On The Biggest Loser he is ominous and unforgiving, with a motto that “There are no excuses.”
But how did Steve Willis become The Commando -a persona that now transcends his appearances on the series? Was it a conscious decision to become a larger than life character?
As he recently explained to TV Tonight, it emerged from his early appearances in Season Two (2007).
“I essentially came onto the show not so much as a character, but because they wanted someone with a point of difference other than just the guy who pulls on the runners and training shorts and shirt. They wanted someone who was a little more raw, had authority and discipline.
“So it developed over the years into what it is now.”
Willis had already served as a Counter Terrorism Team Commander in the Australian Special Forces. Developing the look emerged from his background and some concerns over what would suit primetime television.
“It was a military thing from the start. I had cut-off camouflage pants and a shirt, but then I tried the black singlet,” he says.
“I guess tattoos are a bit more of the norm nowadays but years ago they said ‘We might need to cover them up because we don’t want to offend people.’”
In his earliest appearances Wills said very little other than to shout orders at poor-suffering contestants but in recent seasons he has been a fully-fledged member of The Biggest Loser trainers, alongisde Shannon Ponton, Michelle Bridges and Tiffiny Hall.
“It’s fantastic. The general public get to see a little more of who I am as a person rather than just seeing this guy in a black singlet, pants and sunglasses showing up out of the blue. I’m standing there dictating what needs to be done. They get a feel for my methodology and the way I facilitate and help others to change their lives.”
The added TV exposure hasn’t hurt his Commando brand. Willis now runs Commando-style Corporate Training events, Seminars, Group Session Training (he was too inundated to run solo sessions), Training Camp and a gym.
But he also says the last two series have enabled him to show another side to his character.
“I was really tested with Biggest Loser with the Moon family. I came from a place where you’re either in or you’re out. So to have people in front of me who come from a completely different world and aren’t in control of their lives, I can’t uphold a standard and expect them to be either in or out. I need to help them with that psychological shift. That mental shift. That’s where it all starts,” he insists.
“I had to learn it as well. I can’t be hard-lined with one approach. I have to address everyone as an individual and find out what works for them and help to bring them around, essentially.”
Next season will see the return of “Families” to Biggest Loser, though only as duos with various relationships.
“We haven’t been briefed on any detail other than a father and daughter or mother and son (etc). It’s more about tackling and breaking that cycle. It’s an education for the adult and child but it’s also about developing ourselves within the epidemic and showing that we care.
“We want to see a shift and a change because more and more people are becoming obese and a lot of that comes down to knowledge and education and having an understanding of what it is they’re putting in their mouth. And the lack of exercise that a lot of children are being brought up with.
“They are the most important development stages in your life. Your nervous system, your muscle skeletal system, all of those things. So how are they setting themselves up for the future?”
Willis says he hasn’t heard much about the series relocating from its home at former Army Barracks at North Head, Manly. More often than not, the trainers are kept in the dark like the contestants.
“I’m not sure of the reasons why they are changing locations. I think it’s because where we were using is part of the Trust and they’re looking at developing that,” he says.
“A lot of those things are last minute for the trainers because they like to keep us in the dark. We have a little room that they lock us away in so they get our actual reaction.”
The Biggest Loser returns in 2013.