Back in 2010, Todd Hoffman was running his aviation business at home in Sandy, Oregon. When the economic downturn began to take its toll, Hoffman decided it was time to make a change. He made a plan, and headed north in search of gold – taking the Discovery Channel with him. A little over four years later, Gold Rush is in the midst of its fifth season as one of the highest rated shows on American television – a series in which we’ve watched Hoffman strike out as many times as he has hit home runs. One thing has remained constant, however, and that is Todd Hoffman’s unshakeable belief in possibility.
Hoffman and his crew – which includes his father, Jack – have hit paydirt, lost their claim, lost colleagues, suffered equipment problems and even attempted to switch the chill of the Canadian Klondike for the heat of the Guyana jungle – a dramatic gamble that ended badly for all involved. When the show returned in October this year, Hoffman was without a crew, without a claim, and without equipment, but – as audiences now realize – when Hoffman is down, he is most certainly not out. He has slowly, but surely, re-built his gold-mining operation, and this is where we find him for this wide-ranging interview – in a much improved position, and ready to talk about family, faith, the future, politics, the show and the importance of connecting with his audience.
Gold Rush has been dominating Friday night TV schedules for some time. Scoring remarkable ratings each week, the Discovery juggernaut shows no sign of slowing down. For Hoffman, these tangible results are very meaningful.
“This is the fifth year we’ve kind of run Friday nights. The thing is, I think the ratings have gone up so much this year is because my situation sucked so bad last year. So it’s hard, because people care about you. They’ve been on this journey with me forever, and they watched me get my ass completely handed to me in the jungle. So this year, I’m kind of rising from the ashes and, you know what? The comeback story is a great story, and I think people are just getting on board – getting on the train. I don’t think it’s stopping. I think we’re going to… we could possibly set some records this year [if] the viewership keeps going like it’s going. It’s unbelievable, actually.”
Since 2012, Gold Rush has been preceded in the schedules by its own lead-in show – The Dirt – which provides viewers with unseen footage and interviews with members of the various gold-mining crews on the show. This has increased the already high level of interaction between those in front of the cameras, and their fans. For Hoffman, this is a vital part of his job, and one that he takes very seriously. He finds positive online interactions far outweigh any negativity that flows his way across the internet.
“I’m on Twitter, and Facebook and… I try to stay active probably more than any other person on TV. I really interact with people. You know, there’s some guys on there [that] don’t like what I do. Some people don’t like me. Some people get on there and call me fat and stuff. You know, whatever. They like to lob grenades from their Mom’s basement… But it’s okay – you know what? The reason why I do this is because I love connecting with people. You know, I’m a Christian – I’m no poster boy for the faith but, you know, part of being a Christian is to reach people. A lot of people come to me, and this sounds kind of weird – ok – I’m going to tell you something.
“A lot of people come to me, and they say ‘Me and my father watch the show, and now my dad is dying – will you send him a little message?’ And then they’ll send me a message ‘you know what? That meant a lot. My dad’s passed away’ So, I’m dealing with a least three of four fans right now that are dying. And, you know, it’s part of life, but it was something that fathers and sons connected on – gold mining. Then, as the father passes away, I get a note and they’re like, ‘I like how you guys come together and pray, I like how you, you know…’
“This country was built on certain ideals, and those ideals still burn in people’s hearts, and they burn in my heart. They don’t burn in a lot of people’s hearts, but there’s a lot of great patriots and Americans out there that believe, you know, the same way I do. So, to share some of those ideals on the show – for me, it makes it worth it. All the bad stuff about being on TV – it makes it worth it. So, yeah, it’s been good.
“I want to always stay connected, and when I decide that I can’t do that any more, then I need to get out of it. You know all these, like, whatever you call them – celebrity types – they put big walls up, and then they start thinking they’re special. You know what? They – and I’m going to say this – they use toilet paper just like you and I do. Everybody’s a human and everybody’s the same. And just because you’re in a stupid show, or you’re in a stupid movie doesn’t make you anything special, right? What it does do is it gives you a platform. Now, you’ve got a responsibility. That weighs heavy on me as, when people are looking up to you, or looking at you, you know – how do you act? How do you love your guys? How do you treat your guys? Those are the things that matter to me, and I hope that the show holds to the standard of that, which… sometimes it doesn’t, you know? I’m no ‘Yes Man’, so I get in trouble a lot with Discovery and everybody else. But, in the end, you know what? I’ve got to live with myself, and I’m going to be standing in front of Almighty God and I’m going to answer to him, so everybody else can pretty much kiss my ass when it comes to that kind of stuff.”