The new hosts of The Nature of Things already have two things in common.
Both Sarika Cullis-Suzuki and Anthony Morgan agree: trying to emulate outgoing host David Suzuki is off the table. An icon who ranked fifth in the CBC’s Greatest Canadian contest (and first among living Canadians), Suzuki has collected awards and honours across the globe for his tireless advocacy for environmental issues. After hosting The Nature of Things for more than 40 years, Suzuki’s name has become synonymous with the show.
The second thing they share? The belief that science is the most powerful tool on earth and that without big-picture thinking and collaboration, its potential is lost.
Shocking and surreal: reactions from the new hosts
After a country-wide search and countless auditions, it was difficult to choose just one host. For Cullis-Suzuki, it was “a huge, huge shock” to learn she would be co-hosting the show her father has helmed since before she was born.
A marine biologist by training, she’s hosted episodes of The Nature of Things before, as well as programs for Audible and Ocean Networks Canada. But this hosting role continues a legacy that began almost a decade before humans even set foot on the moon.
“The cool thing about [The Nature of Things] having started in 1960, as a show, is that there were only a couple of channels,” Cullis-Suzuki said. “I would think about that. Like, how did people get information in the 1960s? Like, the newspaper? Radio?… It blows my mind that people still watch the show.
“Just to be part of this legacy — on a personal level because of [my father], but then also because I really believe in the show and the substance — feels amazing,” she added. “It is such an honour. I feel so humbled.”
For Morgan, hearing that he would co-host The Nature of Things was “the most surreal thing in the world.”
His talent lies in exciting audiences about science, and his PhD studies look at ways to reduce the polarization that blocks cooperation on big problems.
Even as he’s spent years carving his own path in science media, Morgan said Suzuki leaves “very big shoes to fill” as he steps down from a show that has aired in more than 80 countries.
“I grew up watching that show,” Morgan said. “I remember watching it and thinking, ‘Oh my God, that would be the coolest job in the world.’ And now I get to do it. Like, I still can’t believe it. I still can’t believe it.”
Two new voices for the show
The challenge of such a role, Morgan said, is that Suzuki became synonymous with The Nature of Things and people think of the two things as “interchangeable.” Without him, the show will change.
“I don’t think anybody can be David Suzuki because he really is this kind of singular, inimitable character,” he said. “I think the challenge for me is going to be to … try to be myself and allow myself to genuinely follow my curiosity the way that I always have.”
That was, in fact, the very advice Suzuki gave his daughter before her first hosting gig for the CBC: be yourself, and listen. At first, she’d hoped for more direction from him, but later realized too much advice would have overwhelmed her.
“The whole idea of being yourself — that’s scary,” Cullis-Suzuki said. “But now that I’m older, I can understand what he means. And it’s a really freeing way to work because you’re not trying to be somebody else.…
“It’s all about being authentic.… And I’m hoping that that will resonate with people because that’s the kind of thing that I want to see.”
The bigger picture: science, ethics and collaboration
Documentaries engage, entertain, explore and inform — but when the topic is science, the stakes can be high.
Over its six-decade history, The Nature of Things has tackled difficult and controversial topics, such as nuclear power and the science of race. In 1987, it produced one of the first prime-time documentaries on the AIDS epidemic.
Cullis-Suzuki pointed out that science underpins almost every aspect of modern life, from medicine and technology to industry and agriculture, but said it’s only half the story. “It has to work within the paradigm of ethics — of working, again, with an eye on the bigger picture,” she said.
Morgan believes science “has the greatest capacity to improve [the] quality of human life,” but said polarization can paralyze our progress. In other words, even when facing threats to our collective survival, we struggle to collaborate.
“At this point, the science is very clear that climate change is a problem, right?” he said. “The science is very clear about the kinds of things we need to do, but the public is not necessarily all on board with that. The dearth of knowledge or information is not around climate science. The dearth of knowledge and information is: how do we get eight billion human beings to get on the same page and act the same way? We’re all butting heads with each other.”
By hosting the show, Morgan hopes to impart his own excitement about exploring the world — including its problems and solutions — through the lens of science.
“There’s this almost palpable sense of despair that people are feeling about the way the world is going and I really want the public to share a sense of optimism that I have about the future,” he said. “And it’s not naive — it’s because I know what science can do.”
Morgan and Cullis-Suzuki are already working hard on upcoming episodes. For The Nature of Things’ 63rd season, Cullis-Suzuki will host True Survivors, which explores the roots and the limits of human survival. Morgan presents Secret Agents of the Underground Railroad, which uncovers a part of Black history that involved the wait staff at a Niagara Falls hotel helping enslaved Americans reach freedom.
The new hosts are also in the middle of production on documentaries about dinosaurs, the human voice and the evolution of whales.