Tonight, Discovery’s 24th annual Shark Week continues with Chief Shark Officer Andy Samberg hosting Shark City, which takes a Meerkat Manor approach to introducing viewers to the individual personalities found in a group of Caribbean reef sharks who enjoy communal living and have been named by the folks at Stuart’s Cove. (Sample: Big Momma). Samberg shot wraparounds for the hour at multiple locations with sharks. “The pitch was that I would get to fly to the Bahamas and literally swim with sharks, and I was thinking there’s no way I would ever have the balls to do that on my own, so I went for it,” Samberg says.
Producers started him off slow: “He flies in from the set of something else, gets off a plane, we put him on a boat, and he’s taken to this little island in the middle of nowhere, put into a bathing suit, and sits down at a desk in the water with sharks swimming around his legs,” says executive producer Deirdre Gurney. She insists Samberg tipping his chair backwards and blindly falling into the sharks was his idea. “I had to just kind of ignore it,” he says of his fear. “I went into Braveheart mode.”
Gurney says that maneuver immediately earned the crew’s respect, and they were hopeful that when it came time for him to swim with the sharks, they wouldn’t have to go to Plan B. Of course, they had one. “There was a sequined bikini. We thought we could do funny things with him walking on the beach, just in case he wouldn’t get in the water with the sharks, which would have been understandable. But he did it, and we’re grateful,” Gurney says.
So to recap: we don’t get to see the sequined bikini at all? “You can’t ask the guy to put on the sequined bikini if he got in the water with the sharks!” Gurney says. “If he refused, we would have been like, ‘All right, now you owe us one. You get in the sequined bikini.’ But he did it.”
Perhaps Samberg was so brave because he didn’t realize how many sharks were actually swimming around him. “My buddy John Solomon, who’s a director and a writer at SNL came with me,” Samberg says. “We were doing a bunch of wraparounds for the show, and I’d been floating there in the water, and I was like, ‘Okay, I think we got that. Should we chum the water and get some sharks over here?’ And everyone on the boat kinda looked down, kinda looked away, like, ‘Yeah, yeah, we should, um, get some sharks over here.’ It turned out that there had been huge sharks all around me the entire time, and I just hadn’t realized it because they were under the water.”
Gurney’s perspective from the boat: “He’s there and we’re waiting on him, and he’s waiting on us. He’s being all funny: ‘Okay, cue the sharks.’ It’s like, okay, we threw him in knee-deep water and he could handle that, but now he’s in 40 feet of water and he’s surrounded by sharks. Who’s gonna tell Andy that he’s surrounded by sharks? Wait, where are his people? I don’t want to be the one,” she laughs. “He probably had five to eight sharks right around him, but they’re camouflaged. They’re the same color as the water, and you don’t see them and you don’t feel it. Nobody wanted to tell Andy that he was surrounded.”
Samberg took the news well, until one shark got a little too close for comfort. “They were biting chum right next to me, and then one of them actually did take a little bit of a nip at the surfboard, right where I was hanging out,” he says. ”That was kind of when I decided to call it a day.”
For Samberg, the coolest part of filming the special was spending a good 40 minutes on a little one-man submarine scooter driving through tropical fish. “I just kept asking everyone if they’d seen my son Nemo,” he says. Actually, he said a lot more than that, Gurney reports. “The camera was there, and it was him in this bubble alone, and there were sharks swimming around him, and he was amazing. He just kept riffing, joke after joke. Every moment is a must-see moment with Andy. It was hard to choose.” Watch a tease below.