Q&A: Brady Barr

Nat Geo WILD host Brady Barr takes kids on a wildlife adventure in Kinect Nat Geo TV for Xbox 360

Apr 04, 2013 | By Stephanie Kraus
PAUL GOLDRING

Brady Barr wrestles a massive crocodile on the shore of Lake Victoria, in Africa.

Reptile expert Brady Barr hosts Dangerous Encounters on the Nat Geo Wild channel.  As the first person to capture and study all 23 species of wild crocodilians, Barr knows his way around a swamp. But, he takes some unexpected turns in Season 2 of the interactive TV game, Kinect Nat Geo TV for Xbox 360. Players will guide Barr through dangerous habitats while they test their own wilderness knowledge. During eight episodes of Nat Geo Wild TV programs, players are transported from their living rooms to oceans, lakes and forests. Kids can play mini-games that use Kinect’s camera to transform themselves into hungry bears, snappy alligators and much more! Recently, TFK spoke to Barr about the game and his experience working with wild animals.

Barr holds a giant python.
PAUL GOLDRING
Barr holds a giant python.

TFK:

What did you think when Xbox 360 approached you about starring in the second season of the Kinect Nat Geo TV game?

BRADY BARR:

(I was) really excited. Kids are really important to me. I have two kids— a 4-year-old and an 8-year-old — so this is right in their wheelhouse. I’m a former teacher so interacting with kids is a real passion of mine. What is so great about this (game) is they took real National Geographic documentaries and changed them a little bit to give kids control. They control the expedition in the film and from what I’ve seen, it takes it to a whole different level.

TFK:

How do you think the game turned out?

BARR:

Better than my wildest dreams.  The animation and live action are incredible. It’s Microsoft, so I knew it was going to be a quality product but it’s better than I anticipated. A lot of hard work went into it.

TFK:

What do you hope the game teaches kids?

BARR:

I think it brings families together. It’s something that kids can do with their parents and their siblings and be entertained but there’s also a take-away. They’re learning while they’re playing. They can tell the difference between a crocodile and an alligator (and) they can tell you why they are endangered or threatened. I’m a big believer in hands-on-learning. Kids retain knowledge when they’re a part of it.

TFK:

You host Dangerous Encounters. What is it like to work so closely with dangerous crocodiles and alligators?

BARR:

I’ve got the best job in the world. I’ve been to more than 70 countries in the last 20 years. I’ve interacted with crocodiles, snakes, the Duckbill platypus, polar bears and giant squid. I’ve hosted more than 100 wildlife documentaries. I’ve seen things that most people can only dream of.

TFK:

When did you first discover that you wanted to work with animals for a living?

BARR:

I was one of those kids that was crazy about dinosaurs. I was always good at finding animals and getting up close and personal. It’s just something that always came naturally to me. I grew up in the state of Louisiana with cornfields as far as the eye could see, so there weren’t a lot of exotic animals there. But, zoos and aquariums really fueled my passion and led me toward my eventual career. 

TFK:

Were you out exploring a lot as a kid?

BARR:

Always! Hands-on. I was the kind of kid that was always dirty and catching frogs. Our garage was like the neighborhood zoo. My parents were super supportive. There was always a snake or frog loose in the house. A lot of credit goes to them.

TFK:

So you always knew this was the path you wanted to take?

BARR:

I was always passionate about animals but I really never knew what I wanted to do with it. As I got older, I realized I wanted to teach others about it and share my passion. I was a public school teacher for five years and it was something I loved. I feel as though I never left teaching. Now, I just teach through television and through Xbox Kinect.

TFK:

What was your favorite animal as a kid?

BARR:

That’s tough. I was always fascinated by crocodiles as a kid because they just look so much like dinosaurs. Crocs are near and dear to my heart.

TFK:

Do any animal scare you?

BARR:

A lot. I know what some of these animals are capable of. The hippopotamus — that’s a real handful.

TFK:

For one show, you dressed as a hippo to get close to a pack. And yet, you’re fearful of them?

BARR:

Yes. A lot of people think they’re just chubby, smiling, happy-go-lucky animals. It’s the second largest land animal on the planet. It can weigh three tons, it runs like the wind and it always has a bad attitude. Where you find crocodiles, you always find hippos. I’ve had a lot of bad encounters with them.

TFK:

I would never think that they are worse than crocodiles.

BARR:

Crocodiles are my comfort zone. You throw a hippo into the mix and I’m running for the door.

TFK:

You were the first person to capture each of the 23 known species of crocodilians. Why is it so important to find and study these endangered animals?

BARR:

In my field, which is herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians), a lot of these animals are in danger of extinction. One-third of all crocodile species are threatened with extinction. I often give talks and say, “If I was talking about the warm and fuzzy animals of the world, you would be throwing conservation dollars at my feet.” But when you talk about the cold and scaly animals, people are headed for the exits. They’re just as important as the “warm and fuzzies” that tug at our heartstrings. I have kind of become a spokesman for the “cold and scalies” of the planet.

TFK:

In 2007, you were badly bitten by a massive python in a cave in Indonesia. Could you talk about that experience?

BARR:

It was called the bite heard around the world. People laugh at me all the time and I say, “If you were in that cave, waist deep in bat guano with a giant snake wrapped around you and then it bit you, you would scream too!” And people often say, “that snake attacked you.” I grabbed it by the tail and I was trying to capture it for some scientific data. The snake didn’t do anything to me. It was just defending itself.

TFK:

Do you think viewers learned anything from that experience?

BARR:

I hope that they learn something from every film I’ve done. There’s always a conservation message. In that particular film we were trying to determine why so many of these giant snakes use that cave.

TFK:

Did that injury slow you down?

BARR:

When you work with these kinds of animals injuries just come with the territory, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. I’ve had injuries that are a lot worse.

TFK:

What animal has injured you the most?

BARR:

Crocodiles because they’re big and strong. Whenever you have to interact closely with an animal that weighs one ton – accidents happen.

TFK:

If you could trade places with one animal for a day to see how it lives, what animal would you trade places with?

BARR:

One of the Xbox Kinect games is the jumbo squid. Science knows very little about these animals and they’re huge. I would be a jumbo squid just to see what they do and where they go. Great white shark would be another one.

TFK:

What’s your favorite part of the Xbox game?

BARR:

I think most people would say it’s being the animal. But for me, it’s driving the action and watching to see what decisions other players make. A lot of times they’re making a decision that will send me off in the wrong direction just to see what happens to me!

TFK:

How can kids get started working with animals?

BARR:

Information is the key. My kids get interested in a particular animal, say a salamander, then they try to find out as much about it as they can. They want to go to the zoo or aquarium and I try to enable them. My wife and I try to open as many doors as we can so they can pursue this passion. 

 

Click here to read about Kinect Nat Geo TV and other games in TFK's Spring Video Game Guide.