Ever since MythBusters premiered on the Discovery Channel in 2003, co-host Adam Savage’s name has become synonymous with the program. Yet the outgoing myth-buster didn’t always spend his days tearing things down for the sake of science and education on television. In fact, as the original MythBusters intro frequently reminded viewers, Savage, fellow co-host Jamie Hyneman, and team members Kari Byron, Tory Belleci and Grant Imahara got their start in the myth-making business. Creating movie magic with special effects, and the art and mechanics that support them, was their primary trade.
Which is why Savage finds himself in a rather interesting position as the host of the new podcast SYFY 25: Origin Stories. For the month of September, the 15-part series will celebrate the genre-centric cable channel’s 25th years with long conversations between Savage and celebrated science fiction writers, television, and film producers, and makeup and special effects artists. On the one hand, the host’s professional experience with the Star Wars prequels, The Matrix trilogy, and other flagship entries makes him the perfect person to interview the likes of Neil Gaiman, D.C. Fontana, and Rick Baker. On the other hand, Savage’s well-known fandom may help him connect with such pop culture stalwarts in a way others can’t. Or as he explains it to Uproxx while geeking out over Star Trek and comic books, “If you scratch the surface of a creator, you’re going to find a fan.”
“Someone once asked Sunset Boulevard director Billy Wilder, ‘Would you have directed movies for free? Would you have done this no matter what?’ And he said, ‘What do I look like, a sucker?'” Savage says. “That sort of typifies the older Hollywood. ‘I’m here to do this job you’ve given me.’ Yet Wilder couldn’t tell the stories he told without a deep love of a really good story. I feel like you could ask him, ‘Do you love film?’ He would probably say ‘buzz off,’ but if you asked him what’s important about story, he would probably talk for days. That was another thing that typified all of these interviews. It’s not necessarily about the genre, although every one of these people has chosen to exercise their creativity in science fiction. It really comes down to the narrative, to the story. This is one of the most fundamental human exploits — the telling and consumption of narrative.”
In other words, Savage admits his position as creator and fan did affect the conversations he had for SYFY 25: Origin Stories, but counters that their depth and quality stem from the fandom espoused by his interviewees. Even when, as the host notes, he worried his admiration would tank interviews. “It was a little intense for me to interview Ron Moore. Ron and I are mutual fans, but we had not met before,” Savage says of the Battlestar Galactica and Outlander showrunner. “It’s so difficult for me to place in context my love for the Battlestar Galatcica reboot. As a cultural marker. As maybe some of the most complicated and complex political television shows since Norman Lear, and I am not exaggerating. I was very nervous leading up to the interview. Luckily, Ron is a super nice guy and tremendous interview. He’s really generous as an interviewee and tells wonderful stories, of course. He’s a born storyteller. All of my fears were out the window within the first 90 seconds.”
Talking to people like Moore helped calm the more adulation-prone portions of Savage’s fandom. At the same time, his experiences with the “wonderful lineage” founded by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry solidified his appreciation for that seminal series, Battlestar Galactica, and everything in between and after. “Roddenberry created a real family to make the first Star Trek, the animated series and Next Generation. I know most of the Next Generation cast and they’re all best friends. They’ve all been to each other’s weddings. They’re the godparents to each other’s children,” Savage explains. “That community also fostered Naren Shankar in the writers room, who went on to recreate that experience with The Expanse, which is a wonderful show with deep political commentary supported by a loving family. Ron Moore did the same before him with Battlestar.”
“It’s a lineage that presents a positivist, humanist message, and it stretches back to the mid ’60s,” he continues. “Roddenberry’s vision wasn’t just in the narrative, you see. It was also in how he built the enterprise with which to tell that narrative. In building it, he created a whole new generation of showrunners who like to tell complex stories, but also build families in order to tell them. Having been on the set of The Expanse, and having gotten to know much of the cast of Battlestar Galactica, I can tell you these are enterprises created out of love. That’s just a delightful thing to discover and talk about, which is precisely what we did with this series.”
It’s an open, expansive and accepting lineage Savage now recognizes in the world of science fiction writing and comic books. Both this and Syfy’s commitment to diversity prompted a wide range of interviews beyond the annals of Star Trek, including conversations with Nigerian-American author Nnedi Okorafor and Ms. Marvel co-creator Sana Amanat. “Fontana, Okorafor and Amanat weren’t originally on the list of possible interviewees I gave to Syfy, and that’s my deficit. But I learned so much talking to them, and it really feels like the final list we came up with reflects the diversity of the genre itself, and the diversity of the fans who support it. This was something that typified every single interview I did, because there wasn’t a single person I talked to on this list who wasn’t as much of a fan as they were a contributor.”
As much as Savage learned — and he, hopes, the listeners will learn — from these conversations, the former MythBusters co-host steadfastly believes innovators like Amanat and Okorafor are the future of science fiction. And not just the creative process that underlies its myth-making, mind you, but also the very appreciation that drives fans to watch, read and support their favorite shows, movies and books with such loving intensity. “Talking to Amanat about the next generation of comic books that she’s overseeing, I got the same exact feeling I did when I spoke with Fontana, Moore, and Frakes,” concludes Savage. “This isn’t our mid-century idea of the hardened writer, who puts on his hat and slugs out his work in a dark room separate from the world. We’re now telling our cultural stories with so much more love than we ever have before, and that makes me very positive about the future of science fiction.”
The first episode of Adam Savage’s SYFY 25: Origin Stories debuts today, September 8th.