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TV Feature Interview: Josh Gates Talks Destination Truth
Josh Gates Talks Monsters, Magic, and Mayhem
By Stephen Lackey
October 01, 2008
Josh Gates Sits Down for a Fireside Chat About His Series Destination Truth
© Stephen Lackey
Josh Gates stars in one of the SCIFI Channel’s most successful new series; Destination Truth. He’s a passionate explorer and traveler and a true skeptic. He has a degree in archeology rather than something more animal based. “I think what the network wanted was not someone who was a real advocate for these stories but someone who was just eager to find out more about them. So my credentials for the show are that I’m curious.” Gates believes that those credentials help him identify with the viewers and hopefully they help the viewer identify more with him as they travel through these stories. So far, the show has traveled to over 50 countries, more than double that of The Amazing Race and Gates has a goal to hit a hundred.
Gates sat down with us to talk about his show, his beliefs in the mysterious creatures he investigates, and what he and his team hope to do in the future.
What exotic locales Destination Truth will be traveling to for the second half of season two:
“We’re in the second half of our second season, and we’ve aired about half of the episodes and we’ll be doing future episodes in the Philippines as well as a one hour episode in Gambia and West Africa and that’ll be coming up in a few weeks. We’ll be in search of various creatures; there’s a haunting episode in the Philippines as well as a few creature based episodes in the Gambia.
How Gates and his team find subjects to investigate:
“We first want to find creatures or myths or phenomena that have some heat on them. We want to go to a place where we can talk to people who say I’ve seen this thing, I’ve had an experience. So, the first thing we do is we sort of cull local news from around the world and find places where people are having experiences. We don’t want to go somewhere to investigate a creature that no one has seen for a hundred years. That’s the first thing we do then we try to establish a route that makes sense because we actually travel all the way around the planet each time we film. So, we establish a route around the world and line those up with good stories that have good human elements and then we go from there.”
Which episode has been the most challenging to create yet:
“I think the most challenging episode is the last episode of this season which is in Gambia. We had a real problem there with customs. We had clearance to film there, and then when we arrived they were very suspicious of us when we arrived in the country with all of our gear. We obviously travel with military grade night vision scopes and all sorts of other things most people don’t travel around with. We were kind of accused of espionage when we got there and they kept the lion’s share of our gear at customs. So, we filmed that episode diminished in terms of what we had for gear. So that was probably the most challenging episode because we kind of had to make do with what we could sneak out of the airport under our clothes.”
“In terms of harrowing or most dangerous or scary episodes, it’s usually the places where we’re the furthest off the grid. We had a lot of close calls with wildlife this year, with snakes in particular. I think they’re all fun, we have a great time making it.”
Creatures that do exist and ones that are complete myths:
“There are certainly those that completely don’t exist and there are a lot of creatures that we look for on Destination Truth that I don’t have another explanation for. I’m kind of an open minded skeptic; I am someone who needs to be shown that something is real.”
Gates discusses an episode that has already shot involving a creature in Indonesia that he feels does have potential to exist. Even National Geographic has a team embedded there on the search. “I think there’s a good chance that he might be discovered” Gates comments
“I’m kind of also leaning toward the myth of the Yeti in the Himalayas. I certainly at least think that there’s something more going on there than science has been able to tap into. I think there are places where you could make a case and there are cases where you know, you could write it off and there are times when there’s a question mark hanging over it at the end and that’s okay for us too because it’s really for us about the journey and getting our viewers to see these places they’ve never seen and to experience these stories they’ve never heard about.”
On Bigfoot in North America:
“”I don’t really think there’s enough heat on that story. There are tracks in North America where there are pristine forests where people don’t travel to very often but at the heart of all of these creature stories one of the things you have to remember is that you have to be talking about a population of them. Nothing exists on its own. So if you’re talking about primates you have to be talking about a population of them. There’s never really been any credible physical evidence that’s come out of any of the forests in North America to suggest that there's some sort of large primate lurking around there.”
Gates discusses the recent discovery of the Bigfoot that hit CNN that was proven to be fake. He uses this story as example of the “real human interest” that people have in these kinds of stories.
The definition of the word truth:
“In terms of the framework of the show, I think it’s very hard to get to the truth on this show. Obviously, we have a real constraint which is that we are making a television show and I don’t have the benefit, like the National Geographic team I mentioned, of spending two years in Indonesia. The truth is something that’s scientifically very hard to get to. It involves a lot of experiments and hypothesis and testing; truth scientifically is hard to arrive at. I think that that’s part of the design of Destination Truth. It is our destination to where we’re headed. What we hope to achieve on the show is to get the people that are watching it excited and interested in both places that they may have never been or seen before and stories that they may have never heard of.”
“It really is very hard. The number of times I’m going to be able to throw a net over something in Destination Truth and kind of hold it up and say, “you know, I’ve got it” are gonna be few and far between. That’s truth, you know, me with Bigfoot strapped to the hood of my car. What we want to do is get people excited about looking for the truth.”
Avoiding duplication with the Ghost Hunters:
“Most of the hauntings that we do in Destination Truth are of a much different ilk than the stuff that you’d see on Ghost Hunters or GHI (Ghost Hunters International). Most of those (Ghost Hunters investigations) are sort of architectural oriented. This is a haunted building right? So, we’re gonna go and we’re gonna meet those people and we’re gonna investigate this property. The stuff that we do tends to become the nature of where we are; it has a little bit of a different flavor to it. We go to areas where there are you know, haunted forests and sort of wider spaces and that have more to do with, usually a tribal element and things like that. So we feel like it has a very different flavor than Ghost Hunters.”
Being a part of the SCIFI family:
“For me it’s been great. I’m actually a huge sci-fi nerd so for me on occasions when I get to hang out with Battlestar folks, it’s surreal for me because I’m a huge sci-fi aficionado. In terms of being on the reality side of the network, it’s been great. This show has given me an enormous amount of credibility in the hosting world, it’s allowed me to travel to 50 or so countries around the world, and what’s really been great about Destination Truth is that SCIFI has been really great about just letting us go and make the shows without a really bolted down framework. In the land of network television, that’s a rarity.”
Destination Truth airs Wednesdays at 11pm on SCIFI