Stuck In A Lift With… Steve Backshall

We get to know the explorer a little better with some quickfire questions. What else are you going to do if you're stuck in a lift?

Since Steve Backshall first appeared on our screens in the late 90s, countless kids have spent hours after school glued to the likes of The Really Wild Show as the naturalist and explorer explained the curiosities of the wider, and wilder, world.

“The youngsters who watched these shows are now at university,” the fervently friendly broadcaster tells us over a call. “Many of them are now studying marine biology or conservation. They’re looking for the next stage, for a way on into the future. So it’s exciting knowing that things like this can have an impact and set young people on the way to big dreams in their future, but with a responsibility as well.”

Given his life’s work, it’s of little surprise that Backshall has been invited to host Seven Worlds, One Planet – Live In Concert, which will see Sir David Attenborough’s 2019 epic brought to life with a full symphony orchestra and score from Hans Zimmer. “I was fascinated by the television series,” says Backshall, “which presented the incredible beauty and diversity of the seven continents that now make up our amazing planetary ecosystem. To bring those stunning visuals, stories and the live music score of Hans Zimmer to the arena stage is something to behold. It is going to be one of the highlights of 2022”.

Ahead of Seven Worlds, One Planet – Live In Concert, we got Stuck In A Lift with Steve Backshall to get to know him a little better…

Who would you most like to be trapped in a lift with?

Great question. It would have to be someone that makes me laugh, so Dawn French.

Who would you least like to be trapped in a lift with?

Katie Hopkins.

What was the first album you bought?

Ooh, probably The Joshua Tree by U2.

What animal scares you the most?

Apart from people, I would say parasites. I’ve had quite a lot of experiences with them and they’re always hideous. I’m yet to have a botfly, although quite a few people on my team have, and that’s quite interesting, having a maggot burying down into your flesh that you can actually feel moving around. I have had chiggers, which are a burrowing mite that get beneath your fingernails and between your butt cheeks. And mosquitos more than anything – I have had malaria and it’s really unpleasant. All of those kinds of diseases that have a far greater impact on human mortality than any large animal ever could have. 

You’ve achieved a lot in your life, but what’s one accomplishment you wished was yours?

Ooh, that’s a cracker! Let’s say Alex Honnold’s free solo of El Capitan.

If you had a time machine, where would you go?

I would go back to The Late Cretaceous for peak dino time.

Well, what’s your favourite dinosaur?

Oh! Let’s go with… Carcharodontosaurus. It’s their dentition – they have the scariest tooth of any other animal other than I guess the megalodon.

What band t-shirts do you own?

I don’t think I have any. I was one of those people that had a Ramones t-shirt without having ever listened to them, but that didn’t last very long because it was quite pretentious.

What was the last thing that made you cry?

Oh, gosh. I have young kids and they make me cry all the time. Nostalgia, happiness, looking back at pictures of my little boy on our first trip to the Isles of Scilly when he was a little baby and now he looks like a proper person. That got me teary eyed.

Favourite G&T garnish?

Favourite G&T garnish?! A garnish, for a G&T?! Hmm, let’s go for lime.

What’s on your exercise playlist?

Etherwood, a British act. Absolutely amazing to train to.

Where are you desperate to explore?

Pakistan. I’ve been booked to travel to Pakistan to attempt to climb K2 twice, but both times I had to pull out due to visa issues at the last minute.

What movie would you like to re-watch for the first time?

That’s funny, because I’m going through this with my wife Helen now, because her taste in film in abominable. I’m trying to educate her but mostly failing, but she really likes L.A. Confidential, and I’d very much like to get her to watch Cool Hand Luke.

Who would soundtrack a film about your life?

Wow. Kings of Leon, a hundred percent. Would that were to ever happen, haha!

What’s your proudest moment?

That’s massive. Let’s say discovery of 50,000 year-old hand prints in a cave system in Borneo. Essentially, the oldest human art and our exhibition found it.

Expedition with Steve Backshall | Borneo's Rock Art Rewrites Human History | PBS

Steve Backshall’s Ocean tours the UK throughout October and November – find tickets here