Tate Donovan has been a fan of National Geographic and climbing mountains all his life. That’s why it made perfect sense for him to audition to supply the narration for “Expedition Everest.” The one-hour special is scheduled to be broadcast on the cable channel starting at 10 p.m. June 30. It follows the special, “Lost on Everest,” that airs at 9 p.m.
“Expedition Everest” follows a team of international scientists and climbers as they conduct one of the most comprehensive single scientific expeditions in Mount Everest history. The team – featuring members from eight countries – conduct valuable research as they make their way up the mountain.
“I have done some mountaineering and follow Everest so getting to do this was super cool,” Donovan says.
Narrating the film was done from the safety of a recording studio. Donovan hints that climbing Everest would be a dream come true, so far his mountaineering expeditions have peaked with Mount Rainier.
Donovan’s not 100% certain where his passion for mountain climbing, hiking and staying outdoors comes from except that his family has always had that interest. That continues now and when not working on a TV show or film, Donovan loves to head down a river or up the side of a mountain.
In a small way, narrating “Expedition Everest” helped feed Donovan’s outdoor spirit. He went into the project with a lot of knowledge of the mountain that has lured so many to climb it but working on the National Geographic special gave him some new insights especially in regards to what the scientists discovered.
“I was able to see how climate change is affecting the entire Earth,” Donovan says. “You want to think of places like Everest as sort of untouched by the endeavors of mankind. Other than the tracks the climbers leave behind, you want to think that is a different world.
“To see what the scientists have uncovered shows that we are all a part of it. How Everest goes, so goes the rest of mankind. It is awe-inspiring to realize how connected we are to every part of the globe.”
Donovan’s appreciation of what the scientists in the special do goes beyond their research. Having climbed mountains, Donovan knows how difficult the process can be just for the climb. But, this team carried large amounts of equipment up the mountain to do their research.
This is not the first time Donovan has done voice work. Along with speaking for the character of Hercules in the 1997 Disney animated feature film of the same name, he has worked as a voice actor on several video games and animated TV shows.
“Voiceovers are so much fun for actors,” Donovan says. “We don’t have to get into makeup and hair. We can show up in our shorts.
“We were in a lockdown when we recorded this special. I went to a studio of a friend of mine that’s in his backyard. We were connected by Zoom to the producers.”
There are plenty of positives to voice work but it also has some negatives. Donovan finds the process of acting completely different when he is only doing a voice because he can’t count on facial expressions or body language to help make a point. He adds that narration requires being emotionally involved while at the same time maintaining some distance.
There have been plenty of opportunities to see Donovan as he’s put together a long list of on-screen credits including the feature films “Argo,” “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “Elvis and Nixon.” His TV work includes “Damages,” “The O.C.,” “24: Live Another Day” and ‘The Man in the High Castle.” Most recently he was seen on the CBS reboot “MacGyver.”
Donovan loved working on “MacGyver” but he’s relatively certain that character has died and won’t be back. He does agree that when it comes to television death is never a certainty.
For now, Donovan is excited to be part of the long history National Geographic has with one of Earth’s most extreme environments atop the highest peak in the world — Mount Everest — to investigate, observe and deliver powerful, groundbreaking stories, despite its risks. It started in 1933 when the magazine published a story about flying over the mountain for the first time.
In this time when people are being told to stay home as much as possible, “Expedition Everest” is offering some relief.
“I have a 15-year-old son who has had to spend the whole semester home from school,” Donovan says. “Programming like this shows him the world and gets him interested in science on a very personal level.
“Thank God there are programs like this. It is a great way to get out of the house for a couple of hours.”