The Reason Why Wil Willis Left “Forged in Fire”

April 18, 2024
8 mins read

“Forged in Fire” is a popular reality TV game-show, that has kept the attention of many a sword aficionado for over seven years, having started in 2015, now with 225 episodes and nine seasons by late 2022. The series’ first seven seasons were hosted by the subsequently legendary Wil Willis, who was in many ways the soul of the show, even though he was never a participant.

Wil Willis’ little-known impressive resume

Willis’ military background definitely helped in hosting a show all about weapon creation, as his personality was all too fitting for the role. He has a history in US Army Rangers, and was also a US Air Force Pararescue operative. In an interview with Inverse, Wil was asked how a man like him went from a military career to being a show host.

He replied with ‘When you’re part of a TV production, you’re a cog in a bigger wheel, just like you are in the military. It’s a very structured thing, so it translates well for me. As an instructor in the military, standing and talking to people and teaching is a big part of my background, so I’m learning a lot and I feel like the audience is learning a lot. It’s a great experience.’

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Further on, Wil revealed quite a few details about his life, which showed that he could never stay in one place for too long, even as a child. He was born on 14 February 1975, on a ship cruising near the beaches of Portugal, moving to Texas USA with his family aged two.

His parents stayed there for only three years, having to relocate for work and other reasons. Willis thus moved to the state of Florida at age five, and finally once more, to California at the age of eight. Fortunately, that was the last big change, and he got to matriculate from high school in the north of the state.

Throughout histeenage years, the future host was apparently influenced by his military man father Jacob Willis, who instilled in his junior the patriotism and discipline of a dedicated US soldier. These circumstances had an obvious impact on Wil’s subsequent career choice, as the prospect of serving one’s country became fixed in the young man’s mind.


However, military days rolled around, and Wil found himself roaming North America once more, moving from base to base for a number of years, even as a well-established and certified military instructor.

Willis joined the US Army and became part of the 11B2V-Ranger Battalion for the next four and a half years, from October 1993 to February 1998. He then realized the US Army didn’t quite match the calling he envisioned for himself aspiring to, and left for the US Air Force.

The military expert re-enlisted in June 1998, becoming a fully-fledged pararescue unit operative for almost the next nine years, until March 2007, after which he performed another year of reserve duty, from August that year until that of the next.

2007 is also when he was given the position of a military science and technology trainer under contract with Assessment and Training Solutions, for the next three years. In 2010 he simply upped and left, seeking a greater challenge, and a different way to make use of his skills.

In the meanwhile, he obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in screenwriting and playwriting from the New York Film Academy, and later found employment with Broken Lizard Productions. He eventually made his host debut in the reality TV series entitled “Special Ops Mission,” which ran for six episodes in 2009.

Willis returned to the screen in 2013, this time as both the host and the star of the documentary TV series entitled “Triggers: Weapons That Changed the World,” in which he tested a whole slew of firearms with great historical significance – a job he definitely got thanks to his military background.

The show was only 12 episodes long though, and didn’t really qualify as the big breakthrough that Willis required to make it in show business. That came two years later, when he was finally chosen as the host of “Forged in Fire” – a show that continues to enjoy massive success worldwide.

He also made other less important brief appearances though, such as in an episode of “Rescue Warriors” in 2005, being a guest in the “Last Call with Carson Daly” show, hosting two episodes of “Forged in Fire: Beat the Judges” in 2020, and “Forged in Fire: Best Of” in 2021.

Surprisingly, Wil also portrayed actual characters in several titles, such as British Team Member in the 2006 comedy film by Jay Chandrasekhar entitled “Beerfest,” opposite Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme. He also played Angie’s Husband in “In the Valley of Elah” in 2007, an uncredited role in the short entitled “Waste of Time,” and even the character named Willis in the “Sovereign” short film.

Most importantly, he remained the host of “Forged in Fire” throughout its first seven seasons, which provided a massive boost to his popularity, and turned him into a permanent superstar. Now, Wil has to try a lot less harder to be employed as a host in any game-show, especially one related to weapons.


The college days of a degreed warrior

The New York Film Academy (NYFA) was apparently quite proud of working with Wil, having released the video entitled “NYFA Alumni Spotlight on Wil Willis.” In it, the retired host is seen commenting on the writing process and how he approached the issue, saying ‘There are a lot of people out there that think, you know, write what you know, write the military.’

He then mentioned all the qualifications he has, saying ‘so when I write about things, you know, I draw on that background.’ Comparing his job to that of a screenwriter, he said ‘I stand in front of the camera and regurgitate information. I’m good at that. Writing is an entirely different thing. So, finally, I was like, you know what? I’m gonna go to college for this.’

Wil according to his introduction on History Channel

What’s more, at the audience’s request, History Channel itself made a whole video on just Willis himself. He can initially be seen treating the contestants as though they were in a barracks, yelling ‘Stop your work! Stop your work!’ until each participant clearly and visibly lifted his hands.

To present himself, Wil said ‘I am a television host, college student, personal trainer, former army ranger and air force pararescueman, and a tactical emergency trauma specialist. When I graduated from high school I had decided that I was gonna join the military.’

Willis then relayed what the main drive behind his most crucial decisions were, saying ‘I know that when I left home I wanted my life to be an adventure. I didn’t really have a plan for my future other than to live day by day knowing that, no matter what happened, I did the best that I could, and also to honor my family. My father was in the military, and I grew up with it.’

He stated that he later joined the air force, not because the army wasn’t cutting it for him, but ‘because I really liked the search and rescue and recovery aspect of pararescue, and I was an Air Force pararescueman until 2008.’

When asked about his success and what he finds most important in the show, Willis said ‘The best piece of advice that I ever got is pay attention to details, because details matter – I learned that in special operations.’


The famous host also revealed a few secrets about “Forged in Fire”, that not many would be comfortable finding out, which is that both he and the jury have a contract with History Channel which forces them to keep pushing the contestants one step further, no matter how good their creation already is.

This is shown in the video, especially when Wil reveals a number of quite outdated shotguns and says ‘You’ll be making your weapons from these weapons, steel, from that suit of armor, chainsaws.’

Willis then happily announced what everyone wanted to hear, emphasizing that it’s ‘the car challenge,’ meaning that one lucky participant has a chance of walking away with the money, and driving away in a brand new vehicle.

He then further clarified just how intent the production team is on increasing viewer value, saying ‘For season three of “Forged in Fire,” we give these guys complicated challenges. You can only use material from animals to make your handles. Today you’ll be using a cold forge.

One very strange challenge featured in the video was shaping metal without hammers. As the video itself shows, Wil says to the competitors that ‘We’ve removed all of the hammers in the forge. Today, you won’t be making knives.’

Wil then outlined the obvious, saying ‘Sometimes it is a conundrum that they have to get to the bottom to of and solve. And, you know, watching them work through that problem is very frustrating, and that’s when that term comes to my head: ‘Pay attention to the details, because the details matter.’


When asked about his passionate reason for changing professions, he said ‘One of the things that I enjoy about “Forged in Fire” is that we’re examining what it means to be a craftsman. A lot of these smiths, they come on this show, they specialize in blade making, and I had no idea that so many people were making a living as knife-makers.’

Finally, he basically expressed how proud he was that he got to host “Forged in Fire,” saying about the former contestants, ‘To see the precision that they put into hand hammering something out, doing the fit and finish, it’s really impressive, and you know that a little bit of that guy’s heart and soul goes into every single blade.

Finally, his message and meaning of the show is simple, saying: ‘The fact that we can inspire other people to maybe pursue this craftsmanship – that’s what appeals to me.’ It’s apparent that Wil came to the casting couch with this attitude, since he was chosen to host this show without too much deliberation, and very early on.

The simple reason why he left the show

While many fans believed upon the premiere of season eight with a new host, that Wil either got into an argument or even legal trouble with History Channel, or simply got bored and left, the actual truth of the matter is much simpler, and a lot less dramatic.

Willis started dating his beloved Krystle Amina at some point in the 2010’s, eventually marrying her in October 2017. The two are deeply in love and post on social media all the time, which had been going on throughout most of Wil’s time in “Forged in Fire.” However, while not having enough time for his wife is one thing, not being there as a father is a completely different matter.

With a single episode of the show taking three to five full days for Wil to film, it simply wasn’t viable for him to keep doing that while having a newborn son at home, and thus he left show business when Orion Willis was born in March 2020.

With no drama having occurred between them, History Channel and Wil split on amicable terms, with an open possibility of the military expert returning to the screen at some point down the road.

As a matter of fact, the world-famous company released a statement regarding the situation, saying ‘As with any legacy series that has had the privilege of being on the air for five-plus years, fans will notice new names and faces from time to time. While we appreciate Wil Willis and everything he brought to the series, we are excited to start this new chapter, and welcome Grady Powell into the ‘forge’ as our new host.’ No one person is bigger than the show, or the company.

Martha Clifford

As an Author at Net Worth Post, I guide a dedicated team in the art of revealing the stories behind the world's most influential personalities. Fueled by a relentless curiosity and a knack for uncovering hidden stories, I immerse myself in the intricacies of our subjects' lives, weaving together accurate data and compelling narratives. My involvement spans the entire editorial process, from the seed of research to the final flourish of publication, ensuring that every article not only educates but also captivates and motivates our audience.

At Net Worth Post, we are committed to providing thorough investigations into the net worth and life achievements of innovators across diverse sectors such as technology, culture, and social entrepreneurship. My method merges meticulous research with eloquent storytelling, designed to bridge the gap between our readers and the remarkable individuals who redefine our tomorrow. Through spotlighting their journeys to success, the hurdles they've surmounted, and their contributions to society, we aim to give our readers a deep and inspiring insight into the luminaries who are paving the way for progress and ingenuity in the modern era.

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