Mark Steines is a three-time Emmy winner. He has interviewed thousands of A-list actors as well as producers, athletes, and musicians. Mark has set the gold standard in entertainment news while working at “Entertainment Tonight” for over 17 years. He is currently the host of the new series, “Animal ER Live” by National Geographic.
CHRISTINA: How does it feel to be on the other side of the interview?
MARK: Oh you know it’s just a conversation, I think you know; I try not to get in the hot seat or anything like that. It’s just fun. I don’t feel as comfortable being interviewed but when it’s about something like this… it’s really truly magical, I think everybody can relate to what the show is about. We all have at some point or another cherished an animal in our life or something, so it’s gonna be a good show.
Tell us about your new show Animal ER Live.
Animal ER Live is a two hour show that is on a four-weekend run, starting this weekend; it is really pulling the curtain back going into these amazing seven hospitals. We are live so everything is unscripted and you have no idea what is going to happen.
The goal of the show is to showcase the people who have dedicated their lives to being, educated, well-equipped, and available 24–7 to take care of animals.
We are in rehearsals making sure everything’s operational for the live feeds. Someone brought in a big dog who had had swallowed women’s underwear. It opens the question for our audience, how many times does your dog tear up a tennis ball while playing with it? When they tear it apart…does he ever swallow any of it? And if so, where does it go? Does it pass through him? Our vet experts; Will Draper and Dr. Justine Lee on set and they give us such advice and guide us through these type of emergencies. They explain what is considered an emergency… and in this case it was, it could have been very lethal for a dog. They had to go into the operating room we watch the procedure from a safe distance as the Vets opened his stomach and safely remove the underwear — without showing the gory surgery. We focus on the before and after, switching to other events at the other clinics, we are not trying to gross or shock our audience.
The Vets never know what’s going to enter the clinic, much like the way ER doctors in the real world, a lot of these animals are treated. We had a seven-week-old puppy [who] came in for a wellness check and it was just the cutest thing ever. You know seeing the beginning of life, it’s just so wonderful, it’s a real feel good show for everybody involved and I’m just excited to see what happens.
I have worked in this business a long time, it’s always about your prep work, whether it was the red carpet at Entertainment Tonight or interviews that I did on other shows; preparation is important, but on Animal ER Live, I cannot really prepare the story. I just need to be present in the moment the same way, the doctors go to work everyday, they have no idea what scenario they’ll be faced with.
[MARK] I know I’m just sorta rambling here…
[CHRISTINA] No, it’s informational.
What appeals to you most about the show?
I am an animal lover. We have two dogs at home and growing up I’ve always had dogs. With Animal ER Live we get to be a fly on the wall as you see these amazing live experience watching the best veterinarian hospitals and clinics and care help our pets. We get to see a major animal facility like Angel in Boston, it’s Harvard; people going to school and wanting to have their internships. The work our Vets do is really important and I’m excited to show it live on TV.
What have you learned while on the show?
Nat Geo Wild is an amazing network. They really care about people and pets. With Animal ER Live I am learning all sorts of things that can help and hurt our pets. For example, tea tree oil can be very toxic for a dog to inhale. There’s a lot of takeaway in this show for our audience — whether you’re a cat or dog owner; we also are dealing with horses and exotic animals. The show has mobile units in Fort Bragg, California; Mendocino Equine and Livestock; which travel to help animals. It’s difficult to get a horse or cattle into a veterinarian office, so and they make ‘house’ calls.
I believe Boston’s Angel Medical Center sees an average of 70–100 cases per weekend. Some of those calls can be checkups or for vaccinations, but those who are coming in at that hour between 9 and 11 when they’re live since we are live at night, usually the animals that enter the clinic are there for an emergency.
What are your thoughts on animal healthcare?
At home we have Norbert my wife’s therapy dog; with more than two million social media followers and he has a really strong purpose — and because of him, I met my wife. Norbert is magic, he and my wife Julie volunteer as a dog therapy team at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. We also have our Golden Retriever Fred, who was in Disney’s Spooky Buddies movie. He was a theatre acting puppy and my boys and I adopted him from the movie set.
Before Fred and Norbert, we had a German Shepard named Alex. She had pancreas problems and it was a lot to maintain. It was extremely hard watching her quality of life diminish quickly. You know it’s the great circle of life that we all face with pets and with life. I think to answer your question; I think it is important to do whatever we can to make sure our animals are fed good quality food, that we’re providing them good clean water and making sure they are well taken care of.
My first date with my wife was to the American Human’s Hero Dog Awards. I have been involved with them and was presenting at their award show. The show shines light on how special dogs are… whether it’s military grade type of stuff or police and swat units; therapy dogs, dogs that work with Veterans or those suffering from PTSD, there are even dogs that will sense someone’s going to have a seizure. Dog[s] make our lives better.
Dr. Will Draper and I were having this conversation because I wore a t-shirt to rehearsal that said, “I like dogs” and people gave me a hard time, “oh do you have one that says cats?” I go… “l’ll make one, I’ll get one.” But he goes, “you know the saying of dogs and cats..” I said, “what?” He goes, “a dog, when you feed a dog; the dog will look at you and be, oh my God, this is a God… look at him he’s taking care of me, he’s a God! And then when you feed a cat; the cat looks at you and goes, this guy thinks I’m a God.” I mean a cat will teach you independence and they’ll teach you solitude, they’ll teach you how to be Zen. By just observing them, they can sit and be still and yet run in a room and have no idea why they ran in there; they bring a lot of joy and happiness.
What is your most favorite interview that you’ve done as a host?
I don’t really have a favorite person, let me step back and say there is a lot of interviews that I’ve had over the years. I can say that I truly enjoyed seeing and spending time with Cher, John Travolta and bless his heart; I have never been able to conduct a proper interview with Robin Williams. Robin drew me into a weird parallel, you never knew what to expect and it was always a blast. Before my last interview with him, I was preparing the night before thinking: “What am I gonna ask him?” With him, you might think your leading it, but he just takes over. I said “Robin” and he goes, “yeah chief” and I said “hey, I just have one question, it’s only one, just one question. He goes, “oh really, one question?” I go, “yeah.” And he goes, “fire away.” [Mark] “Robin Williams, what do ya think?” And he just looked at me and goes; “That’s your question? What do I think? Oh my God that’s brilliant!” And he just went off. You know, that’s all I needed to say to him; He could do his own shtick because it just gave him this massive pasture to run around in. One minute he was talking about his heart procedure that he had and then […] just when off; it was true Robin. So those are the kinds of interviews that I truly enjoy.
What advice can you give the readers?
Experience life; be in the moment, be present, be kind to one another. Be willing to reach across the aisle because; we live in a divided country right now and kindness goes so much greater than just screaming at each other. Realize that we’re blessed in so many ways and that we’re all here for such a short period of time; let’s make the best of it.
What are your plans for the future?
One step in front of another, one step at a time. Just stay present and spend as much time with my family as possible. I know this has been said a million times but nobody’s said on their death bed; “I wish I spent more time at the office.” And there’s something to be said about that. Being around family and watching my kids grow up, I have a baby daughter now so I get a chance to watch her go through the early stages of development. I’m kind of getting a chance to go back in time and relive some of those early years. My boys are 17 and 15; I got one that’s studying for his first driving permit and another one’s that just got a driver’s license. I don’t want to miss out on that time.
I think there is a good piece of advice; there’s a story that was shared with me once, it’s about that point in your life when your about to say goodbye. You want to look back down the road you’ve traveled and see the people that you’ve been blessed with walking the same path. When I say path, I mean the beliefs that you put forth. […] That they don’t judge, they allowed other people to be who they are, that they don’t get over critical of themselves. Social media has us constantly comparing each other to what’s in that little square box. It’s not even real; it’s fake you know. [Laughs] So, I think there’s a lot of pressure. I’m glad my kids are not big on social media. That’s a long answer to your question.
Thank you for the interview. I can’t wait for your show!
Oh good. Wonderful. I hope you like it Christina… I really do. It’s exactly what Nat Geo Wild is about and then some people say; “Oh, it’s gonna be gory. It’s gonna be this, it’s gonna be that.” It’s not. I’m sure that stuff happens and we’ll probably cover it to the extent we feel is appropriate because you know, there could be children watching. You know when those pet owners are reunited with their little dog or cat; there’s a special moment. These animals are our children and we carry the same emotions. I hope people tune-in and enjoy it.
*This was originally published on medium.com