As the old saying goes, curiosity killed the cat. But in the case of escape artist Jonathan Goodwin, curiosity has left him stung, frozen, catapulted through the air, buried alive and, well you get the idea. In the Discovery Channel’s new 10-part series One Way Out, which premieres tonight at 9 p.m. ET, Goodwin gets to translate his peculiar curiosities about the human body’s ability to withstand extreme elements into an odd reality. Each episode of has a specific theory or theme, which Goodwin puts to the test via one of his signature stunt scenarios.
A native of Wales now residing in Santa Monica, Calif., Goodwin, 29, recently phoned our Jon Tollestrup to chat about health insurance, landing in the world of "escapology" and how he met his girlfriend, who is in an even more unusual line of work than him. To read Jon’s interview, click read more below. Goodwin appears in our February 13-15 issue.
I’m sure you get this question a lot. But why do this? What is the attraction?
lot of people think that I’m some sort of a masochist, but that
couldn’t be further from the truth. For
me, it’s more about creating a challenge for myself. The research and development is actually the
bit that’s enjoyable. The stunt part of it is basically the end of the
How did you get into escapology?
I read a
book on Harry Houdini when I was 7 years old and I just fell in
love with the guy. He created this dynamic, superhero-type character,
which struck a chord with me. I spent a good deal of time learning and
teaching myself the skills you would need to have it as a profession.
Then I grew up a little bit and partially I discovered girls and
partially I thought to myself, there isn’t actually a job in this. So I
put it away for a good while. I was working in television as a producer
and the production company I was working for did a show with an
American escape artist, and it just really reached into my desire to get
back into it. So I started to kind of perform for my own amusement and
create little videos of my escapes and post them on the Internet.
How does your family react to your line of work? I would imagine they would be somewhat concerned about your safety.
I was making television in the U.K. doing escapes, the person that
assisted me in those shows was my dad. He did it begrudgingly. Not that
he enjoyed it, but he would rather be there than not. But he is now on
the other side of the world from where I am. So once I started doing
this stuff here [in the U.S.], I realized that if I didn’t want to give
my parents a coronary it’s better for me not to tell them what I’m
doing. Ignorance is bliss, as far as they’re concerned. I’ll usually
call them up and tell them what I’ve just done and then they can call
me an idiot. But at least they’re relieved that I’m OK.
When you don’t escape in time, are you able to put your mind elsewhere and ignore the painful consequences?
lot of stuff has hurt. One of my philosophies is that pain is all right,
but damage is to be avoided. One painful thing was we parked a car on
the corner of my head and we had to escape. The episode was about
crushing and pressure and so that hurt a lot. And the bees, as well,
was incredibly painful.
How was that to be covered in bees?
a very interesting experience, if you can extract yourself from the
fact that you’re being stung. It’s not an unpleasant sensation, and
maybe that sounds very odd. But if you can kind of remove yourself from
the fact that they are a large group of stinging insects, the sensation
is not unpleasant. It kind of tickles.
Is there a scenario you’re anxious to escape from that you haven’t attempted yet?
we’re lucky enough to come back and make some more [episodes], I would
really love to be set in Jell-O. I think, having investigated the
science a little bit, it would actually be lethal. The stunt would be
I’m in a tank with a snorkel, so I can breathe, and I’m surrounded by
Jell-O. First of all, I would have to let it set. So maybe it would
have to be refrigerated. So you have hypothermia, potentially, right
there. Once it’s set, the snorkel would be corked and I’ve got to try
and wriggle free before I run out of breath. Now Jell-O, by its very
nature, you can’t displace it. So if you have your hand set in Jell-O
and you’re surrounded by it, you can’t move your hand out of the space
that it’s in because there’s nothing to move into that space. There’s a
vacuum. So I genuinely don’t think you could move. I don’t think you
could escape from it. The interesting part for me is that I don’t know
the answer to that. So I want to do it because I want to find out.
It sounds like you’re driven by sincere curiosity. Does that trump your nerves when you’re in these intense scenarios?
don’t tend to get massively nervous doing what I do. I have to be able
to make judgments quickly and to decide what I’m going to do and in
what order because a missed decision at a crucial moment can really
screw me up. Also, it’s sort of genetic. My dad used to be a policeman
and a fireman and I know that he has the same thing. I get very calm in
adrenaline-filled situations. It can be a hindrance, as well.
You definitely have a unique job. But I understand that your girlfriend has an unusual job, as well?
girlfriend is a professional mermaid. We actually met on the pilot of
the show and she taught me to hold my breath for a big underwater
escape that I did. She’s a free diver, as well, so she’s an expert in
that area. [But] it’s literally the most fun when I meet new people
because people ask what I do and I say, “I’m an escape artist” and they
kind of look at me odd. Then they turn to my girlfriend for some sort
of sanity and ask, “What do you do?” And she says, “I’m a mermaid.” And
at that point they either just burst out laughing or just walk away
because they think we’re [joking].
Does she worry about you being an escape artist and having cars parked on your head?
just doesn’t like it. She came to the very first thing that we did
where minimal movement was the theme of the episode and the big stunt
was being covered in 200,000 bees. And yeah, she didn’t come to too
many more after that. She just doesn’t like watching me do it. And I
can understand that. I can kind of disassociate myself from it a little
bit. But I think if you stood watching somebody you loved have a car
drive over their head, it would be quite difficult to separate your
emotions from watching something like that.
So what do you like to do in your spare time? Do you lead more of a low-key life or are you sort of a 24/7 thrill seeker?
depends. Some kinds of things that people would classify as extreme I
adore. I do a lot of water-related stuff and I thoroughly enjoy that. I
live in Santa Monica, so I’m sort of getting into surfing. But as far
as being that kind of 24/7 thrill seeker or somebody who’ll chuck
themselves out of a plane for a giggle, I’m not that guy. I’m quite
happy to sit and read a book. But basically what drives me is learning
stuff. I’m a very curious person by my nature. I like meeting new
people and sort of sharing experiences and learning. And however I can
do that, whether it be through reading books or going to museums or
taking things apart or whatever, that’s what sort of drives me.