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The Afternoon ShowRTÉ One, Weekdays, 4.00pm

Baz Ashmawy

Thursday, 20 May 2010

"Baz's Extreme Worlds see Baz Ashmawy immerse himself in very different but extreme and tough worlds. In Programme One, Baz travels to one of America's highest security prisons in the town of McAlester. Once a year the prison warden, Randal J Workman, allows prisoners that are on 23 hour lock down, to participate in a real live rodeo within the prison walls. In other shows, Baz spends time with the New York Fire Brigade, goes on board a fishing boat to experience life as an Irish fisherman, delves into the world of cage fighting in the North of Ireland, lives with a survivalist in the snow deserts of the North of Sweden, and travels with the Irish army to Chad.

Programme One: Prison Rodeo

In Progamme one, Baz goes to Oklahoma State Penitentiary, a maximum security prison. It holds 1400 highly dangerous criminal, 73 of whom are on death row. Most of the inmates are on 23 hour lockdown. For two days every year, Oklahoma State Penitentiary gives them the opportunity to participate in the world's only 'behind the walls' prison rodeo. It is very violent and dangerous.

The Rodeo coach is Sergeant Rickey Kelley. It is his job to take 10 inmates, and teach them how to bronco ride. The men were chosen by the warden based on good behavior. For two days they get special freedoms that would not normally be available to them. The main character that Baz follows is Nicholas Hand aka 'Red", whose mother and sisters travel across the states to see him ride wild animals.

Programme Two: Trawlers

Baz Ashmawy admits that during the 6 months filming for his new television series Baz's Extreme Worlds, nothing pushed him more mentally or physically than his days aboard the fishing boat The Maartin Luther. Baz joined the crew of the 120ft Beam Trawler in Kilmore Quay, Wexford, and worked onboard as they fished the deep Atlantic ocean for monkfish and megrin. Here lived with the tight crew that included the Captain Pigeon, the Deckhands Jay, Chico and Dan, and the cook Jimmy. Baz's trip out to the deep brought the crew face to face with some very dangerous and tough conditions". REF: RTE PRESS

First of all congratulations .. When is the baby due?

Another four weeks. The clothes are ready and bags are packed. We are all systems go.

What preconceptions did you have before you went to the prison?

I think there are presumptions and you have a preconception of what it is like. Especially like Oklahoma it's an alien place anyway.

Did you warm to any prisoners?

It's a good reflection of any society - some people you warm to and others you don't. People can make stupid mistakes and they pay for that. Also, some people don't pay for their crimes. You can't help feel for some people and then others you think you are glad they are behind bars.

And there was a rodeo in the prison?

Yes there was one and it was insane in its own right and that would only happen in Oklahoma. Around 10,000 people go to see it. Only Oklahoma that a night's entertainment would be going to a prison.

When did you film it?

We filmed it in September.

Next Monday's episode you are fishing off Wexford.

They go straight through the week- you pull in huge big nets, get the fish, gut them for hours and then you take a break and it's all systems go again. It's like that for 4 or five days.
I thought I was going to go overboard twice. I was terrified. Those boys were such good crack. Jimmy the cook and Jay and they were great at picking you up when you were feeling a bit low.

There's also such a high rate of occupation mortality.

The fishing community is like a family and they all know each other. There was an Egyptian fisherman who died the week we were there (not on our ship).

90% of fishermen can't swim. Most of the ones on my ship couldn't swim. They said they have no intention of getting in the water. To be honest the sea is so rough that I think you only have about an hour.

Any Extreme World you would like to live full time?

No. I got to taste these worlds but then I was able to go home and go back to my normal life.
Loads of my friends said 'oh I would love to go out on the trawler' but I was telling them in reality you wouldn't. The same about the Arctic - it was great to do it but I wouldn't do it again.
The NY fire brigade was mad. They do it for the adrenaline rush but for everyone they save they have to pull out burnt babies. My only demons are the ones in my head.
I could relate to the cage fighters but I wouldn't have it in me to do what they do.

Any other shows planned?

I am in talks about other shows but I am trying to delay it till August as I want time with the new baby. I can't wait. I am ready to burst and it's not long now. I want to know if it's a boy or a girl.