Chatting to 10 play, Todd explained that he keeps a list on his phone of upwards of 40-50 cultures, groups or tribes he wants to potentially explore.
“The first step is I have to be genuinely interested,” he said, “the next thing is does that tribe or group of people have something to offer an audience?”
Returning for its fourth season, Body Hack once again takes Todd across the globe to meet fascinating and extraordinary people, to find out more about what they do and how they live. Todd and his team then explore how those individuals are unique, how they’re different from mainstream society, and what we can learn about our everyday lives from them.
“It’s kind of a cascading process,” he said, adding, “nothing ever goes to plan”.
“When you make these kinds of documentaries, immersive documentaries,” Todd said, “you just have to go with it. You have to go with the flow.”
Because Todd learns by doing he immerses himself into every aspect of the groups he meets, rather than showing up to be a passive observer, he puts his mind and body on the line, testing his own limits.
“I can explain things better after I’ve experienced it because I’ve seen it from the inside. But sometimes, when you agree to join them to do what they do, that could go in many directions,” he said.
But getting so involved does come with risks, especially when many of the situations Todd is putting himself into are quite extreme.
“Pretty much every episode I get that, ‘Oh we’ve gone too far’ moment. Every episode,” he said.
“I’ve never done an episode where I thought; oh that’s all easy and gone to plan. Even in Voodoo when I’m on my knees, naked, and they’re performing this ritual above my head,” he continued, “killing animals that are bleeding over my body — as a vegetarian I’m thinking I’m in too deep.”
Despite feeling like he may be in over his head, Todd said it after the ritual, he was able to confront and challenge his own preconceived notions of Voodoo and their practices.
“I got lured into that world and found it amazing and fascinating. I found that it challenged my biases and my misunderstandings of what Voodoo is all about, which is a western filter,” he said.
After the ritual when the cameras had stopped rolling, still covered head-to-toe in blood, Todd said he looked at his crew and joked, “That’s it. I’m going to do studio cooking shows from here on out.”
While some of the scenarios Todd puts himself through can be quite extreme because he’s willing to put himself on the line he says he’s able to gain the respect of the groups he’s immersed himself with.
“Because I’m willing to give it a go, genuinely willing to give it a go, I earn their respect. It’s not on day one or two or three, but eventually,” he said.
“Like with the French Foreign Legion when I was injured, my hands were bleeding and I continued on, it changed their whole perspective of me. They thought I’d be a journalist who sits on a chair until the camera’s rolling,” he said.
“Once you have the respect of the tribe or the group, you’re a lot safer. You’re definitely a lot safer, but if you don’t have that respect there’s always a risk.”
Though Todd is constantly travelling across the world to find diverse pockets of people who offer unique stories and points of view, back in season one he received a comment from a fan that changed his whole perspective and approach to the series.
“I remember someone reached out to me and said, ‘I love your show it allows us to see the world through a different lens and challenge our preconceived ideas but a lot of your heroes are male.’ And that completely changed my view of the whole thing,” Todd said.
“I think we all have our biases, sometimes we don’t really notice them they’re unconscious biases… from that moment on I put a filter over it and said I want not just male/female but also sexual orientation and just make sure we get the diversity because they’re out there! It’s not like we’re trying to fabricate or find it.”
In Season 4, Todd meets a female driver in the demolition derby, they travel to Japan to see a female perspective on martial arts and finally travel to Benin and meet a female Voodoo priestess.
“I put a filter over it many, many years ago to make sure we get enough diversity of heroes… I just made sure we got as much balance as we could.”
Though he’s managed to get to some incredible locations around the world so far in the series, his dream episode takes him a little bit further than he’s been so far.
“I think it would be amazing to see how people really live in space stations. It would be incredible. I mean, it’s very difficult, we’ve looked into it a few times,” he explained.
“In the future when I’m long gone, maybe my girls will do that episode for me.”