Published: Thursday, 17 March 2011 03:32 | Written by SciFi Vision
By Jamie Ruby
Explorer and adventurer Josh Gates holds degrees in both archaelogy and drama. He is also an avid scuba diver as well as a photographer. Host and co-executive producer of the series Destination Truth on Syfy, Gates travels the world and has been to more than 75 different countries. He also was recently inducted into the presigious organization The Explorers Club.
Gates always has great stories to tell of his vast exploits, from Africa to Antarctica. He recently spoke to the media at the Syfy Digital Press Tour in Orlando, Florida.
JOSH GATES, Destination Truth MARK STERN, President, Original Content, Syfy
MARK STERN: Our next panel up is "Destination Truth." "Destination Truth," as you know, has become a real staple for us in our reality lineup. Actually, last spring broke records, with 2 million viewers per episode, and actually, this fall, has broached a new night on Thursdays, and we've been really happy with its performance. It's got double-digit gains over the last year on Thursdays. So it's been doing really, really well. And without further ado, let me bring out the man himself, Mr. Josh Gates.
JOSH GATES: Hello.
MARK STERN: So before we throw it open to these guys, just tell us a little bit about what we can expect in the new coming season.
JOSH GATES: Well, we are leaving, actually, in a couple of days. We leave on Wednesday morning to go film six all-new episodes. And we're going to be traveling to a couple parts of the world we haven't been to before. Central America is kind of a big missing part of our world map. So we're going to be doing a couple of episodes in Panama. Excited about that. We'll be in Argentina, which is a place we haven't visited, I think, since the first season of the show. A couple episodes in Namibia in Africa, which is a really interesting country that we've kind of -- our tours haven't really reached yet. So it will be really neat to be able to showcase that. And India, for the very first time, which is a place that we've wanted to go since the very beginning of the show. It's a country that's logistically difficult to film in. And we've always sort of hoped that we'd be able to bring the show there. Now we're able to do that, which is terrific. And we're going to Antarctica this year, which is something that we have joked about for a long time. And now actually, crazily enough, we're going to do it.
MARK STERN: In a giant boat.
JOSH GATES: In a giant, giant, tiny boat. Very small boat.
MARK STERN: Yeah. It's going to be excellent. We're very excited to be doing that. And you're also going to go hosting the "Ghost Hunters Live."
JOSH GATES: Yes, I will be hosting "Ghost Hunters Live" again this year, which I've done -- I think this will be my fourth year doing that. Is that right? Yeah, I think it's my fourth year doing that.
MARK STERN: Seems like four years.
JOSH GATES: And I love doing that, and that's something that I'm always excited to come back and do. So I'll be coming back from the field to do that on Halloween.
MARK STERN: Great. And Allison Scagliotti is going to be coming in to co-host with you.
JOSH GATES: Yes, which will be terrific. She's great. For those you who were at Comic-Con this year, she did a terrific job moderating panels down at Comic-Con. So I'm sure she will be a capable co-host.
MARK STERN: Do you guys have any questions for Josh?
QUESTION: How do you decide on what you're going to investigate? Do you just get random tips from random people, or [do] you say, "Hi. We want to kind of search for this."
JOSH GATES: Yeah, it kind of comes at us in a couple of different ways. The best way and the way that we try to figure out what we're going to shoot is to look for stories that are really in the news. We want to go to places where people claim to really be experiencing some sort of paranormal phenomenon or seen some sort of mystery creature. So we look to news sources around the world. We have fixers in different countries around the world, producers that we have good relationships with. We have them looking at local news sources for us as well. Sometimes we're also just trying to hone in on an area, as with Central America, this year. We knew we wanted to go there. So we started focusing our search efforts on that region to find stories there. But typically it comes from things that are in the news.
QUESTION: What is something that maybe nobody talks about with you? Is there any special story or a special something from one of your adventures?
JOSH GATES: I think, by and large, the questions that we get about the show have been terrific. I think we've obviously talked to a lot of the different points about the show. I think, for me, the thing that is most exciting about "Destination Truth" is always the travel. It always has been. I'm always excited when we get a chance to talk about that. I think the thing that makes our show unique is that we are doing these interesting investigations, but they're in the backdrop of these really amazing places. So we're always excited about bringing different cultures to our viewers and to be able to show places like Namibia this year that maybe haven't had a lot of attention. So that, for me, is the most exciting part, And I'm always happy to talk about the places we're going, the cultures that we're going to be experiencing because I think that's really a big part of the show. It's really the backbone of the show, I think.
QUESTION: What is the most shocking thing that you discovered while filming these shows? Something that completely blew your mind.
JOSH GATES: Some of the places we've been to have been really shocking. We did a Chernobyl episode last year. And I think, though we sort of knew what we were getting into, that was a location that, I don't think any of us really were prepared to kind of actually see what Chernobyl is like today. It's a really scary place. And that's been true of a number of places we've been to, abandoned places.
We did – it's just aired, I think, last week – we did a ghost episode in a sunken fleet in the Pacific and were able to go down into these Japanese warships from World War II. And to see sake bottles still sitting on tables and to see bits of things from the ship that are still just sort of sitting down there frozen in time. Sometimes you get a real direct connection with the past in some of these episodes that can be kind of alarming. You're not really ready to see that stuff. So that's been very surprising along the way sometimes.
QUESTION: What's been the most disturbing thing that you've seen while filming the show?
JOSH GATES: We've had a couple of -- we've had a couple of animal sacrifice things that tribes or villages will traditionally do when you go to visit a place, some of which we've shown bits of, some of which we can't show. But those things are always a little bit difficult to watch. Sometimes when you kind of embed yourself in another culture, you're bound to sort of play ball with that culture. And you don't want to offend. So sometimes there are ritualistic things that are a little bit difficult.
MARK STERN: I thought when you went to that city of the dead and there were these skulls and these skeletons that were basically just under the surface in these graves, that was pretty --
JOSH GATES: Yeah, the mining town in Chile that we went to. And yeah, they are just these open graves where you've got skeletons with clothes still on, and they still have hair and just sort of laying there in these open pits can be kind of surprising stuff.
QUESTION: You lead very much an "Up in the Air"/George Clooney-type lifestyle.
JOSH GATES: Yes, I do.
MARK STERN: It's hard to tell the difference sometimes.
JOSH GATES: George Clooney and I, where does one begin and the other end? George Clooney and I.
QUESTION: Like in the movie "Up in the Air," do you ever crave a job or an existence where you're a little more grounded, as it were? Also, what are some travel rituals that you have?
JOSH GATES: Hmm. I do sometimes crave being grounded. I mean, look, I'm a travel nut, and that's really how I come to the show, is someone who loves to travel. So for me, sometimes, if we do a three-month stint in a row without coming home in sort of all developing nations one after another, there is a point usually in there somewhere where you think, "Man, it would be really nice to be in my own bed tonight." But by and large when I get home and we edit the show for a few months, I find myself getting kind of itchy to get back out in the field. So I think I was born to travel. And so for me, I kind of like that "Up in the Air" lifestyle.
In terms of travel tips, I don't know. Travel rituals; right? Dave Howe and I could do a whole separate session on travel rituals.
DAVE HOWE (FROM AUDIENCE): We could.
JOSH GATES: I don't know. I have a lot of them probably. I'm trying to think of kind of an easy, off-the-cuff one. I download a lot of things before I get on a plane. Try to have my movies, try to have my -- everything ready for my 14-hour marathon flights. But I don't know. I'll write you up a list of travel rituals.
QUESTION: Do you have as much vehicle trouble in your real life as you do on the show?
JOSH GATES: Yes. I bought a 2006 Prius that was a lemon and was in the shop 21 times. And then Toyota gave me a new Prius. So yes, I have terrible luck with cars.
We, this season, have had a lot of car trouble in the first half of the season. Everything we had broke down. So hopefully that won't happen in the back half, especially on the boat to Antarctica.
MARK STERN: Yeah, that boat is well-equipped.
JOSH GATES: We had a great boat. Let me just say this: we had a great boat all picked out, quite large. Room enough for 12. And that's not the boat we got. We got a much smaller boat. And I'd like to thank Mark Stern for that. It was a 12-person boat. It wasn't an icebreaker.
ALLISON SCAGLIOTTI (FROM AUDIENCE): Hi, Josh.
JOSH GATES: Oh, hello, Allison Scagliotti from "Warehouse 13."
ALLISON SCAGLIOTTI (FROM AUDIENCE): I have a question that I've wanted to ask you since I first saw your show a long time ago. And that is what does your necklace mean? Is it a clue?
JOSH GATES: Oh, yes, the necklace. The necklace is a clue. It's a clue to a mystery.
The necklace I bought when I was a kid in England. And I can't really remember where I bought it. And it's a sun dial, and I've had it forever. And I bought it -- I think I might have bought it at the airport somewhere in, like, some cheap shop in Heathrow somewhere when I was a kid. And I've had it forever, and I always wear it when I travel. And this last season while we were filming -- it's not on the show, unfortunately, because we didn't have a camera up -- we were getting off a plane in, I think, Istanbul, and I saw a guy with the same necklace on. And I stopped him in the aisle of the plane, and I was like (pointing to his necklace), and he was pointing at his neck. And I said, "I've never met anybody with this necklace." And he said, "I've never met anybody with this necklace either." And he bought his in Spain, like, 20 years ago.
But you'd be surprised how many questions we get about the necklace. A lot of questions. Stop staring at it.
MARK STERN: No, I'm just --
JOSH GATES: It's very powerful, Mark. You lose yourself, your gaze -- if you gaze into it --
QUESTION: What was your favorite country or city to visit and why? What was the culture that you most identified with that wasn't your own?
JOSH GATES: I really love the Himalayan cultures. We've done an episode in Nepal now. And we've stopped in Katmandu a few other times, and we did an episode last year in Bhutan. I love that part of the world. I also love Southeast Asia. From a vacation standpoint, that's usually where I go to. Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand. That whole corner of the world I really love. The culture of Southeast Asia is terrific. And each of those countries is so distinct. They're so close to each other, and it's easy to kind of hop around between them. But they're all so different and colorful and exotic and terrific people, great food. So when I sort of have off time and take a vacation, I'm usually bound for Southeast Asia somewhere.
QUESTION: How do they ensure your safety in these really exotic locations? And is there anyplace you won't go?
JOSH GATES: We try to be as safe as possible, obviously, on the show. We work with a local fixer in each country, a producer who -- we vet that individual or group of individuals very carefully. We want to work with local people who really understand all the intricacies of the politics of the place that we are going. And we've had great success with that. We try to work with the right people. But it is an adventurous show. It's an uncontrolled environment. And I think we also try to hire people who are on the show who really have their wits about them and who love being out in those environments and take it seriously. So as much as it's kind of cavalier a lot of the time on the show, the people that we've assembled to be out there really take their responsibilities seriously.
And in terms of places we can't go, there are a couple of places in the world. We have twice pitched Iraq to Mark, and he laughs in my face every time I pitch it. Haunting in Saddam's palace. I'm just saying it would be a great episode. And there's a couple of Central African countries and West African countries that are politically a little bit too unstable to bring our television show to. But what's interesting is how few of those places there really are. If you were to really break down a map of the world and look at the number of places you just couldn't bring a TV show, you could count them on one hand. Most of the world is really wide open to us.
QUESTION: To tie in the "Hollywood Treasure" show that's about to premiere, what is an item from "Destination Truth" that you think would be cool to auction off? And have you ever purchased any memorabilia, and what would you like to purchase?
JOSH GATES: I think it's a great question. First of all, I was salivating over the stuff that was up here. I would take the "Sports Almanac" [from Back to the Future] in a heartbeat. I'd make a bid on that. If Joe's still around, I'd like to know what that's valued at. Or the golden ticket [from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory], really. But for me, I would love -- I mean, I'd take anything from "Raiders," you know. I'd love, obviously, to get my hands on any prop from that film. I would love that map from "Goonies." I'd throw that right up on my wall. From "Destination Truth," the necklace, obviously. You know, what else do we really have to offer? A lot of smelly cargo shirts.
MARK STERN: You've got the Yeti footprints.
JOSH GATES: The Yeti footprint. That's right. We have a Yeti footprint that's over in [Disney's] Animal Kingdom just down the road, which we found kind of a nice home for and which, in and of itself, was, I think, a great story. Once we'd done all the tests on it, it's sort of like, "Well, what do you do with this?" And I think to Joe's point earlier, it's great when people were saying -- I think, Mark, you asked him if he sort of has remorse when he sells these things. And he was saying no, because they're still out there in the world. It's great that that Yeti footprint is publicly displayed over there so that people can go and check it out.