A southern West Virginia mine foreman featured in the new reality TV series "Coal" says the show that debuts March 30 lives up to its billing: It's all real.
"There's nothing on this show fake. What's on it, we done it," said Jerry "Wildman" Edwards, who attended a preview screening of the Spike TV series in Morgantown on Wednesday and talked about what it was like to participate.
Edwards said he didn't allow his men to do anything unsafe or inappropriate for the benefit of the cameras, either.
The 10-episode series was shot at Cobalt Coal's Westchester mine in McDowell County. Mike Crowder, Cobalt Coal's chief executive, told West Virginia Public Broadcasting it shows the men as they really are.
"Some of us read the Bible, some of us cuss like sailors," Crowder said. "It is what it is. We are a coal company. We are not actors, we are not entertainers."
Cobalt is not a typical West Virginia operation. It's small, with only about two dozen employees. The men mine a highly valuable metallurgical coal used in steelmaking, but the seam is notoriously thin, forcing them to work in a space just 42 inches high some 600 feet underground.
The first episode focuses on how the men respond to the financial pressures facing the company.
"Our whole idea was to let everyone see that these guys are dads, and they're husbands, and they work hard," said Tom Roberts, the coal company's president. "They're just everyday people."
The network has been partnering with remembertheminers.org, a group supporting families of the victims of last year's Upper Big Branch mine disaster, to offer special preview screenings. One was held in Pikeville, Ky., and the last was scheduled Thursday at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pa.
Producer Thom Beers and his team are also behind the popular shows "Deadliest Catch," "Ice Road Truckers" and "Ax Men" _ all about inherently dangerous occupations.
Spike TV: http://www.spike.com/shows/coal
Cobalt Coal: http://cobaltcoalcorp.com/