Josh Gates in Expedition Unknown
In normal years, Josh Gates logs roughly 200 days traveling the globe for his Discovery series, Expedition Unknown and Expedition X. After fifteen years spent living out of a suitcase, being grounded by the pandemic was a challenge — though one he readily accepted.
Discovery asked if he could make a show from home, and Josh Gates Tonight was born.
"Suddenly I was a talk-show host, which was absolutely surreal," Gates reports. "We've done sketches and field segments and upended what folks are used to seeing from me."
Back in college, Gates studied archeology and drama, and hoped to become a marine biologist. "I also had this love of writing and performing but wasn't really sure how to marry those things."
After college he'd work odd jobs, save enough money to travel, head home when funds got low and then repeat the process. "It was a long time before my brain said, 'Why don't you work in travel television?'"
Eventually, a producer friend mentioned that a new adventure-travel show — about a globetrotter who investigates legends and mysteries — needed a host.
The problem: his interview fell on the day he returned from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. "I was wearing filthy safari clothes," Gates recalls. "I'd been in Africa for a month. I stank. I had this huge beard. When I came into the office, fifteen NBCUniversal execs leaned back in horror. I said, 'I want to apologize for my appearance. I just got off a plane from Tanzania.'"
He got the job. Syfy's Destination Truth ran from 2007 to 2012.
Gates has since produced and hosted several series. Expedition Unknown, which launched in 2015, explores historic legends and archeological mysteries around the globe. Expedition X, which premiered in 2020, tends toward "things that go bump in the night — cryptozoological legends, paranormal stories. Those fascinate me," he says, "because I consider myself an open-minded skeptic."
Gates is back to filming Expedition Unknown, but he hasn't given up his talk show. "It's difficult to imagine doing both full-bore — there's no way to produce a weekly talk show if you're out of the country — but I hope Josh Gates Tonight continues."
While the pandemic gave him much-needed time at home with his family, Gates is glad he's cleared for takeoff. "I can't wait to see what comes next — and I can't wait to take viewers along."
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine issue #4, 2022, under the title, "A Wanderful Life."