Josh Bernstein, a native New Yorker, is a real-life Indiana Jones. As the host of The History Channel’s Digging for the Truth, Bernstein travels the world, looking to uncover the greatest archaeological mysteries the planet has to offer. Digging for the Truth, which premiered in 2005, has since become the highest rated program of The History Channel’s existence. Josh graciously stopped by to answer a few questions for us.
I noticed that you were born and raised in New York City. How did you go from city kid to an adventurous lover of the great outdoors?
Ah, the most common question I get these days. I go into this at some depth in the first chapter of my new book (Digging for the Truth: One Man’s Epic Adventure Exploring the World’s Greatest Archaeological Mysteries) but the short answer is that I think I was always both. Even as a child, I remember loving camping and being outside. Perhaps the two are not mutually exclusive.
After your near-death incident with the fire ants, you got right back into your adventures. Would you say that you are a fearless person by nature?
You know, I’ve often been asked what I’m afraid of… Not bugs, not the dark, not heights, not flying, not small spaces. So far, I haven’t come up with any “normal” fear, but I’m still searching since I don’t think of myself as “fearless” –just perhaps someone with a high threshold for discomfort and a curiosity to try things.
What has been your most memorable or incredible adventure thus far?
Oh boy. I actually remember all of my adventures surprisingly well. After all, each has been the opportunity of a lifetime, and I make a conscious effort to commit each to memory as best as I can. But there are some things I hold more special than the others: shooting a traditional bow on horseback in Mongolia, visiting the uppermost chamber of the Great Pyramid in Egypt, being alone with the Mona Lisa in the Louvre in Paris …
Who have you learned the most from along the way?
Well, I haven’t had any one person there with me for all 38 episodes to date, as the crew shuffles in and out during each 8-month season of filming. So rather than single out a person, I’d have to say I’ve learned the most from the insightful experience of simply traveling the world. In a way, I’ve had my very own Odyssey, exploring distant lands and exotic cultures, and I’ve been excited to share those journeys with the world at large.
Who chooses the destinations for each adventure? Do you have a place that you would like to go to?
Episode topics and locations are chosen by the executive producer of the series at The History Channel and by the producers at JWM Productions in Takoma Park, Maryland. I do make some suggestions as to where I’d like to go, but there are many other criteria that go into an episode than just location.
I have now been to over 30 countries in the past 3 years, but have yet to get farther east than Mongolia. I’d love to go to India, Nepal, China, New Zealand and Australia. Time will tell.
Would you say that you and your show are a real life Indiana Jones episode?
No, I would not say that. Indiana Jones is a character from a Hollywood feature. Digging for the Truth is a non-fiction historical documentary series. We overlap in the area of archaeology but as I’ve said many times before, the differences are significant. For example, there are no Nazis chasing me on my journeys, there are no women to be rescued, there are no stunt doubles for activities, and our conversations in the field are not scripted. I think it’s best to leave Indiana Jones and Digging for the Truth in separate categories.
Your show has been the highest rated show in the history of The History Channel, to what do you attribute that to?
I think a variety of things contribute to the show’s success. Some believe it’s the format of the show – the way it invites viewers to join me on a journey and explore each mystery without necessarily knowing much about it at the start. It’s not threatening, which makes the show fun and more accessible for a diverse audience. But others believe it may also be the adventurous activities, or the spectacular cinematography. I guess it’s a lot of things, including the fact that all of us at DFT work very hard to make each episode the best it can possibly be.