Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — It wasn’t easy to begin an interview with Giorgio A. Tsoukalos without asking him about his hair. To some extent, it’s the one iconic thing that you identify him with. The first question on his Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) is actually “What happened to your hair over the years?” to which he responded “It’s slowly being abducted.” This reply, from a guy who’s been circulated as a meme since “Ancient Aliens” started airing in 2009, clues you in on what kind of person Tsoukalos is — an easygoing guy who has a mighty sense of humor despite the flak thrown at “Ancient Aliens,” which is dismissed as pseudoscience by many.
While the fact that it airs on History Channel has attracted some criticism, the show has been a cultural phenomenon, racking up to over a hundred episodes over the last seven years. Tsoukalos is the show’s producer and one of its main experts on the topic of space travelers and ancient technology.
Whether the show purports facts or not, it still remains as a fascinating watch, and has had, as Tsoukalos says in the following interview, an effect on popular culture. He was recently in Manila for History Con 2016 to meet the show’s fans.
CNN Philippines Life talked to him about producing the show, the experts they have on board, and the possibility of aliens in the Philippines. Below are edited excerpts from the interview.
Why do you think people are fascinated by the concept of space travelers, and even believe in them?
I think it inherently asks fundamental questions. Where do we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? Because we, as a human species, it’s very clear we have one thing and that’s curiosity, which means we’re a species of explorers. This idea that perhaps in ancient times, and even in modern times, we have been and are being visited by flesh and blood extraterrestrials, i.e. space travelers, that's a fascinating question. It’s also something where, you know it gets you excited, because it means we’re not alone in the universe. And that, to me, is quite fascinating.
How do you guys make sure that the experts and commentators in the show present sound evidence on the topic rather than something like, some guy rambling on about aliens?
The production company, Prometheus Entertainment, they’re doing a very great job at vetting all the experts and the talking heads that appear on the show. And most of the time they have to submit to us the material that they’re going to present. But it’s one of the places [where] instead of the skeptics having the final answer, it’s actually the other side. And whenever the skeptics say “Well, what about us?” Well, the last 40 years of you just saying how crazy we were, it’s now our time.
You also have priests and academics appear on the show. Are you involved in choosing these guests?
Sometimes. The first season came about, I selected George Noory, David Childress, Erich von Däniken, so this was all sort of my dream team of experts, and the fact that we all came together and doing this is great. Here’s the thing, you mentioned priests, professors, as I’m sitting here with you right now, I can tell you that none of these people have been forced to appear on our show. So the fact that they are willing to come on the show and talk about their ideas and viewpoints, to me, signifies that we’ve struck a chord. Because it’s only people like me and Childress, and von Däniken, who ultimately say “So, this is how it was.” Everyone else, including the narration of the show by the way, they ask questions. And a lot of people seem to have forgotten that that’s what we do, we ask questions.
"The aliens I talk about are flesh and blood human beings like you and me and they at some point, too, will die. The only thing that makes them different from you and me is that they have access to more advanced technology."
When was the point during the show or in the process of doing the show that you became aware of the impact “Ancient Aliens” has on viewers?
I guess when season 2 was ordered by A&E and History. I was very happy because this show started out as a two-hour documentary. Here we are, in season , over 116 episodes, and the outpouring of support from fans worldwide. Not just in the States but in the Philippines, worldwide! I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again, I have the best fans in the world. I’m very happy about that.
In some episodes, there are a lot of notions about the afterlife. Do you think this is inextricably linked to the concept of space travelers?
Yeah, look. I think that there are certain levels of existence, different levels of reality. I think that when we die, it continues because consciousness or energy does not end. It continues in some sort of way or form. A lot of people suggest that when you die, you pull the plug and that’s it. I disagree with this. Now, do I think that aliens and the afterlife are sort of the same? Not really. Because the aliens I talk about are flesh and blood human beings like you and me and they at some point, too, will die. The only thing that makes them different from you and me is that they have access to more advanced technology, and perhaps technology with which they can travel from star to star.
Recently there have been a lot of science fiction films about making contact with other beings. Do you think this is kind of an indirect effect of “Ancient Aliens”?
I think so. For example the opening scene of “Star Trek [Into Darkness],” even the planet [in the first 10 minutes] they called it “Nibiru” which is a direct reference to Zechariah Sitchin’s work in “The 12th Planet” so I think “Ancient Aliens” has, in a weird strange way, infiltrated popular culture and that, to me, is a wonderful byproduct.
How do you think online forums, Facebook comments, Twitter, have affected the popularity of the show? You even had your own Reddit AMA!
Yes! That was my first Reddit. I had a tremendous time! I think overall, the outpouring of support has been positive. A lot of people would think its negative but in a weird way, these are questions that everybody [has been] curious about. Whether you believe in this stuff in the end or not, that’s up to you. And there’s nothing that I can do to convince you. Because in the end, you have to have an open mind yourself to explore these ideas.
"The opening scene of 'Star Trek [Into Darkness],' the planet is called it 'Nibiru' which is a direct reference to Zechariah Sitchin’s work in 'The 12th Planet so I think 'Ancient Aliens' has, in a weird strange way, infiltrated popular culture."
Have there been people who offered their own theories about space travelers and asked if they can present it on the show?
Yes! This happens all the time and I forward those requests to the production office and sometimes some people get on the show, absolutely. Especially if somebody is an academic or works in a particular field of study, that they say “Hey, I’ve just discovered this” or “[I’ve just] theorized about this. Is that something you want me to talk about?” And yes, that has happened. Why? Do you have an idea?
But I do remember something vaguely when I was a kid. I saw something on a TV show about aliens visiting the Philippines. Have you ever heard about such theories?
Well, just a couple of reporters before you, somebody told me that you have ancient stories about a giant bird that apparently at one point swallowed up the moon, and things like that. I’ll definitely go to the library and check out those stories because clearly, no giant bird ever existed that swallowed up the moon. So my question is how did this story originate? Because when you have stories of flying dragons leaving behind trails of smoke and fire and then when they land, the earth is trembling, that is not reminiscent, for me, of a biological animal but perhaps some type of misunderstood technology.
You guys get to travel a lot because of the show, which has featured places like Ireland, China, South Korea, Egypt, etc. What has been the strangest place you’ve visited?
That is a great question but unfortunately it cannot be answered because it doesn’t matter where you go in the world. There’s always strangeness going on, and questions abound, and so to me it’s just amazing that I get to travel to those places and explore these places first hand.