Ask anyone involved in the Disney+ nonfiction series “Limitless With Chris Hemsworth” from National Geographic what makes the show stand out, and it’s likely they’d say the same thing: Chris Hemsworth himself. The movie star, most famous for his portrayal of Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, brings honesty and humanity to the series that allows its deeper lessons about health and aging to land with greater impact.
“Chris is kind of great for this because we all know that he’s Thor, but he is also your everyday guy. And when you meet him, he’s really casual, really chill. He’s a really lovely person to be around,” series line producer Emma Thompson tells Gold Derby in an exclusive video interview. “But he’s also genuinely interested in fitness and nutrition and what he does to his body. And he really interrogated the science in this show, which really helped us because he wanted to be involved in that process. So I feel like, yes, everyone wants to see Chris but to listen to Chris interrogate why he’s doing certain things and change what he’s doing [in his own life] was really, really interesting.”
The six-episode series, which debuted in November, was created by Darren Aronofsky and produced by Aronofsky’s company Protozoa as well as Jane Root’s Nutopia. Each episode focuses on Hemsworth exploring “how to combat aging and discover the full potential of the human body and ways we can all extend health and happiness into old age.” The series mixes unbelievable physical challenges, such as Hemsworth swimming 800 feet in nearly freezing temperatures in an arctic fjord, with bleeding-edge scientific insight.
“Chris, he’s super approachable,” director of photography Steve Lidgerwood says. “He doesn’t want to get beaten, there’s no doubt about that…. I think any mortal man probably would be beaten, but he really pushed himself to the limit.”
All of the show’s episodes offer a window into Hemsworth’s reality – including a test that showed an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease – but perhaps none hit both the show’s star and the team as hard as the finale, “Acceptance.” In that episode, Hemsworth is allowed to experience what his life will look like in old age with the help of a special suit that mimics aging – and then, later, goes through an emotional journey to confront his own mortality. The standout episode, a blend of reality and performance, was directed by Tom Barbor-Might.
“It really felt like you were just honoring this vision of what this story was,” the episode’s editor, Stephen Chan says. “It was quite moving even when you cut it. There were certain scenes where I would still cry. It would be months and months of doing it, and it would still get me at the same point.”
The episode runs 75 minutes, and Chan says he was pleased that Barbor-Might pushed to keep the length. “Tom had so much boldness in his approach,” Chan says. That sentiment was echoed by composer Keefus Ciancia as well. “Tom was also very, very specific on that one with me. I’d say he, out of all the episodes, he really had a big master plan for it,” the composer says.
Altogether, “Limitless With Chris Hemsworth” took years to make and Thompson, Ciancia, Chan, and Lidgerwood all say working on the show left them fundamentally changed. “I would have loved to have seen this before I toured with all my punk rock bands, and maybe I would have slowed down out there a little bit,” Ciancia says.
“I would say that I came into ‘Limitless’ being interested in the science behind it because I am naturally inclined to really take care of what I eat and focus on nutrition and going to the gym,” Thompson says. “But what I’ll take away is this show is about changing small parts of your every day to make your life better. And it doesn’t have to be everything, or everyone has to do the same thing. But the series just has a way of kind of enlightening people to understanding you could change a small part of your life, and it could have a lasting effect on you.”
“Limitless With Chris Hemsworth” is streaming now on Disney+.
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