Emmy Award-winning Kiwi broadcasting legend Phil Keoghan (Spot On, The Amazing Race), is the new host of National Geographic's legacy show Explorer, the longest-running documentary series on television
Newly rebooted for 2019, Explorer showcases issues on the front lines of major environmental, scientific and historical discoveries. Keoghan leads a team of correspondents comprised of filmmakers, journalists, researchers and scientists, all with a deep passion for the planet.
TimeOut sat down with Keoghan in Los Angeles.
Were you familiar with National Geographic Explorer before you got this job?
I came to Los Angeles in 1992. I turned on the TV and immediately gravitated towards National Geographic Explorer. There was something about the show that captured my imagination. I wanted to work on the show, really badly.
My wife and I made an environmental pilot called E-Team. As part of that we pitched a story about a book called The Cry of the Panther, written by a guy named Jim McMullen. It was about his work trying to protect the Florida panther in the Everglades. Little did I know that 25 years later I would be getting the opportunity to host Explorer and the story that I pitched 25 years ago was a story I was now going to be telling. It was my first story, I was tracking the Florida Panther. So in a way I feel like it was meant to be that I was eventually going to end up working on this show.
What's changed in the rebooted version of the show?
What they're wanting to do is get the show back to what the show was then, kind of a reboot back to its roots, back to what it was before. I don't really know, to be honest with you, the incarnation of the other Explorers made in recent years. I just remember the one I saw when I first came. I'm 25 years older and now I've got a chance to be part of it, so, very excited.
What are some of the most interesting places you've visited for the show?
I've gone into the belly of the beast, into Masaya Volcano in Nicaragua. Went into a bear den in Maine with biologists who monitor the bear population there. One of the more interesting stories I did was at the border of Pakistan and India, the Beating Retreat, where Pakistani and Indian soldiers do a ritualistic closing of the gate every night at sunset. Wait until you see that. It's an eye-opener.
You've always been something of an explorer yourself right?
It's inherently part of who I am. I left New Zealand when I was 3 with my parents. My dad's a plant scientist, my mum's a music teacher. We travelled extensively through the Caribbean and South America. Lived in Colombia for a little while. Trinidad and Tobago. Through my parents, I guess, that's where my passion for being an explorer came from.
Explorer and National Geographic come from a very pro-environmental perspective. Has being from New Zealand informed your view on enviromental issues?
Well, growing up as the son of a plant scientist and my dad being part of the Department of Conservation in New Zealand. Listen, we don't have a perfect track record for conservation in New Zealand. We've made some mistakes. It's influenced me only because my dad made me very aware of the environment and the world from a very early age. I think it's a combination of coming from New Zealand, because it's a big topic that we talk about at home but also I think the primary influence for me is my dad, because there are conversations I still have with [him].
Do you think a show like Explorer can make a difference?
We wanna be a show where there's some sense of hope. We're able to highlight people who are making a difference. Because it's very easy for people to feel like we're in a hopeless situation and there's nothing you can do. A show like Explorer can highlight the differences people are making, like this young Dutch guy who came up with a solution to collect trash out of the ocean, which is a major problem. How old is this kid, like 22 or something? It makes us feel like, maybe I can do something because look at these people who are leading the way, they're the ones who are showing us that there's hope.
Are you still really into cycling?
Oh yeah. Love cycling. I retraced the 1928 Tour de France on a 1928 bicycle [as chronicled in his feature documentary Le Ride]. That's how much I love cycling.
Who: Phil Keoghan
What: The rebooted Explorer
When: Monday 9.30pm on the National Geographic Channel