil Harris, sail on.

    • Bob

      What? Where in this story does it mention Phil? What planet on you on? Phil a great man? You think he was a good father be smoking like a chimney and drinking like a fish. Yes that is an awesome example to show your kids. Bravo Phil. Wasn’t his son arrested earlier this year? Hmmmm where do you think he learned that. Good work. Please the guy is no saint and people should learn to do the exact opposite of what he did. Stop smoking and drinking.

      • Myra schlosser

        It just the way of the world DEAR SISTER… Doesn’t mean he was a bad FATHER… For goodness sake. JESUS turned water into WINE… Or don’t u read from the book….

      • Myra schlosser

        Ohhh… Or is that DEAR BROTHER… Sorry sounded like a girl cryin…

      • Dmeche

        In my view Phil was a human being like all of us with good and bad traits. He lived life hard and on his terms. His love for his sons was undeniable. Just because his life does not fit your mold that does not make him a bad person. I know plenty of men like Phil and they are great guys who would do anything for their friends. There are plenty of guys like him in South Louisiana.

      • Traudel

        Sometimes I contemplate if folks truly take time to write nhemtoisg original, or are they only just dishing out words to fill a site. This surely doesn’t fit that mold. Thank you for taking the time to write with awareness. Now And Then I look at a page and question whether they even proofread it.Fantastic work with this article.

  • Kal

    I have two words for them SUZANNE SOMERS

    • NANCY

      What planet do u live on?

    • Okay, how do you propose the two are even remotely similar? Oh yeah, riiiiiight. Cuz, um… they’re NOT. Not even remotely. I have two words for you. On second thought, maybe I should keep them to myself…

      • sue

        Yes, in the name of Phil, please do.

      • Sherry

        I am the mother of 5 & nhrgdmotaer of 2. I know how precious your little girl is to you & your family. God is watching over you & your little angel. With so many prayers & well wishers she will surely survive & thrive. My heart aches for you during this terrible, trying time. Stay strong & have faith.

  • Samantha

    god i miss phil already

    • teresa

      true be told if phil could do over his life hed probably say he wouldnt have changed anything except for his kids.

  • SLB

    Captain Keith. Jerk as usual. There’s no way this guy could’ve carried the show.

    • Jenn

      I was really hoping Keith would leave the show or they’d stop following him. He (and now Wild Bill) are my LEAST favorite to watch. And the less I have to see of Keith’s brother “Mouse” the better. That guy is AWFUL!

      • iggy

        I think the crews on these boats are a huge reflection on the captains. It might not be a picnic to be on the Northwestern, Time Bandit, or Cornelia Marie, but once in a while these guys have fun with each other. The crews on the Wizard and the Kodiak ALWAYS look uninspired and miserable.

      • Myra schlosser

        Oh…. Wait a min. U don’t even know wild Bill to be putting him down. Back up. He’s long time friend’s of the hansen’s. He another good guy…

    • Ms. Dipesto

      Keith is pleading the fifth because he knows if he left the show no one would care.

      • Vickie

        I WOULD CARE IF KEITH LEFT THE SHOW ! Now granted, I’m no one of any Great importance… BUT I’M SOMEBODY. So please don’t presume to speak for EVERYONE !<3! Nuff said. Phil liked and respected Keith, and Keith did the same in return. His tribute to Capt Phil was the most touching. AND "NOT SET UP" LIKE SIG'S WAS.

    • Jabar

      Keith is not worth the spit in his cup, a bozo. I don’t know why Discovery keep him on the show.

      • Spott

        Perhaps because Keith runs the biggest boat in the crab fleet. Perhaps because Keith is a big fish in the Bristol Bay crabbing industry. Perhaps because watching Keith fire greenhorn after greenhorn because they can’t hang is good television. Or perhaps because Keith has a contract, and would probably take quite a bit of money to buy out. Keith runs his own business (the boat, folks) and has done so successfully for decades. Hmm. Maybe he’s one smart businessman who knows how to negotiate a contract; after all, that’s what he does in order to sell his catch.
        Stop hatin’ on Keith.

  • Samantha

    maybe i’m wrong but reading this i’m assuming captain keith was in discoveries corner not the other captains. that would fit his character which he has none of, most of the time i go pee pee when keith comes on the show. ha

    • catie

      Samantha, I do the same thing when Keith comes on. Keith has zero personality and his brother is even worse. I wonder if old Johnathan will knock him on his rear end again this season.

      • Margit

        I wish to express my rseepct for your generosity supporting men and women who require guidance on this one topic. Your special commitment to getting the solution all-around has been especially important and have all the time made those much like me to attain their objectives. Your amazing important recommendations implies much a person like me and a whole lot more to my office workers. Best wishes; from each one of us.

    • C MacNeil

      Dont take your frustrations out on Keith. He is ok. Just because he had a fight with Jon. He is man enough to stick around and continue. And remember the show is edited very heavily so you are not always getting the true picture. Cut him a break. He and his bro and Wild Bill deserve our support and respect.

  • TQB

    These men worked mercilessly and risked their lives for years before Discovery came along. Who are we to blame them for trying to cash in on this opportunity however they can? Speaking tours, Geico commercials, spin offs about ghosts – bring it, those guys deserve the payout.

    • Quirky

      Exactly! Considering the fact that The Situation is reported to be making close to $5 million dollars this year in all of his side projects, the fishermen deserve to make whatever they can.

  • Frankie

    Sounds like the Hillstrands just didn’t completely understand their obligation and Sig just followed along. While I definitely agree, the fishing crews and Captains make the show, I could have done without the Hillstands also. They keep talking abut retiring anyway. I look forward to see the Harris boys take over where their fathers legacy and rooting for Jake to come back sober and more mature and ready to stand by his brother. Love that crew!

    • C MacNeil

      Sig is no follower. If you truly watched the show you would understand that. And if the Hillstrands want to retire who are we to say unkind things about that. They have FAMILIES that they miss and it takes TIME to train someone. It does not happen overnight or even in a season.

      • Dutch

        They went from ordinary men to stars because of DC. It would be like your all’s dad appearing on a TV show for his job and becoming famous so that he spent even less time with you. They seem like nice guys deep down, except maybe Keith & Sig can be pretty mean to Eddie, who’s only trying to do right by his family, finally.JMO

      • Barb

        And that snot nosed Scotty Hillstrand is nothing but mouth!

  • phyllis

    I am glad they worked things out, because it is one of my favorite shows, so this is good news.

    peace out.



  • Ann Dalusian

    Rats! Now I’ll have to wait at least two years for Captain Sig to be on “Dancing With the Stars”.

    • TAS

      I’ve heard that Edgar would take over the boat if Sig were to do the spring season of DWTS. I think I heard Edgar say that in a video of an appearance.

  • Rush

    Wonder how far Discovery will go to milk this apparent gravy train.

  • Donna

    I am so glad that Discovery made things right with the three captains. They almost lost me as a follower.

    • Jeff

      My favorite is when Captain Phil said “blah, blah, blea, blee, blah” that said it all.

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