- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 24, 2017

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - What do a Bessemer police detective and an Atlanta fashion designer have in common?

Both are from Alabama, and both are making their small-screen debuts in a new CBS series that features teams of lawmen trying to hunt down “fugitives” for up to 28 days across a 100,000 square-mile region in the Southeast.

“It was exhilarating,” said 27-year-old Emiley Cox, an Oxford, Alabama native who, along with her boyfriend David Windecher, spent nearly a month over the summer trying to elude lawmen. “It was a lot of pressure.”

This Wednesday, “Hunted” moves to what will be its regular time on Wednesday nights. The show premiered Sunday night on CBS and CBS All Access.

This is how CBS describes the news show: “Hunted follows nine teams of two in a real-life manhunt as they as they attempt the nearly impossible task of disappearing in today’s vast digital word as highly-skilled investigators combine state-of-the-art tracking methods with traditional tactics to pursue and catch them.”

The “hunters” are also paired into nine teams, and CBS said the pursuers coordinate the manhunt with an elite team of intelligence and operations experts called the Command Center. They come from military, federal and local police agencies. Each team that evades capture will win $250,000.

Cox lives in Atlanta and runs an online clothing boutique. She grew up in the Oxford and Anniston area, and attended Jacksonville State University before moving to Atlanta about four years ago. Her boyfriend, the 38-year-old Windecher, is a criminal defense attorney in Miami. Both are self-described fitness fanatics, and have been dating for more than two years.

Cox said she found out about the show through Facebook. She thought it sounded “cool,” and approached her boyfriend about the possibility of applying for the casting. “He said that it would be amazing,” she said, and with that the long process began.

“It was a very long, detailed process,” she said. “They asked so many questions, really got to know everything about our lives.”

Cox said she could tell only her closest family members what she was doing, and that was only so they wouldn’t worry when she disappeared for a month. “My mom would have had the FBI out looking for me,” she said.

She couldn’t give details about what she and Windecher did on the show, but said they both had to give up their cellphones for a month. They were given about an hour’s notice, and with that they were “on the run.” We really couldn’t do much preparation,” she said. “We couldn’t pre-plan, or pre-pack.”

Cox’s life during her time on the run couldn’t have been more different that her day-to-day existence. “I don’t think you can really prepare yourself for this,” she said. “You’re overwhelmed, and excited, and scared,” she said. “You have to look over your shoulder every second of every day.”

Obviously she can’t say if she was captured and, if so, after long. She did say both she and her boyfriend learned a lot from the experience. “I think it definitely brought us closer,” she said. “We work well together and that shows throughout the process. We have so many cool memories that we made, and really we can only talk about it with each other.”

Cox said she hasn’t yet seen her episode.

“CBS couldn’t have done it better,” she said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

Miles is a detective sergeant in Bessemer and also the police department’s public information officer. Before joining the police department, he was in the U.S. Army as a specialist, serving as a paratrooper in the prestigious 82nd Airborne Division. He took an extended vacation in June to film the series.

On the show, he is partnered with Muhammad “Shadow” Bilal, who worked in the Middle East as a Diplomatic Security Protection Specialist for the U.S. Department of State. After a 23 year military career, he was honorably retired from active duty in 2006. Currently, he is a licensed armed private investigator and executive protection specialist at Shadow Protective Services.

Miles said he was in bed one Saturday morning when he received a message from a casting director about the new CBS show and their interest in him. “I thought it was a scam,” Miles said. Still, he looked into it and was intrigued. Ultimately, he was cast in December 2015.

He’s still not sure how the network knew to reach out to him, but he’s glad they did. “They found me the way they were supposed to find me,” Miles said. “It was just a good fit.”

For Miles, his work on the show was an extension of what he does every day. He said the fact that the “fugitives” weren’t really bad guys didn’t deter his motivations. “In my mind and the minds of my fellow hunters, they were,” Miles said. “We were going to attack it just like any other case. Once you tell me ‘this is the person you need to find,’ that’s that. I’m going to find that person. That’s the challenge.”

Like Cox, Miles had to keep the project under wraps. “I told my wife, the chief, the deputy chief and the mayor,” he said.

Miles said he is excited that viewers will get to see the process. “A lot of times we chase leads and suspects, but all the public sees is the crime and the capture,” he said. “A lot of what we do goes unnoticed. It’s going to be cool for people to see.”

Like Cox, Miles wasn’t allowed to discuss the outcome of his hunt. “This was an opportunity to do something great,” Miles said. “I believe that I did the best that I could do. I think I represented myself and my department and my family well.”

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