Last week I got a chance to speak with “Boston Rob” Mariano, who you all know is the 4-time Survivor player and most recent winner, who basically put on a master clinic last Spring. Always one for adventure, Rob didn’t wait too long after winning Survivor: Redemption Island to tackle his next challenge…as co-host of the new 10-part TV show “Around the World in 80 Ways” which premieres on HISTORY next Sunday, October 2nd at 10:00 EST.
Here’s the conversation with Rob as he talks in-depth about the new show, his co-host Dennis Anderson (creator of the monster truck Gravedigger), and also answers a few questions about Survivor that you may find interesting.
How does “Around the World in 80 Ways” compare to Survivor and The Amazing Race in terms of difficulty?
Boston Rob: The main difference is, with Survivor and The Amazing Race, I was competing to win a million dollars. There’s no million dollar prize at the end of this show, it’s all about the journey. The premise of this show is to circumnavigate the globe using 80 forms of transportation, without repeating any form. When I found out that Thom Beers was behind the show and the idea [ Editors note: Thom Beers is the producer of hit shows such as Deadliest Catch, Monster Garage, and Ice Road Truckers.], I immediately jumped at the opportunity to work with him. Mainly because mainly he makes the kind of television that I enjoy watching. In terms of difficulty, it’s different. I think The Amazing Race gave me a foundation for traveling internationally, and with Survivor, the main thing I learned with Survivor, is that it’s a social game, and life is a social game. Whenever you travel around the globe you’re immersed with different cultures and different people, and at the end of the day, you have to be able to communicate and interact with them. In all respects, this show is different, it’s more about the journey and the interaction I have with my co-host, and the celebration of the different forms of transportation.
Speaking of the different forms of transportation, can you tell us about some of those?
One that really stood out in my mind was, I got to take a hot air balloon from the middle of the Serengeti [Africa] over the landscape, and we actually got to see the great migration as it was passing by. We got to see the wilderbeasts, all the animals, and that was a pretty awesome experience. Something else that caught me by surprise, we did a version of what they call “heli-skiing” where usually a helicopter would drop you off at the top of a mountain and you would ski down. My co-host Dennis thought it would be a good idea to attach some ropes off the back of the helicopter, which we did, and I actually water-skied behind the helicopter, which I had never seen done before, but it was a pretty adrenaline-filled awesome experience. We tried to use different forms of transportation that were indigenous to the area that we were in, so for example when we where it Botswana, which is the donkey capital of the world, we got a couple of donkeys and raced them. (laughs). Likewise when we were in Dubai, we drove Ferraris and speedboats.
Now as part of the show from what I understand, you and your co-host Dennis often compete from time to time, and I’m sure you spent a lot of time together. Tell us about Dennis and some of these challenges.
One, every single day was a challenge for him (laughs). Unfortunately for him, he’s not on the line to defend himself, so I can’t be too hard on him. He hasn’t really travelled internationally, he’s a complete fish-out-of-water, everything was just brand new. He’s falling into all of these tourist traps. He tries the different food in the different countries, the street food, and if you’ve travelled to India, you know you don’t eat the food off the side of the road, it’s going to make you so sick. But that didn’t stop him.
What was the worst part of this whole experience for you?
For me it was just missing home and missing the family. This show was 10 1/2 weeks, that’s almost twice as long as any of the other shows I’ve done. Fortunately I was able to stay connected by phone and internet and all that stuff, so that was one of the biggest challenges for me, and for him [Dennis] I think as well.
In the promo for “Around the World in 80 Ways,” you mention that Dennis nearly killed you several times. Can you give us one example?
Yah, pretty much any time he was in charge of driving anything. (laughs) I mean he wrecks things for a living, that’s what he does. One time in particular, we were in Botswana in a canoe with an engine on the back of it. And we were looking at all the wildlife, the hippos, the crocodiles. All of a sudden the engine cuts out. Dennis had been revving it and stopping it, and we ended up in the water between a hippo and where all the family of hippos were on the land. All of a sudden all of these hippos started charging us. Now granted, they’re about 60 feet away, but they’re coming right at us! I’m looking at him, he’s trying to start the engine, the producers were all white-faced with their mouths open as if to say, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ Fortunately he got the engine started just in time, but there was that moment where I looked around, and we met with production and said, hey this is not Disneyland, we are not on a Magic Kingdom ride, we’re in Africa, this is real and we need to be careful what we’re doing. Dennis thought the whole thing was a big joke.
Is there one place you visited that you would want to go back to?
I went to New Zealand, in Queenstown, and I though it was absolutely gorgeous. It’s the adventure capital of the world, I just think that whole island is amazing, I talk about it all the time with my family, I’d love to take them all there. A couple places I have never personally visited that I would want to, down to Antartica to see the whales and icebergs…that whole area of the world I’ve never really had a chance to explore.
Part of your great Survivor play was due to your ability to adapt and learn as you go. What do you feel you’ve learned from the new show?
You’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head, that’s pretty much how I live my life. It’s a simple principle but you need to figure out how to adapt to any situation that you are in, and how to turn it into your advantage. But the ability to think outside of the box on this show, I think was critical, in order for us to have a chance to make it to the end of our journey. It wasn’t so much where we going, it was more about the journey getting there.
If Dennis was a contestant on Survivor, is he the kind of guy who would have been an immediate threat, or a person you think you may have aligned with?
Hmmm…His ass would have been voted off first. (laughs) He’s opinionated…he would have lasted a little while but he would have never won the show. Never, ever, ever, ever. Mark my words, I’ll go on record and say that he would never win the show. I don’t think he has what it takes, and that’s not a bad thing. He’s a lot like me in that he’s opinionated, and he’s competitive, driven, but I can keep my mouth shut when I need to, and I don’t think he can.
So what do you think of the Boston Red Sox’s chances, as we speak they are in danger of slipping out of the Wild Card hunt…
Hopefully they get it together, they’re really struggling right now. Let me tell you something though, I saw Red Sox hats all over the world. You don’t have to live in Boston to be a Red Sox fan.
What’s next for you?
Well, I’d like to continue hosting but I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by some of the best producers in television, with Mark Burnett and Thom Beers. I’ve learned a lot from them. I’ve learned that compelling storytelling is what makes great television, reality television in particular. So I would like to stay involved in the production element of television, but to delve into things a bit more, develop some original content. Ultimately that’s where my future is going to be, in television. Amber and I have talked about starting our own production company as well.
Are you ruling out ever competing on a reality show again? Specifically, would you ever play Survivor again?
No. I mean I’ve done everything I’ve ever wanted to out of Survivor. Look, I won the show, that was my ultimate goal. My wife won the show. As a contestant, I won’t be back on Survivor.
Interesting wording, would that make you consider taking over for Jeff Probst as host if he did indeed leave Survivor for his daytime talk show beginning Fall 2012?
That’s something that Jeff would have to call and ask me to do.
“Around the World in 80 Ways” premieres on HISTORY this Sunday, October 2nd at 10 EST. Be sure to subscribe above and follow all of my Survivor coverage on Twitter, @tomsantilli or at tomsantilli.com.