AMANDA: Getting down to kind of the origin of Destination Truth, or the birth of Destination Truth, when did the idea for the show come up and when were you contacted to take place in it?
JOSH GATES: It’s a funny story actually. The guy who started Destination Truth…Neil Mandt…he’s a producer here in Los Angeles. He’s worked with ESPN in the past and he had come up with the idea for this show, and pitched it to Syfy [then Scifi]. It was sort of a different show when he pitched it. It bore some similarities to the show as it is now, but it was a little bit different.
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AMANDA: Oh, boo! I don’t like that!
JOSH: (Laughs) I know! And the channel didn’t really care for it, and they felt like the tone of it was kind of wrong. So they basically said to Neil, “We’d like to do a proper casting, where we do a search and try to find the right guy for this.” I had just known Neil through this ESPN thing I did with him a couple of years before [Beg Borrow and Deal], but I also knew him socially here in LA…and he knew I was just an avid travel guy who loved to travel, and he said to the channel “I have a guy who would be great for this…agree to meet my friend Josh!” And they said, “Okay, we’ll agree to meet your friend Josh.”
JOSH (cont.): While all of this was happening, I was overseas with a couple of buddies of mine – this is a long story, by the way, I’m sorry! (Laughs) I was overseas with a couple buddies of mine in Africa. I had planned this big trip to go climb Kilimanjaro. I was with two buddies of mine, we were climbing, and I’m in the middle of Tanzania. I get this email from Neil in Los Angeles that says “come home, I have a great job opportunity for you.” I was like “I’m in Africa, I’m not coming home,” and it’s LA, people say things like that, right?
JOSH (cont.): So I finished up my trip, I headed home, and I emailed him back. He said “come straight to my office when you land. Don’t even go home! Come from the airport right to my office!” So I went over to his office, and I was all filthy and dirty from being in Africa for a month. I stank and my clothes, literally! I just had this huge beard…like a neck beard. Just like, gross. I looked homeless!
JOSH (cont.): And I came into his office, and he said “there’s this show, and Syfy wants to do a pilot. They’re looking for a right guy, but they’ve narrowed it down to some other guys from the casting. I want you to go to this meeting, and I want you to come just like this! Don’t shower, don’t shave, don’t change your clothes – come to the meeting looking just like this!
AMANDA: So basically when you walked in, they were like “Who let Gary Busey into our damned office?”
JOSH: Seriously, when I walked in, I thought they were going to turn me away! It was super embarrassing actually…I looked horrible. I went into the waiting room at Syfy, which is up in this tower here in LA, this kind of tall building way up in the sky in this kind of futuristic looking office, a little intimidating. There were these three other guys they narrowed it down to…wearing business suits. I mean, they looked great! They’re all, like, game show guys and I looked like Homeless Joe.
JOSH (cont.): I was the last guy they called in, and there were a bunch of people in this room. More people than I expected were going to be in there. 10 or 15 people, Neil sitting there, and everyone looks at me, kind of taken aback ‘cause I looked all grizzly. And I just said, “Listen, I first of all want to apologize about my appearance. I just got off a plane from Tanzania.” And that was it. That’s how you get a TV show, apparently. You just have to look bad enough at the meeting, and if it’s a travel-adventure show, that’s how you get it.
JOSH (cont.): They thought there was an authenticity about me that these other guys didn’t have, and they agree to do the pilot with me. We shot in Malaysia, and that episode is kind of cycled into Season One, and that was it. That’s how I got the job. I basically went in and looked really terrible at an interview, and that seemed to have worked.
AMANDA: Let’s go back in time in the Josh Gates’ Mobile. We’ll talk about your life before DT. What made you choose Tufts University?
JOSH: I grew up on the north shore of Massachusetts, and my best friend…was going to Tufts, who was a couple years older than me. I was looking at schools, and I was applying to a lot of schools on the East Coast. For some reason, I didn’t feel like I wanted to go west or any other part of the country at that point. I really liked New England. I spent a couple of nights up at Tufts, hanging out with him and I really liked the school.
JOSH (cont.): At the time, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I thought I wanted to do something in Marine Biology, and they have a great science program there. It’s a sort of breeding ground for doctors. I went into the school thinking I was going to fall into something along those lines, and ended up majoring in archaeology and drama. They ended up having really interesting departments in all those areas, so I was sort of lucky I guess. It was only about an hour from my house, and I loved the campus and had a great feeling about it. They accepted me, which was also important. It seemed like a good choice, and I really enjoyed my time down there.
AMANDA: What kind of stuff did you do in your free time? Were you more of a clubs and “I’m gonna be in this and that play” kind of guy, or were you kind of more sail-by-the-wind and hang out with your friends kind of guy?
JOSH: I had done a little theater in high school and Tufts has a great theater, this beautiful theater in the round. A sunken in 360 degree stage, a really neat space. My freshman year at Tufts, I was kind of spotted by one of the drama professors how took an interest in me and put me in one of his shows. From that point on, I was doing a lot of drama stuff, worked with the Student Drama Organization there, and was President of that my Junior and Senior year. That was my big thing, but then, I really got into archaeology as well, so I did a lot of that.
JOSH (cont.): I also was fortunate enough that I had a car on campus. I always remember this, because my parents gave me this old hand-me-down Jeep and a lot of kids didn’t have cars. Because I lived so close to the university, I wanted to be able to go home on the weekends, see my parents, check in on them and stuff. So I spent a lot of time, you know, carting friends around in my car. Freshman year, I was the guy with the car, which was a real asset.
AMANDA: Pretty much! So, what kind of jobs did you have between college and “Destination Truth”? Did you do fast food stuff, or was it always about the photography?
JOSH: No, by the time I finished college, I was sort of on the acting track. At that time, though, I had started to travel a bit more, and my dad was always a traveler, so I think the seeds of that were beginning to grow. I was starting to get interested in seeing the world more, and I had done a bit of archaeology work in the summers, so I was really starting to get into that. The next logical thing for me seemed to be to come to LA because I didn’t want to come to New York since my whole life had basically been spent on the Eastern Seaboard, at that point. So I thought, “I’ll go West. I’ll do something different.”
JOSH (cont.): So I came to LA and sort of did the working actor routine for a while because it seemed like sort of a natural extension of the theater work I had done at school. And that went okay, I mean, that path is very similar for a lot of actors. You spend a lot of time trying to get into the union, which…took me a year or so. I waited tables, and I did all that kind of stuff.
JOSH (cont.): I would find myself saving up some money, then taking a trip, then saving up some money, then taking a trip, and I started doing photography because I was always interested in it. It was a great way to earn money that felt a little more satisfying than waiting tables…I was able to kind of build it because there’s a real market out here for fashion and headshot photography, obviously because there are so many actors out here. I was doing that, and it was artistic, and I was taking my camera when I traveled, but it didn’t really coalesce for a while.
JOSH (cont.): I did that for a few years, and I booked the [garbled word] commercials, and when I went to Kilimanjaro, strangely enough –and I had even done the ESPN thing, which was a lot of fun, and I was sort of trying to figure out how that would fit into a larger picture – but when I was in Africa, I really decided…in a vague way that I wanted to be able to travel…I felt like I wanted to earn a living doing it. And then the show kind of fell into my lap, so I always felt like that’s where I was kind of meant to arrive at, I think. You know, who knows what the future holds? But it seems like my love of travel really paid off, which is great. I feel really blessed about it.
AMANDA: Now, some of these acting gigs you have had, I just have to comment on. You were on the show “Flavor of Love” as a waiter?
JOSH: Yes, I was.
AMANDA: How did…how? I guess I’m at a loss for words because I think of Flava Flav and my brain implodes, but how [did you get the gig]? (Laughs)
JOSH: I was working as at the place that they had dinner and they needed someone to do it. I was friendly with the people who ran the place and it was just one of those things I just did. For years, I would just sort of do – which is really the case for anyone out here, you just sort of do what comes at you – and that kind of came at me. I’ve done kind of a bunch of silly little short films. And I don’t mean “silly” like they’re not good, but little shorts and things like that friends of mine were working on and I think that’s a big part of Los Angeles life to kind of make it in the entertainment industry is to always kind of be…making your own opportunities, so I did a bunch of little things like that. In the end, all those things never really led to anything, but it was something to do.
AMANDA: What about the short film “Singularity” with Matthew Nix? How did you luck into that?
JOSH: I knew Matt Nix because I was a friend of a great friend of his named Paul Gutrect [“Saw”, “Burn Notice”], and Matt has actually found a lot of success the last couple of years. He’s the show runner/creator for “Burn Notice” on [the] USA [channel]. He was making a short, and had a deal with the Fox, um, I forget the name of it, Fox Filmlab or something like that?
AMANDA: Searchlab films?
JOSH: Searchlab, that’s right! He had done this deal to make a short with them, so we kind of met and hung out. Had this fun idea for a little short, so we hammered that out in a couple of days, and it was just a neat opportunity to do a short. It was the first thing I had ever done that was in any way special effects driven. I think it was a real learning experience for all of us. It was really hard. I think that for Matt and myself and the production designers, it was a real trial-by-fire working with the digital effects, and something that I hadn’t had a lot of opportunity to do, so it was fun!
AMANDA: I think you should hit Matt up to see if he can get you a role on “Burn Notice”.
JOSH: It’s been talked about. It has been talked about!
AMANDA: Really? Wow!
JOSH: I just saw him not that long ago, and there was a time last year where he had some really funny part for, I forgot who the guy was, but I guess he got shot at some point in the series, and it didn’t really work out with my schedule. But I would love that, I would really love that. I’m hopeful, and he’s just a great guy. So I’m hopeful at some point that something can come to bear between him and I.
AMANDA: Alright, before I let you lose with the fans, I have another round of rapid fire questions. Are you ready?
JOSH: I’m ready!
AMANDA: Pilsner, or Summer Ale?
JOSH: Summer Ale.
AMANDA: Stephen King, or Michael Crichton?
JOSH: Michael Crichton. That’s a close one, but I read all the Michael Crichton books.
AMANDA: Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?
JOSH: I think it’s a fruit.
AMANDA: See, I agree with you!
JOSH: I think it is.
AMANDA: Do you live for today, or do you live for tomorrow?
AMANDA: Top five TV shows you’re watching right now?
JOSH: I am watching “Hell’s Kitchen.” I am watching “Mad Men.” I am watching – it’s tough, ‘cause we’re in the summer break here! I’m watching “Wipe Out,” I don’t know if that’s like my guilty pleasure. I’m watching “The Daily Show.” Um…
AMANDA: Are you watching “Flipping Out”? The new season just premiered.
JOSH: No, I didn’t even know it premiered. I love that show! I’m not watching that, but I think I’m watching, hmm, God, I don’t even know what else I’m watching! I’m watching-
AMANDA: “Destination Truth’ on the Syfy Channel!
JOSH: “Destination Truth.” Next Week! Shameless plug.
AMANDA: And you’re watching “Ghost Hunters.” Obviously.
JOSH: Obviously! And if it were the fall, I would be watching “The Office” and “30 Rock,” as well. I love “Mad Men.” I think Mad Men is the best thing on TV, so I’m watching a lot of that.
AMANDA: Yeah, I see you quoting “Mad Men” on Twitter all the time, so I figured that would be in there.
JOSH: It’s such a great show!
AMANDA: And your top five movies of the year? I know “District 9” is going to be in there!
JOSH: “District 9,” for sure. “Star Trek” was great. “The Cove” was awesome, that documentary on Japanese Dolphin killing was great. I mean, it’s been a terrible summer for movies, let’s not kid ourselves.
AMANDA: True. Very true.
JOSH: It’s been awful! Everything else has been basically horrible. “The Time Traveler’s Wife” and “GI JOE,” it’s [all] been awful.
AMANDA: Yeah, I saw “Observe and Report” and I literally just lost my passion for movies in one whole day.
AMANDA: I saw it, and thought it was such a joke.
JOSH: I’m saying “Star Trek” and “District 9” and “The Cove,” and I can’t think of what else I’ve seen this year. I mean, I see almost everything, which is crazy, but I feel like there have been so few really memorable, great movies that have come out this year. I’m sure there are a couple of big ones I’m missing that have been terrific…but I’m saying “District 9” is the movie of the summer, for sure.
AMANDA: Well, while I’m waiting for the fans to call in, how about another either/or question? “Raiders of the Lost Arc” and “Jaws.” If you had to only watch one of those movies for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
JOSH: It’s an absolutely unfair question, first of all, because they’re basically the two best films ever made. I’m gonna say, and this might be the dark horse winner, but I’m definitely gonna say “Jaws”…I know them both backwards and forwards, but for some reason…if I could only watch one of both forever, it might be “Jaws.”