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Locals leave Myrtle Beach and become stars

Some current and former Grand Strand residents have taken their careers to nationwide, even global, heights.

Five individuals who have ridden big waves of exposure nationwide had time for interviews in the past week: Darley Newman, who trots the globe on PBS’ “Equitrekking”; Josh Knowles of Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, who won History Channel’s “Full Metal Jousting” series; Cameron Adams, in her eighth show on Broadway, was pictured in April’s issue of Vanity Fair, and she performed Sunday night on the Tony Awards; Chad Netherland, an 11-time Guinness World Record holder, has flexed his strength on various TV shows; and Kristin Todd of Aynor won CMT’s premiere season episode of “The Singing Bee,” on April 20, bringing home $10,000.

Also, Elise Testone of Charleston, who graduated in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in music from Coastal Carolina University, finished among the top 10 finalists in the 11th season of Fox-TV’s “American Idol.” She’ll return to the Lowcountry Aug. 6 when the “American Idol Live!” tour plays the North Charleston Coliseum, its only stop in the Carolinas.

On Emmy trail again

Newman’s PBS series “Equitrekking” series, taking viewers around the world on horseback, has earned a fifth nomination for the Daytime Emmy Awards. The 2012 ceremony will air at 8 p.m. June 23 on cable’s HLN.

“Equitrekking” has ridden into the same category in which it won in 2009, for Outstanding Single Camera Photography. Greg Barna directs the show’s camera work.

Living in Bethesda, Md., Newman, who grew up in Myrtle Beach from age 4, said “Equitrekking’s” Daytime Emmy nominations for four years in a row always goes up against shows that are totally different, adding to the excitement.

The series airs at 7 p.m. Thursdays on ETV across South Carolina.

Newman previewed two upcoming episodes from Botswana, and how wildlife alone, unscripted, can command the camera.

“One of the most exciting and challenging shot we ever filmed,” she said, “was when we were on horseback and charged by one elephant.”

Newman said the bull African elephant gave a “mock charge,” but with his proximity, the 15-second encounter was not taken lightly, but no one was hurt.

“You can’t outrun an elephant, even when you’re on horseback,” she said. “They’re faster, too.”

Recounting the Botswana visit, Newman said she also hiked with the San, “one of the oldest tribes in the world,” and she camped out the Makgadikgadi Pan, “in one of the world’s largest salt pans.”

That site “of an ancient lake the size of Switzerland” left a wealth of exposed salt and minerals on its flat surface, looking like “the surface of the moon,” Newman said. When whipped up by wind, like sand, “it’s basically a salt storm.”

At night, with no light and nothing to obstruct the heavens, Newman treasured sunsets and the nighttime sky, where she saw five shooting stars among “the best stargazing I’ve ever seen.”

Later this summer, Newman will head to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to film an episode about its nature and tranquility.

“There will not be any elephant charges on Mackinac Island,” she quipped.

Newman hopes a trek to Mongolia works out for next year, and she also wants to explore more of South America, with Peru, especially Machu Picchu, heading her checklist.

With 35 episodes so far, “which I cannot even believe,” Newman said, offers to broadcast the series emerge “country by country,” most recently from eastern Europe. Airing abroad, the series might carry subtitles, and sometimes, an actor will dub Newman’s voice.

Newman said everywhere she treks, she and her crew always “ride the local horses with the local people,” to let audiences see the history and culture, which differ around the world not only by the people and place, but the horse. An Icelandic horse comes smaller, but on an Arabian in Jordan, Newman saw their “great endurance.”

Whether riding with Bedouins or bushmen, Newman said she always tries to master some key words of the native languages in her destinations, such as hello, please and thank you.

“We’re all different around the world,” she said, “but we’re all similar.”

Armored, on horseback

Knowles also has built a career with his mounts, going on eight years at Medieval Times, and with his own extracurricular venture, outlasting 15 other men to claim the $100,000 prize from “Full Metal Jousting.”

He said the first-time series, which aired weekly from February to April, was filmed last autumn in Mississippi.

On his diversion from playing the “Herald of the North” at Medieval Times, Knowles said he kept quiet about the “Full Metal Jousting” results.

Knowles said his daily show and his TV venture don’t share the same amount of pressure, but he found some similarities.

Both scenarios involve “fine tuning motor functions while riding a horse,” but his day job brings more stunts and showmanship, versus the TV show’s intensity and level of competition.

Knowles said he would find watching another season of “Full Metal Jousting” interesting “as a spectator.”

He said he when his turns came up for a joust, he used a “game day” approach, to “shift everything out of your mind and concentrate on the task at hand.”

Watching other armored men in their jousts, “20 feet away from the guys hitting each other definitely grabbed my attention,” Knowles said.

Seeing such a centuries-old spot in person only added to Knowles’ excitement.

“Some matches came down to the last pass,” he said, having seen losing riders all flashing a “Home Alone” expression and disappointment on their faces.

Knowles said he also had to compete against a friend, eliminating Josh Avery of Myrtle Beach, a former Medieval Times knight locally, in the semifinals.

“It was kind of bittersweet,” Knowles said.

He said some people attending Medieval Times recognize him from his foray on “Full Metal Jousting.”

“Some guests mention they watched the show and they came because of ‘Full Metal Jousting,’ ” he said, glad it’s complementary with Medieval Times.

One family he met after a performance told him how their son, age 8 or 9, couldn’t stay up to watch “Full Metal Jousting” 10-11 p.m. Sundays, on a school night. Knowles said he felt flattered hearing about how every morning after, the parents would hear their son ask, “Did Mr. Josh win?”

Knowles called horse riding “my passion,” and that “because of Medieval Times,” he has built a career on a stage with hooves as his vehicle.

Playing a bad guy per se every night in Medieval Times, Knowles said “there’s not so much riding on it,” and the winning and losing aspects in the plot “are much easier to cope with.”

Asked if another opportunity for television might await down the road, he said, “We’ll see where it goes.”

On Broadway and Tonys

Cameron Adams has found her home on other stages: eight Broadway shows since moving from her native Myrtle Beach to New York at age 17. She also was included in the April issue of Vanity Fair for an Annie Leibovitz photo shoot.

Since the Gershwin musical “Nice Work If You Can Get It” opened in April, Adams has enjoyed singing and dancing in a cast led by Matthew Broderick and understudying his co-star, Kelli O’Hara.

During the Tony Awards broadcast on CBS June 10, the company did a five-minute routine, introduced by Matthew Morrison from Fox TV’s “Glee.”

Adams said by phone June 11 that the scene from “Nice Work” for the Tonys was a rendition trimmed a tad from what troupe does every night. She said she’ll never forget performing at the Tonys, not with famous actors such as Hugh Jackson “directly in the front row.”

“It was really scary, but really fun,” Adams said, calling the Tonys “our Oscars” and “the most exciting night of the year” for Broadway.

That was Adams’ third time this year on television. She took part in a “CBS Sunday Morning” segment shown on the day of Tonys, about the tradition Gypsy Robe, which has been passed among Broadway musicals since the 1950s for opening nights, to honor chorus members.

Adams and the “Nice Work” ensemble also performed earlier this spring on CBS’ “Late Show with David Letterman,” and that rerun just aired again recently for “perfect timing” leading to the Tonys, she said. She said promotion of a show stays constant, but such TV appearances are not everyday experiences.

Since her first Broadway role, in “The Music Man,” Adams said the art of acting has always been “something I love and always wanted to do.”

Settling in the Big Apple also brought stability Adams loves, to live and work in one place.

“You do your normal stuff” she said of her free time in the day, then work on most nights.

On more feats of strength

Netherland, director of Ripley’s Myrtle Beach attractions, has been on numerous TV shows, including “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” programs, and the season premiere of “Stan Lee’s Superhumans” in October, on the History Channel. The episode showed Netherland twice in full-throttle holds. With arms folded, he kept his grip on a Corvette Z06, then at an airport, two Cessna planes revved up in opposite directions.

Since 2003, Netherland has amassed 11 Guinness World Records, including his first time on TV, on Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” morning program.

“I broke my second Guinness World Record on that show,” Netherland said describing the deed: the most concrete broken off of someone with a sledgehammer while on a bed of nails.

“I think at the time, it was only about 800 pounds of concrete,” Netherland said, happy to have broken that record several times since then.

From that TV debut, Netherland brought up Trace Adkins, the tall country baritone, who had just had his turn on the show, but hung around for the feat of strength demonstration.

“He was right off camera,” Netherland said. “Afterward, I walked to the green room, and he looked at me and said, ‘Son, you need to get a bigger gig.’ It was pretty funny.”

Netherland also appeared on Rachael Ray’s shows a few years ago.

“She did the first talk show on ice,” he said. “The entire set was ice: chairs, tables, stove, etc. I broke a world record for the fastest time to break 50 blocks of ice by hand. It was really cool – no pun intended.”

Netherland said his appearances have taken him to places such as the United Kingdom, India and Germany.

Upcoming record attempts include pushing a Hummer one mile in 11 minutes, for the fastest time to push a truck, and going for the most baseball bats broken by hand in 60 seconds.

Netherland’s image has graced magazine covers for Nintendo and martial arts, the latter he loves performing live.

With any show on stage, Netherland said he still gets nervous, but with concentration and focus on the task at hand, he steadies himself for whatever display of strength he’s about to demonstrate.

Appearing on a daily show for a few minutes contrasts widely with demands for a filmed and edited show for a series, where you spend “five days for a few minutes” that air, Netherland said.

He laughed out loud about being included as a character in the “Guinness World Records: The Video Game” for Nintendo Wii and DS, and filming TV commercials to promote the game.

“The character in the game rips phone books,” he said, “and I was ripping phone books for TV shows. It was a lot of fun.”

He also remembered buying the game for his daughter for her birthday, but maybe its content was too familiar and close to home. He later asked if she still liked it.

“She said, ‘No, I traded it in at GameStop.’ ”

On ‘The Singing Bee’

Todd, finishing up her biological degree at University of South Carolina this year with plans for a career in pharmaceuticals, has all kind of words to express winning an episode of “The Singing Bee.” Contestants sing to fill in blanks for songs’ lyrics, sometimes a few words or a whole line.

Todd said a friend told her off the cuff to apply online to go on the show, and “I got really lucky” with an invitation, she said.

Country has always been Todd’s first love of music, and she said hearing songs lyrically on the radio “once or twice, it’s there; it sticks.”

Her “Singing Bee” episode was filmed March 2, so like Knowles on “Full Metal Jousting,” she kept quite a big secret until the show aired, when Todd said her viewing party took place at her apartment in Columbia and her family did the same at home.

Todd said first taking the “Bee” stage, going against five other contestants, some nerves hit, but getting past the first song put any uneasiness to rest, and show production staff was reassuring. She also saluted the house band and singers for their song renditions.

Wearing a knit shirt, jeans and boots, Todd bounced and rocked, racking up an almost perfect score in the rounds, tripping over only one word, from Craig Morgan’s “Bonfire,” singing “down,” instead of “out – in the sticks.” Other voids filled on her road to victory included Nickelback’s “Someday,” fellow S.C. native Josh Turner’s “All Over Me,” Rick Springfeld’s “Jessie’s Girl” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”

She named “Farmer’s Daughter” by Rodney Atkins as her favorite of the bunch.

“I’m not a farmer’s daughter,” she said, “but I’m a granddaughter of farmer, so I guess it kind of worked out.”

Todd said she had never flown before heading to Los Angeles with her mother to tape the show. She called California life “completely different than here.”

Todd sounded game about trying out for another show.

“I really like ‘Family Feud,’ she said, “but that has nothing to do with singing.”

Aware of other reality shows, especially on CMT, such as “Southern Belles,” Todd said her family supports her ambitions, even kidding her about still being single.

Todd chuckled at one such reminder: “My mom said, ‘Do you want to go on a dating show?’ ”