Flying High With Phil Keoghan premieres this Sunday, August 6th at 8 p.m. ET/PT on the Smithsonian Channel. Sunday’s special will feature Keoghan showing viewers his home country of New Zealand in a way they’ve never seen it before.
CBS Local’s Matt Weiss caught up with Keoghan to discuss his vision for the show, the people of New Zealand and what it was like to ride in a 100 year old WW1 aircraft.
MW- Hey Phil, how’s it going?
PK- I’m good mate, how are you?
MW- I’m doing great! Now you’re obviously an experienced traveler, you’ve visited over 100 different countries, but there’s no place like home. In this Sunday’s Flying High With Phil Keoghan viewers will get an inside look at your home country of New Zealand. The show features some amazing scenery and highlights some really interesting men and women.
How did this particular show come about, was it something you’ve always wanted to do or was this an idea that was brought to you?
PK- Well I have always enjoyed talking to people in front of a camera and I’ve done a number of shows that profile people. It’s really the impetus for my career, trying to get interesting people in front of a camera. I just think its timely right now to have a personality driven show with great captivating characters to entertain.
Talk shows are big right now and what we set out to do was create a talk show that was on the road instead of being in a studio. I guess you could say that instead of having our guests fly to sit on a couch in an air conditioned studio, by the way I love those types of shows, but what makes our show different is instead of our guests coming to our studio we go to their studio. We go to where they live, we go to the place that they call home. In this particular case it happens to be New Zealand.
Our goal is to show people like Sam Neil and Peter Jackson, there’s also a guy who rounds up sheep with a drone, to show those people in their natural environments, where they’re most the comfortable, the place that they are inspired by. You get a first hand look at where they live as opposed to them talking about something that is happening back at home, we actually see it.
MW- You mentioned Sam Neil and Peter Jackson, two people you had on for this upcoming episode. You visited Sam’s winery and Peter’s WW1 plane hangar, which was more impressive to you – the size of Peter’s plane collection or the size of Sam’s pet pig, Angelica?
PK- [Laughs] Well they’re two completely different experiences, it’s impossible to pick. I also got to go home and walk around the garden with my dad which was a huge honor. It’s all totally different experiences. There’s nothing like meeting people who are passionate about what they do. That’s what I’m hoping people will get when they watch this show, that they get inspired and they think, ‘wow how cool is it that these people are so excited about their lives and what they get to do every day.’
Certainly that’s the case with Sam Neil and Peter Jackson. We wanted to make so called “ordinary” people out of people like Sam and Peter and then make celebrities out of ordinary people. The farmer who rounds up sheep with a drone for example, everybody seems so captivated with that story and I think it’s because it’s new and it’s different, it’s an original approach and people love it.
MW- It’s a unique story for sure. When you were with Peter you got to take a ride up in one of his WW1 planes and it looks like you played it pretty cool but I imagine there were at least some nerves involved going up in a plane with parts that are over 100 years old.
PK- Yea you have to try to play it cool, but you’re absolutely right I can’t lie I was a little nervous going up in a plane with parts over 100 years old [laughs]. It’s kind of the opposite of a 787 with the latest technology, this is 100 year old technology with 100 year old pieces of wood. It’s certainly not a test flight, maybe testing whether the flight can stay in the air. These things have been flying for so long.
Thankfully, Peter and his team know what they’re doing and they did a good job at making sure this flight was going to stay in the air. Absolutely you’re thinking about it though, you’re like, “Err let’s hope this isn’t the LAST flight for this 100 year old plane.”
MW- Well thank goodness it wasn’t! You mentioned earlier your dad is on this episode, what was that experience like working with your own father?
PK- My dad was actually the greeter on season 13 of Amazing Race when we came to New Zealand, he’s been on a number of adventures with us, he was driving the support vehicle on our film called, Le Ride, where I retraced the 1928 Tour de France. We try to take him out on as many adventures as we can.
I don’t want to be a contestant on The Amazing Race but if I ever had to, he would be a great partner. He’s fit, he’s strong, he’s smart, he’s interesting and we happen to get on really well when we travel which is nice.
MW- You’re obviously very familiar with New Zealand being a Kiwi yourself, but was there anything new you learned while filming?
PK- I think what was really surprising to me, we set out with the premise that these people all had something in common in terms of all having this can-do attitude, this Kiwi can-do attitude. I guess we just didn’t realize the extent of how common that thread was until we went out and we put it all together.
My wife and I – when we were going through the interviews we realized that there were a lot of the same quotes coming from people that were all saying the same types of things. It was very evident that there was a common thread that will hopefully come through loud and clear.
MW- Now last question before I let you go, what is your absolute favorite thing about New Zealand? Your best sales pitch for someone thinking about visiting.
PK- Well it’s just being with New Zealanders, being with people. At one point we have some comedians on and they say, “If you come to New Zealand what you want to do is go to a pub and have a drink with somebody.” I think that really says it all. Go to a pub, mix with the locals. That’s really what distinguishes one place from another is immersing yourself with the local people, that’s what I would recommend.
MW- Well I’ll be sure to do that if I find myself in New Zealand someday. Thank you so much for the time today Phil and I’m looking forward to watching Flying High on Sunday!
PK- Awesome, thanks so much!
Flying High With Phil Keoghan premieres Sunday, August 6th at 8 p.m. ET/PT. Check your local listings for more information.