“Limitless With Chris Hemsworth” Executive Producer Arif Nurmohamaed | Exclusive Interview
This month, National Geographic’s newest documentary series, “Limitless With Chris Hemsworth” arrives on Disney+ and recently, I recently got to speak with Arif Nurmohamaed, who is the executive producer of the show, where I asked him about creating the show, how Chris’s training for “Thor: Love & Thunder” impacted on the show and much more.
Arif Nurmohamaed, has worked on many shows for National Geographic, including “The World According To Jeff Goldblum” and “Shark Beach With Chris Hemsworth”, plus many more.
Check out the video interview below:
What is “Limitless” all about?
Yeah. It’s a very simple tagline, which captures it perfectly. It’s about living longer, better. It’s about what we can all do in our lives without pharmaceutical invention, just through behavioral change, good habits. New habits, actually, that will mean that as we age, we age in a healthier way. So this isn’t a series about the extremes of, I don’t know, cryogenics or anything that’s particularly sci-fi. This is really just about hitting 70 or 80 in a healthier way.
It’s not about living to 110. It’s about making sure that, to the end of our lives, we’re as well as we can be. That’s the background to the series. Obviously, we do happen to have one of the greatest physical specimens on the planet hosting it, which comes with some, I think, really kind of rewarding angles for me as a storyteller. For all of us, actually, on the production team at Nutopia, our partners, Protozoa, Darren Aronofsky, and Ari Handel. We were all blown away by Chris’s willingness to stretch himself beyond his own limits, both physically and emotionally, in this series. And I don’t think any of us really anticipated that when we were thinking about who would be the perfect host for a show like this.
Because we know that Chris is an incredibly healthy individual, looks after himself. He’s got the Centr app. He is famous for his extraordinary physique and health, if you like. So we thought there was something really almost counterintuitive about somebody like him who has the same kind of relatable issues that he struggles with in his life as the rest of us. Obviously, be it stress in his life or fear of mortality, or just the process of aging. All of that stuff actually connects him to us. And he was so willing to commit himself to this project in a way that was really exceptional.
How did Chris Hemsworth’s training for “Thor: Love & Thunder” impact on how you created the show?
Well, there were certain things that we couldn’t do ultimately with Chris because, at the end of the day, he was prepping for this movie. There were certain things that actually we thought would be a fantastic opportunity to meld the experiences on Limitless with his day-to-day preparation, particularly with Thor. So the Strength episode, which is the rope climb, that was very much built around this idea that, for Chris, he was bulking up for the Thor movies, not in a cosmetic way, but it was very much focused on the ornamental side. He knew he was going to get super big for the last Thor, and he wanted to do it in a way that was incredibly healthy. And not to say that the way that he prepares for Thor isn’t, but there was the addition of Ross Edgley on the scene to really work him in a direction that was very exciting to him.
And so the rope climbing was a sort of manifestation, really, of the training that he needed to do that was all about flexibility, in a way, and a core strength that he needed to acquire in order to climb that rope. And that flexibility is hugely important in the long term. And the interesting thing about Chris in that situation, and Ross talks about it in the film, is that he was totally the wrong body shape to be doing that. Because normally, when you climb that kind of challenge, you need to be pretty wiry and lean. So what Chris did was absolutely remarkable. And Ross would tell you there are very few human beings who would be that big and be able to do what Chris managed.
If you were to do one of the challenges from the show, which one would you like to do yourself?
Oh, that’s interesting. Well, I thought the Acceptance experience for Chris was pretty life-changing. It genuinely was for him, I think. And I think that going through that experience of reevaluating what’s important in the moment because of the recognition that comes with something like that, that aging is a gift, I think is profoundly challenging and profoundly important and would be a wonderful experience to have gone through. To be honest, B.J. Miller, who obviously we know very well through producing the show, and Alua Arthur, the two mentors he has in that film, are just exceptional. And to have had the time that Chris had with them would be fantastic.
Also, to be completely honest, I don’t like heights. I can barely get up the stairs, let alone a rope, so I think some of those more physical challenges. I do all of those things. I do exercise. I do cold shower. I do all of those things. Whether I would’ve been able to swim across an Arctic field, I very much doubt. I think I could have probably done the Acceptance challenge with the aging suit and going through that experience, so that would probably be the one.
And yeah, I think it’s important that what Chris does, the extremes, what he does, the stuff he brings back in his life are obviously not that extreme, the stuff that is relatable and that all people can do in their lives. Those are all entirely possible in most people’s lives with medical supervision. It’s important to say. Something like a super-cold shower, at the end of the day, if you are medically vulnerable, you want to be careful about that kind of thing, all right? But yeah.
You also worked on the Disney+ series, “The World According To Jeff Goldblum”. What was the difference between making that show to Limitless?
Well, the similarities are acute actually, and you’ll know this from the fact that, obviously, Jeff was the grand master and has worked with Taika, as has Chris, and they are both so quick and so witty. So much of the stuff that they did with Taika was improvised, from what I can tell. And hanging around both of them, that sharpness, that quickness of wit, is something they both share. And that’s a delightful thing as a filmmaker to work around people who can think on their feet, who can make you laugh, can make the audiences laugh. They both have real fascination in the subject matter.
Obviously, with Jeff, it was much more diverse, from ice creams to swimming pool to sneakers. With Chris, he is very interested, genuinely focused on health and wellness. That’s something that he finds fascinating. And so we were lucky in that both of them were genuinely curious about the subject matters and in an authentic way in the subject matters that they were investigating.
Obviously, the spectacle and stunt nature, if you like, of Chris’s challenges, that wasn’t where we were going with Jeff. So the scale of production around what we did with Chris, be it the crane walk or the climb, all of these in terms of the safety around that, in terms of the production, was on a different scale to the way we were working with Jeff. With Jeff, it was a very small team. I can tell you it was me, a producer, director, cameraman, camera assistant, sound recordist, and a couple of other people, very small teams. And that was how we were able to tell those stories because we weren’t putting Jeff into potentially life-threatening situations. Although he’s game, I have to say.
What was the biggest challenge overall creating Limitless?
Well, it’s a bit of a cliche. But, obviously, filming in and around Covid, we started filming the beginning of 2020, then Covid happened. Working around Covid, working around the restrictions and safety that was put in place, and Chris’s schedule for Thor, Extraction, Spiderhead, the films as well, that was a logistical challenge. We were buoyed by the fact that Chris, when he signed up to Do Limitless, he was committed. He was totally committed, and he wanted to make the series the best series he could that would have as positive an impact on people’s lives as possible. And so we worked around that over the course of, I think it was about 18 months filming in between his movie commitments. Some of it was a consequence of the amount of training that he needed to put in. And setbacks happen in the Strength episode with the rope. Yeah. It’s a boring thing to say, but having to constantly adjust and be flexible with your plans and schedules, that’s challenging.
Were there any issues or any sort of challenges that you planned to do but had to change them because they just weren’t going to work out?
That’s an interesting one. No, I think most of what we did evolved with the Acceptance episode. I don’t think that the way that we constructed that environment would’ve happened. It wasn’t part of our original planning. Our original planning, actually, we were thinking about Chris going into a real retirement community, but one of the things that happened was that Covid meant we couldn’t go into a vulnerable environment. So in a way, the kind of constructed reality that we built around Chris was something that was a reflection of that. So there’s an example, I guess. We created a retirement community. Everyone in it is a genuine retiree. They were real people, but we couldn’t go into a retirement home because of the safety around that. So that was a change, for instance, that we needed to make.
And as our final question, and I’m going to disallow Limitless and The World According to Jeff Goldblum. But what has been your favourite Disney Plus original so far?
Oh, my god. Yeah. Can I say The Beatles? That, to me, was fantastic. It’s one of the pleasures, I think, of a streaming service that you could spend that long immersed in a show. I’m sure the fact that we’re able to do that, binge it, completely live in that studio at that time was a really special experience, which I’m not sure would’ve happened prior to Disney Plus and prior to the streaming revolution.
“Limitless” is going to be arriving on Disney+on the 16th of November