"The challenge of what I do is that I'm trying to educate people in a fun manner," he continues. "I have to be somewhat entertaining and I don't mean that in a false way but there's one thing about being knowledgeable about a subject and another thing to be able talk about it in simplistic terms that a layman can understand. An example of this would be when I meet a professor or some other academic type and they'll say, 'Well, I can't talk like that. This is just how I speak.' I think that a true genius is someone who can explain a very complex subject in elementary terms. There's something to be said for the simplicity of a performance."
Wiese became involved in broadcast journalism by hosting a show on BBC called "Hell on Earth" which was about the supposedly hottest place on earth. He also did an American series called "Exploration with Richard Wiese". The difference with these shows and "Born to Explore" is that Wiese actually owns the new show. "I always wondered about having the opportunity to do a show and how I would do it. ABC has been very gracious and the distribution company Litton Entertainment sends me occasional notes but for the most part they've given me free reign editorially." Of course it helps that the ratings have been good, too!
The most challenging aspect of "Born to Explore" is that Wiese and his crew have a contract for twenty six original half hour episodes. "That's a lot of TV," he says with enthusiasm. "Almost all our shoots are international. I'm getting on planes with a very small group of people. There are four, sometimes five people on a shoot and then I have to kick back and help them edit the episode. That's the biggest challenge."
"My last shoot was in Morocco," Wiese continues, "and I found the challenge there was working in a basically Islamic country. I think there are lots of predisposed thoughts in our country about what 'Islam' means. The goal of our show is to present a culture, a people or an event that is different from our own and highlight the beautiful aspects of it. We're constantly going to places we might never have heard of, much less have an opinion of. I want to be able to tell the story of any group of people in their words. I try to show sensitivity as to how I describe people and things. It's all about trying to paint a positive picture. One of the roles of an explorer is to go someplace that's no their own and say, 'Hey, this is what it's really like' instead of inciting crowds to nuke them or destroy their cities. This is something that's very important in the geo-political climate we have today."
A published author, Wiese wrote a book entitled BORN TO EXPLORE and in a way it was the impetus for the television series. "I was escorting a group of high school students to Antarctica and the ship came across a group of fifty whales which was a phenomenal sight. The whale biologist onboard started crying he was so moved by what he saw. Yet there were kids on that boat who didn't get off their little gameboys and walk the mere twenty feet to the window to take a look. I felt right then and there that there was something wrong with that type of disconnect. The idea of the book was to introduce subjects we were already familiar with and make up look at the world through different eyes."
He continues by adding, "I walk into Grand Central Station and the walls and floors are covered with fossils. Half a million people go through there daily and perhaps only a handful of those people realize that. The floors are made out of limestone and marble and there's imbedded fossils there. Really, when I have free time in Grand Central Station, I go fossil hunting. It's a different approach."
The impetus for the television show is a bit different, though. "I felt that many of the genres of outdoor shows had hosts who were almost getting killed every week (which seemed kindda ridiculous or false) or was extremely sensationalized. I feel that the outdoors are sensational on their own in a true manner. I always was of the feeling that no matter whether I went to the North Pole or Everest that it wasn't the summit of Everest or the North Pole that was the most memorable for me, it was the people I met along the way. I wanted the show to feel the way I feel when I go on a real expedition. Some of the neatest things are what happens behind the scenes and the people we meet along the way: the guides, the experts, the animal handlers. They're all local. I think the audiences are enjoying that and appreciating the sincerity of the show."
"I think there's still a lot of magic in this world," Wiese continues. "I don't mean pulling a rabbit out of a hat, but I think I look around at the sky or the terrain or the people of different cultures. I look at all aspects of life as being interesting."
According to the world traveler, "The world has, surely, become a smaller place. There's a certain sameness and you'll see people wearing Nike shirts all over the world. I remember going to Europe as a child and seeing people wearing lederhosen or in Japan seeing someone wearing a kimono. There still are places like that. We were with the pygmies in Uganda, where they wore clothes made of bark. It looked like leather but it really was bark. I was just up in Canada-in an Inuit community-where they're still wearing seal skin and caribou skin stuff. Please understand that my ancestors might have used a horse and carriage but the fact that I drive a car doesn't make me any less American than they were. The fact that you might have an Inuit or a Moroccan using a cell phone or computer doesn't make them less Inuit or Moroccan. There's a natural evolution of things."
"I'm really lucky in my profession," Wiese goes on. "What would make my job really over-the-top is if I could introduce this to my own children. I have three very little kids right now so just going to the beach with them is enough. My twin boys are almost two years old and my daughter is three and a half. My dream would be to show the world to my kids and have my wife come along. In a somewhat narcissistic way, I want people to say they appreciate my work because it made them want to do something or go in a different direction or career. When that does happen, I'm very, very happy." Wiese's wife is from South Africa and a woman blessed with infinite patience and understanding concerning her husband's chosen profession.
If, indeed, "All the world's a stage", then Richard Wiese is living in one of the happiest productions to tread the boards at The Globe Theatre or any other. Its plot is filled with adventure, intriguing characters, plenty of plot twists and a charming central figure. May "Born to Explore" continue playing to packed houses and be blessed with the longest run possible.
For more information about Richard Wiese and "Born To Explore" visit: www.newsweather.com.