Josh Gates takes a break from ‘Expedition Unknown’ to appear at the Genesee

Josh Gates takes a break from ‘Expedition Unknown’ to appear at the Genesee

Josh Gates has a job most of us only dream about — traveling to exotic locales around the world having adventures.

Gates is the host and executive producer of the long-running Discovery Channel series, “Expedition Unknown.” The series, which recently concluded its 12th season, follows Gates as he explores the world like a real-life Indiana Jones.

Gates is coming at 7:30 p.m. May 30 to the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan. His live show provides him the opportunity to bring his travel adventures to his fans.

“It’s really a chance for me to share some of the adventures that we have on ‘Expedition Unknown’ with viewers up close and personal,” he said. “It’s a lot of stories, there’s a lot of humor.

“It’s everything from great adventures and misadventures we’ve had on the road and a behind-the-scenes look at how the show is made and some of the stories behind the stories to looking back at some of the incredible places we’ve been. Paranormal hotspots, stories that go all the way back to the ‘Destination Truth’ days and really inviting (audience members) to be a part of the adventure.”

“Destination Truth” was a Syfy Channel series that Gates helmed for five years where he and his team investigated age-old legends.

When crafting this live show, he knew he wanted to tell the best stories in a fun and engaging manner.

“At the heart ‘Expedition Unknown,’ we’re telling stories. Being able to communicate those stories is a passion of mine and being able to do it in a live venue is really fun and something I don’t always get a chance to do,” he said.

“For me, it’s about talking about shows we’re working on right now — people can get a sneak peek at the episodes that are upcoming. But also just to look back at those shows people ask about the most. People really want to know more about certain adventures we’ve had so it’s really fun to be able to share those stories.”

There’s also a question-and-answer session. A “healthy percentage” of the audience wants to know about the paranormal, he said.

“People love to know more about some of the more legendary hot spots that we’ve been to over the years,” he said. “They want to know about some of the legends and ghosts stories of the places we’ve been. Other folks are really interested in history.

“They’re really interested in learning more about ancient Egypt or the Maya or some of the incredible civilizations we’ve had a chance to help excavate with archaeologists over the years. And some folks just want to talk about travel. Whether it’s how to travel, how to become an adventure traveler or how they can have experiences on their own.”

In between touring with his live show, he’s still working on “Expedition Unknown.” The show premiers its lucky 13th season in the summer, he said.

“Season 13 is one of our most diverse seasons yet,” he said. “We’re going to be doing everything from incredible stories here in the United States, we’re going to be investigating a real-life pirate ship off the coast of Massachusetts. We’re going to be digging into the story of America’s first train robbers in Indiana.

“And we’re also going to be going around the world. We’re going to be investigating an incredible story of a lost World War II aircraft off the coast of West Africa. We’re going to Egypt and investigating the search for the lost tomb of Alexander the Great — which is an incredible story. Alexander is arguably the most famous military ruler in human history — certainly maybe the most successful. And his tomb has vanished.

“This was once a really grand building that is somewhere in the city of Alexandria, Egypt, but it’s buried now and nobody seems to no where it is. It’s a really cool ancient missing-persons case.”

The places he picks to explore and investigate on the show need to have a compelling story, he said.

“If I tell you there’s a ruined Maya city deep in the jungle and archaeologists have never been able to find the tombs of the mysterious rulers who reigned there, that’s a cool story. Immediately, you’re going to lean in and go, ‘Wow, that’s a cool story, I want to know more about that.’ So part of it is just picking compelling stories,” he said.

“And the other component, which is really critical, is finding stories where there is an active investigation going on. We want to go to places where explorers and archaeologists are really digging in so we can bring viewers to the front lines of explorations and really be down in the trenches literally making discoveries. For us, it’s about finding that sweet spot between a great story and an active story.”

His job can be dangerous and as a father of two, tries to be as cautious as possible on his travels and understand the landscape, the politics, wildlife, the native bugs and animals.

“But part of the heartbeat of the show is that it is a real adventure and that means coming up against the unknown — it’s in the title,” he said. “A lot of the show takes place in these really dynamic environments. We are out in the jungles, way off the grid or SCUBA diving in these deep, dark wrecks in the ocean.”

He does his best to plan as much as possible but has to be nimble to react to circumstances as they change, he said.

Gates grew up in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts. His mother is British so they made frequent trips to England. His father was a commercial deep-sea diver and would travel all over the world.

“I can remember from an early age being entranced by the fact that my dad was going all over the world,” he said. “That combined with I’m a child of the ‘80s, so I feel like the third parent in my life was (Steven) Spielberg. So ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ and ‘Goonies’ were just a part of my childhood and I loved those ‘80s adventure movies.”

Gates attended Tufts University, double majoring in Archaeology and Drama.

“My poor parents. I couldn’t have picked two lower-earning majors. Maybe if I’d minored in philosophy or something,” he said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do. I thought I was going to become an archaeologist but I really had a love of writing and performing. It all came together in a very lucky way, for me to be able to have adventures and tell stories and to bring some of that history and geography back to folks at home.”

He’s excited about the tour and encourages families and kids to come out.

“It’s a really fun evening of legends and adventures. It’s a cool opportunity to come out and have an adventure of your own.”

Annie Alleman is a freelance reporter for the News-Sun.

Josh Gates

When: 7:30 p.m. May 30

Where: Genesee Theatre, 203 N. Genesee St., Waukegan

Tickets: $35-$79.50

Information: 847-263-6300;

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