Reimagining nature documentaries with Filipino Canadian comedian Gordie Lucius

Have you ever wondered why animal genitals are so weird? Or how do dung beetles know which direction to roll their balls of elephant poop? 

Filipino Canadian comedian and producer Gordie Lucius has the answers. Lucius plays the quirky and hilarious host of Frick, I Love Nature, a new CBC comedy and Canadian nature show that takes a wry look at wildlife. Funny, refreshing, and informative, Frick tackles unusual questions that perhaps David Attenborough’s classic nature documentaries don’t quite cover. 

Co-created by Lucius and Stephen Robinson, the Canadian nature show diversifies nature programming in front of and behind the screen. Frick has succeeded in going from a TELUS Storyhive-funded web series to a fully-fledged CBC program. 

In an interview with Cold Tea Collective, Lucius shares his thoughts on how the new program subverts nature show conventions; his experiences filming in the Canadian wilderness, and his personal journey in the entertainment industry. 

Not your standard nature show

Frick, I Love Nature is a genre-blending show that adds comedy to a nature documentary by taking an innocent approach to fascinating scientific facts about wildlife through adult humour. Frick is a delightful mix of David Suzuki meets Mister Rogers with a several dashes of Bill Nye the Science Guy. 

When you think of natural history shows, you can imagine several of them to be a bit cut and dry. Given that the Canadian wilderness is often pictured as serious and rugged, Frick  subverts these conventions about the Canadian landscape and nature shows. 

“Well, why not show some of the weirdest facts in nature and make it super accessible,” said Lucius. 

Co-creators Lucius and Robinson aimed to make educational programs about nature and science more accessible, consumable, intriguing, and fun for everyone. They did so by adding comedy and jokes to help viewers remember the fact or place they’re learning about. 

“This way, people who wouldn’t necessarily be interested in nature could also enjoy it,” explained Lucius. 

Frick includes a blend of stock footage, silly puppets enacting (sometimes inappropriate) wildlife activities, and scenes of Lucius wandering the vast Canadian wilderness. The show takes the beauty and scale of nature normally seen in documentaries and adds its own Frick spin; comedy presents a “bit of tilt” that makes the show just right, according to Lucius. 

“Like if you turn the oven just two more percent up to cook your fish sticks, it’s just right,” explained Lucius, “I think [the facts] just stick in your head really easily.” 

How the CBC show came to be 

When people asked what Lucius wanted to be in kindergarten, he would either say a zookeeper or a comedian. However, he has always loved animals and the great outdoors. Since 2010, Lucius has been performing improv and sketch comedy with one of Canada’s oldest improv companies, Rapid Fire Theater in Edmonton, AB. 

In 2017, when he became what a good blend of his kindergarten aspirations was, Lucius described becoming the host of the Canadian nature show “a weird coincidence.” 

Lucius was already hosting a TELUS Storyhive-funded original web series called How To Learn Anything when his co-creator, Robinson, found himself constantly saying, “frick, I love nature,” during a trip to Vancouver Island, BC. So, together, Lucius and Robinson pitched the nature show idea to TELUS Storyhive.

Getting the smaller production on the CBC programming was “a waiting game.” According to Lucius, it took sending a cold email to CBC’s pitch list, to which the organization finally responded with interest after approximately six months. 

He owes part of the show’s success to TELUS Storyhive, calling it a “great platform for growth and getting into the industry.” 

“This is what everyone should know about Storyhive and TELUS originals,” said Lucius, “You own your own content. Whatever you make for Storyhive, you can use that as a proof of concept to pitch to other broadcasters, and they want to see you go to other broadcasters. If we didn’t have Storyhive, we wouldn’t be in this position right now.” 

See also: Celebrating Asian Canadians who are making it while making a difference

From the east to west coasts, filming has allowed Lucius to visit gorgeous locations within the Canadian wilderness. Lucius’s  favourite location was Churchill, Manitoba – a town in the Arctic that he describes as “one of the most breathtaking places he’s ever been.” 

“​​I feel so lucky to have been able to experience things,” he said, recalling the time his crew walked with a bear guard along a magical, mint blue ice mountain by the Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean. Viewers can see Lucius’ favourite location in an upcoming episode released in mid-July. 

Diversifying in front of and behind the camera

Since its conception in 2017, Lucius has been hands-on in producing Frick, I Love Nature, with an underlying goal to diversify Canadian nature show programming in front of and behind the screen. Episodes show Lucius interviewing a diverse panel of animal experts while also playing silly childlike games with them. 

“We wanted to make sure that there was a ton of representation in the show,” said Lucius, who pointed out his recent interview with a woman that’s not a scientist but a very in-depth birder. “We wanted people to feel like they see somebody up there that’s also doing these scientific endeavors, or people who aren’t actual scientists but know a ton about animals.” 

Before the cameras started rolling, Lucius had to cover much groundwork. Lucius did pre-interviewing and research on a range of experts to ensure that he could be able to talk to people extremely passionate about their topics from all over North America. 

For Lucius, Frick has become an enjoyable opportunity to engage with the endless amounts of nature content that the world offers, as well as explore his skills behind the camera. Besides being one of the show’s writers and producers, Lucius also led the art department responsible for designing Frick’s distinctive puppets, props, sets, and costumes. 

“I don’t think I’ve had this much fun doing ‘work’ in my whole life,” said Lucius. 

Lifting each other up and telling untold stories

As Frick shares weird facts about nature that we don’t regularly hear about, Lucius wants to keep telling untold stories – tales of the underdog, people outside the limelight, or underrepresented people of colour. These are stories Lucius says we need to hear. 

Lucius started screenwriting four years ago. It has been another medium Lucius is passionate about, with his latest screenplay on a pilot for a show revolving around a Filipino care worker, a story based on his mother. Lucius and his co-writers are currently searching for ways to get the ball rolling for the untitled show. 

However, Lucius  was recently diagnosed with ADHD last summer and describes how his struggles with imposter syndrome can get in the way. To him, we just need to pat ourselves on the back more. 

“There are so many times where you second guess yourself, and for me, it tripled,” said Lucius on how his ADHD diagnosis affected him. “[There have been] many times where I feel like I can’t tell these stories or that you’re not the right person to. There’s someone more famous and important that can do this… But then you just got to turn that off and be like, ‘no, I make good shit.’” 

For Lucius, collaboration and lifting other underrepresented people up in the industry are enormously important. Describing himself as a team player, Lucius says collaborating makes him feel “less worried” when he has people by his side, enjoying his company and liking what he makes. 

“I think we’re seeing more of that starting to happen,” said Lucius, highlighting Canadian actor and comedian Andrew Phung as a prime example as Phung previously brought Lucius into his writers’ room. 

“A lot more people are putting down their hand to help other people who are just starting out like me; being brought up and pulled up by friends or other people in the industry.”

Pushing for more accessible media 

With its fun and digestible ways of explaining nature and scientific facts, Lucius hopes Frick, I Love Nature will continue to grow with more seasons as he believes it’s an optimal way to educate kids, teens, and adults. But, more importantly, he hopes the show’s growth can open doors to more informative programs. 

A project Lucius hopes to bring to fruition is a spin-off titled Frick, I Love Myself, where he discusses topics such as mental health or common social struggles instead of wildlife facts. 

“Especially just being diagnosed with ADHD last summer – just trying to figure out how that works with me – I think there’s so many other ways that you could take this process with synthesizing material information to any other sources of information,” said Lucius. 

“I would love to just see more accessible media to people who are just kind of confused and want to learn more.” 

Watch season 1 of Frick, I Love Nature on CBC Gem today.

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