“American Ninja Warrior” has become much more than just a TV show.
There’s an entire Ninja Warrior cottage industry now: Ninja gyms and local competitions have popped up across the country. Fan favorites like Kevin Bull, who started competing as a walk-on contestant in Season 6, have turned being a ninja into a career. There’s even talk of making it an Olympic sport. (Given the NBC connection, of course.)
“These ninjas have sacrificed a lot personally, financially, just to go after the thing that means the most to them,” said host Akbar Gbajabiamila.
For Bull, that meant putting aside his career as a stock trader to work full-time as a ninja warrior. As one of the show’s ambassadors, that also includes a lot of travel. He also has donated his time in working with the Children’s Alopecia Project, a cause he has spotlighted on the show.
Gbajabiamila and Bull recently stopped by IndieWire’s Turn It On podcast to share some of the show’s behind-the-scenes secrets, and even tease what to expect as Season 9 heads to a close. Listen below!
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“American Ninja Warrior” is nominated, for a second year in a row, in the outstanding reality competition Emmy category. Gbajabiamila said he’s proud of the show’s multi-generational appeal.
“I get it,” he said. “I have four kids. As a parent, sometimes I need a higher level of entertainment. This is the ultimate middle ground, where both can get into it.”
Of course, there’s always the danger of the course becoming too hard. “It’s a balancing act they play with,” Bull said. “Every year we, as ninjas, are preparing as hard as we can for anything they throw at us. We’re building things, we’re learning. Its an arms race between the two groups. We want a course thats really difficult.”
Why won’t the producers let Gbajabiamila try the course? “My dream, my desire is that in Season 10 I will be able to run and call my run with (co-host Matt Iseman),” he said.
Among other topics tackled: Will there be another $1 million winner? How hard does Kevin Bull train? Could Ninja Warrior be an Olympic sport? What’s it like to be a walk-on and wait weeks for a chance at the course?
Those, and other questions, are addressed in this episode of TURN IT ON. Also, as a bonus, Gbajabiamila and Bull even streamed a Facebook Live chat before taping the IndieWire podcast. Watch it below.
IndieWire’s “TURN IT ON with Michael Schneider” is a weekly dive into what’s new and what’s now in TV – no matter what you’re watching or where you’re watching it. With an enormous amount of choices overwhelming even the most sophisticated viewer, “TURN IT ON” is a must-listen for TV fans looking to make sense of what to watch and where to watch it.