Meet the breakout star of Bravo's 'Below Deck Sailing Yacht'
You wouldn't know it from watching "Below Deck Sailing Yacht," but Gary King likes to have space to himself. Before he starts the summer charter season, he likes to book a hotel room for a few days. "If I can have my own space, and just relax a little bit, it makes the season a lot easier," says the 33-year-old via video chat from a hotel room in Sardinia he's booked for precisely this purpose.
King, who is from South Africa, has just finished a day of work aboard Parsifal III, the 177-foot sailing yacht that provides a setting for some of the most outrageous antics in the Bravo universe.
Each show in the dangerously habit-forming "Below Deck" franchise follows the hard-partying crew members and demanding guests aboard yachts in exotic destinations around the world. Now in its third season, "Sailing Yacht" is arguably the most dramatic incarnation of "Below Deck," thanks to tighter living quarters, wind-tossed working conditions and adventure-hungry crew members.
King, who joined "Sailing Yacht" in Season 2, has become the show's breakout star, a mischievous charmer with a tousled man bun and a husky smoker's voice who is almost bafflingly irresistible to his female co-workers. (King has hooked up with nearly all the women in the Parsifal III crew as they sailed the Balearic Islands of Spain this season, but his abundant chemistry with plucky chief steward Daisy Kelliher is what has viewers in a frenzy.)
In other words, King makes for great TV. But he also happens to be very good at his other job, as the Parsifal's first mate; this season viewers saw King spring into action when the yacht nearly ran aground during an early morning wind storm.
King has always gravitated to the water. Growing up in Knysna, a city in South Africa known for its large lagoon, he'd often hitchhike to the beach after school. He became a "yachtie" by accident: During a gap year in Majorca, he learned quickly the South African rand doesn't go very far in Europe. Unwilling to ask his mom, a single parent, for money, he decided to go "dock-walking."
"It's the most demoralizing thing in the world," he says. "You go from one boat to another: 'Hi, do you have work for me?' 'No.'" Eventually, he got a job on Creole, "a lovely old classic schooner built in 1927," and he hasn't looked back "I kept getting paid to travel and I was making good money. Here I am, 12 years later."
The job makes it hard to settle down — something King swears he wants to do sooner rather than later. Mostly, though, he's eager to film more "Sailing Yacht," should the powers-that-be at Bravo decide to bring him back for another sail.
Q: Tell me how you ended up on "Below Deck Sailing Yacht." Had you heard about the show before you were cast?
A: If you work on boats, you hear about "Below Deck," but I don't actually watch any reality TV, to be honest. I'd never watched the show prior to getting cast.
There's a woman named Diana Wallace. She's the casting agent. She joins yachtie pages all over Europe and the States. And then she just sends (messages) out to random people. So I received a few messages from her asking me to be on the show. I was like, "It's COVID. What's the worst that can happen?" Never thought I was gonna get the job. Done two seasons and never looked back.
Q: Do you watch the show now?
A: Some episodes. I send them to my mom. She's my number one fan and my number one critic, so she'll let me know which episodes I have to watch. She'll be like, "Gary, I wasn't very happy with you on that episode." Then I go watch it and see what I did wrong. My mom's proud of me but she's also like, "Gary, come on. This is not how I brought you up." Obviously, I'm a mother's boy.
Q: What has been the hardest thing for you to watch back?
A: Just hooking up with girls on TV. It's a little bit cringe. Also just getting drunk on TV. It comes with the industry. We need to blow off some steam. But I don't think it's a very good look, us being so pissed while on TV.
Q: How do the yachties on the show compare to those in real life? Is everyone really as crazy as they are on "Below Deck"?
A: I think the yachties in real life are a lot crazier than they are on "Below Deck." If "Below Deck" actually knew exactly what went on on boats, this show would go on for thousands of episodes.
Q: So you think "Below Deck" is tamer than real life?
A: To a certain extent, yes. There are some things that are far-fetched (on the show), like the charter guest, Chuck (who said he could get better food at a ballpark and left a terrible tip). You wouldn't really have a charter guest that would say something like that, because these people have got class, and (outside of the show) they're paying upwards of $200,000 a week to charter this boat. But how the crew parties afterwards — that's pretty accurate. I've heard stories that I don't really want to share but are a lot worse than what happens on "Below Deck."