Charlie is hired to retrieve his wayward cousin, but quickly learns that locating him is far easier than bringing him home. “Next Stop for Charlie” can be seen on Showtime Thursdays this fall (11:00 p.m. ET/PT).
We recently had a chance to ask Neil about “Next Stop for Charlie” as well as his travels and other travel advice.
Q. Tell us about your new travel show on Showtime, “Next Stop for Charlie”. How is this travel show unique?
When talking to people about “Next Stop for Charlie,” I have to make up new ways of describing the process. Truly unique in the way it’s produced, I think the best way to describe it is that we inject narrative into pre-existing situations. We don’t produce the baby jumping festival in Spain, it’s happening, we just write that into the adventure the characters experience. It becomes a back drop for the story of that episode, but also so much more than that. Nothing we did in the show couldn’t be accomplished by an intrepid traveler, with a little luck and a lot of courage. Being scripted allows us to take those experiences to the extreme while still documenting our “real” experience. But honestly some things just happened naturally and no script was needed. For example, streaking naked through an after party in Copenhagen didn’t appear in any script, but was just fueled by great beer, good times, loud music and an egging on by calls of “Skol” from screaming Danes.
Q. Based on what I saw in your film, “Last Stop for Paul” I’m guessing you had a great time filming the episodes for “Next Stop for Charlie” – what is the craziest experience you had while filming the show’s 10 episodes?
When we were in Thailand we were shooting a scene where I was in a tiger cage with a real live tiger. The first problem with this was that there was a “REAL LIVE TIGER IN THE CAGE”. No trainer between me and the tiger. As if this wasn’t complicated enough, in the middle of filming the scene, the zoo keeper changed his mind about me being in the cage. Apparently he thought we were going to make a video that made the tiger look bad. So, he called the police and had me taken off to jail. Again, this was AFTER he put me in the cage.
Q. In our opinion, “Last Stop for Paul” is the ultimate movie for independent International travelers. This movie really resonates with my own travels. I love the humor – the jail scene in Vietnam is classic! Tell us a little about what inspired you to make this film as well as how you filmed the scenes. I understand nothing was scripted in the making of this movie?
You are correct that nothing was scripted. The movie was basically a way for me to educate people about the excitement and adventures of traveling the world. I have had so many people over the years ask me about my trips, and while I tried to explain them to them, I knew they never really understood what it was all about. I decided if I could make Last Stop for Paul I could give people a DVD that would give them real insight and I think it did just that. The stories in the movie are mostly recreations of real events that happened to me over the years.
Q. Any advice for those planning a round the world trip?
Never refuse an invitation and never over stay your welcome. Always bring a camera, everywhere. 500 dollars can get you out of almost any situation. Antibiotics, healthcare in general, is so cheap everywhere else in the rest of the world so stock up. Smell your water before you drink it. Never assume you can run faster than they can. Be careful how loudly you root for your country during the world cup. Learn how to say “Thank You” and “I’m Sorry” in every language. Bring sunscreen, dry socks, and an open mind and anyone can have the kind of adventure we did.
Q. When did you get hooked on traveling? Was it a particular trip or event?
During my freshman year in high school I returned to classes after our winter break only to see that most of my classmates had gone somewhere warm over the holiday and all got tans. I lived in Michigan and my parents we not going to take 4 kids to Florida during a school break, so I knew if I was going to avoid being the whitest kid in my class next year I had to come up with a plan. The following fall, with winter break only a few months away, I learned of a class trip to Spain. I also learned that the trip ended with a day off on the Costa Del Sol, and the weather would be warm enough for some beach time. Somehow I managed to talk my parents into letting me go on the trip, which was amazing, because I was a terrible student! Anyway, while I was making my way through the Spanish cities and countryside my eyes were opened to international travel. That was the moment for sure. Three things came from that trip. 1. I learned to love travel. 2. I got a serious sunburn from three hours on the beach covered in baby oil. 3. I got a D in Spanish.
Q. What or who inspired you to pursue acting and the entertainment industry? Was it a specific experience or something else?
I can’t say that I had any inspiration, my acting has actually been out of necessity. I say this because when I made the movie and the TV show I didn’t have enough money to bring another actor along, so it was necessary that I play the role.
Q. What is your greatest reward from the trips you are able to make each year?
The more I travel the more I learn about who I am and my place in the world. Anyone who has done the kind of traveling will say the same thing.
Q. You are a prolific traveler and have been all over the world- are there any countries that you keep returning to again and again? And why?
Thailand for one. It’s just a great place (when you’re not in jail for being in a tiger cage). The people are fantastic, so warm and friendly. The food is amazing, you can eat off of the street if you want (although I went to the hospital for eating a bag of crickets from a street vendor – not recommended) and the high end hotels are some of the best in the world (and very affordable). I am also a fan of the city of Paris…after all, it is Paris.
Q. Airports can be the bane of any traveler…or not. Any favorite airports and why are they favorites?
KUL (Kuala Lumpur is very easy to navigate (although they don’t have any good restaurants). SFO (San Francisco) has the best food. HKG (Hong Kong) is very spacious and relaxing and has nice lounging areas.
Q. While not a resident of Los Angeles I spend quite a bit of time here and have fallen in love with the area over the years. What are some of your favorite activities and or places to visit in or around the city?
I love the restaurant Katana, it’s Japanese food and it’s on Sunset Blvd. I eat there at least once a week and I’ve never brought someone there who didn’t have a great time. I also enjoy the Soho House in West Hollywood, Farmers Market, Griffith Park.
This week’s episode features Australia showing on Thursday, 12/9/10.
“Stuck in a toilet and lost down under, Charlie hits an all time low in the outback. When Charlie misses his connection in Brisbane his attempts to bring Erik home lead to a long, odd road in Australia.”
Mandt began his professional television career in Detroit, where he got his first job as the entertainment reporter for the NBC affiliate, WDIV TV-4, at the age of 20. From Detroit he moved to Los Angeles and continued working as a freelance producer/reporter, with some of his projects including ABC News’ coverage of the O.J. Simpson criminal trial, CBS News investigative reports, and the hit UK/Channel 4 Television show “The Big Breakfast.”
In 1995, focusing on a film directing career, he wrote, produced and directed the critically acclaimed feature Hijacking Hollywood, starring Henry Thomas, subsequently directing Arthur’s Quest and The Million Dollar Kid. In 2000 NBC hired him to work as a producer at the Sydney Olympics. He went on to create and sell a series of documentary specials to ESPN entitled “Reel Classics Uncut,” which highlighted the making of sports movies like Ali. He has also been a contributing producer to nine ESPY Awards and five X-Games. In 2006 Mandt wrote, directed, produced and starred in the year’s most award-winning independent film, Last Stop for Paul.