Morgan Spurlock Talks Inside Man

Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock tells TV Real about the genesis of the CNN original series Inside Man and offers up a sneak peek at what’s to come in the new season.

Bitcoin, immigration and online dating are among the subjects that filmmaker Morgan Spurlock—director, writer and star of the Oscar-nominated Super Size Me and self-described “human guinea pig”—has investigated for his CNN original series Inside Man. Season four of the show kicked off last week with an insider’s look at gambling—from casinos and horse racing to treating addiction—and continues this week with an exploration of the space industry. Inside Man airs on CNN in the U.S. on Friday nights and is available on the news network’s authenticated nonlinear platforms.

***Image***TV REAL: How did Inside Man first come about?
SPURLOCK: It came out of a meeting we had with Vinnie Malhotra [who led CNN Worldwide’s doc strategy until joining Showtime last year]. We were meeting with Vinnie about doing a movie and he said, “Do you have any TV projects?” He wanted to do smart series. [Inside Man] was a concept that we’d been developing for a while. Once we pitched it to CNN, they said, “That’s exactly the type of show we want to be making.” We closed the deal and were in production in six weeks—it was so fast. It really was “right place, right time.” My show and Tony [Bourdain’s] got picked up right around the same window, and now here we are on season four. It’s been incredible.

TV REAL: How do you decide where you want to go and what you want to investigate?
SPURLOCK: Every year we brainstorm the topics we think are relevant, what the problems [in society] are, what matters to people. We make a long list. We send it to the network and they knock off the ones they don’t like. They send it back to us and if there are things they knocked off that we liked, ***Image***we’ll fight for those or talk about why we should make them. And then we hone in on eight to ten—the top eight we can start producing, and if one of those doesn’t work out, we have two more to fall back on.

TV REAL: You look like you had a lot of fun making the space episode that airs this week.
SPURLOCK: The space episode is so exciting. We went to NASA to premiere the episode for all the folks who work [at the Johnson Space Center in] Houston. Growing up, this world [of space exploration] made all of us dream bigger, hope bigger for our own lives. This episode does a really great job of showing that this dreamer mentality, this reaching for the stars (no pun intended), is still happening, even though we may not see it every day. It’s an incredible time right now with regards to space travel and what’s possible. People like Elon Musk and Richard Branson have relit that fire; they’ve reignited this passion and excitement for space in a way that hasn’t happened since the creation of the space shuttle.

TV REAL: You only have 40-some minutes per episode—how do you pack enough information in so you’re giving the viewer an in-depth look at a topic?
SPURLOCK: When you start watching the show, it goes by so quickly because we cover so much ground in such a short period of time. I have a great team of producers. My showrunner, Matthew Galkin, and my co-producer and co-writer, Jeremy Chilnick, we all sit down with our team of producers and we’ll say, “Here are the things we think are great to talk about.” They come back with ideas for what we should be hitting on in the show. And then we start down that path. Sometimes that path leads you to gold and to excitement; sometimes it leads you into something completely different that you never thought of. We’ve been really blessed since season one to have such incredible producers.

TV REAL: I remember talking to Anthony Bourdain about how the filming of his show has been affected by him being more and more recognizable on his travels. How has it been for you?
SPURLOCK: The fact that it’s me just doing what I do, for people it’s almost like, I’ve been pranked into Morgan Spurlock’s life in some way! [Laughs] People know what they get with me. They know I’m not out to screw them over or put them on the spot… well, there are people we put on the spot, but it’s not really that kind of show so often. It’s much more about social explorations and social explanations.

TV REAL: Where else does season four take you?
SPURLOCK: One of my favorite episodes, which we’ve wanted to do for a long time, is all about the toxins that live in our world. This is one of those episodes where we’re putting some people on the spot. [The episode looks at] the chemicals you use to clean your house, the perfume you put on your body, the lotions on your skin, the furniture you buy that is covered in fire-retardant materials. [It’s about] the chemicals you’re exposed to on a daily basis that are carcinogenic and that you aren’t even aware of. This type of exploration is one of those that make people go, Holy cow, what am I doing! I think it’s going to be an eye-opening show for folks. We’re doing a great show about professional gamers that I also think is going to blow people’s minds. These are kids who are 18, 19 years old; they play video games all day and are making $1 million a year as professional gamers. It’s bananas!