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History’s Jenks To Appear On Spike TV’s “Deadliest Warrior”

Published: August 15, 2011

History’s Andrew Jenks brings his expertise on Russia’s scariest czar, Ivan the Terrible, to Spike TV on Wednesday, Aug. 31, when he visits the popular cable series “Deadliest Warrior.” In addition, he will appear on the series’ website on Friday, Sept. 2, to answer questions in a segment called “Aftermath.”

“Deadliest Warrior” offers information on historical or modern warriors and their weapons which are used to determine which is the “deadliest” based upon tests performed during each episode. “Warrior” begins with the introduction of either two types of historical or contemporary warriors, or two historical individuals. Two teams of guests are brought onto the show to test weapons spotlighted as being used by each of the warriors. The Aftermath, produced in a roundtable format, focuses on a specific match-up and debates the issues pertaining to the episode raised by viewers in Internet forums.

A Voice You’ve Probably Heard
Andrew Jenks

“My job is essentially to be Ivan’s coach (I’m the ‘brain’), along with an actor who plays the role of Ivan’s warrior (an ex-Russian special forces guy and stuntman trained in shooting, horseback and swordplay known as `the brawn’), who bears a remarkable resemblance to Vladimir Putin,” said Jenks, who joined the university in 2006. “When I was asked to appear on the show, I’d never heard of it and asked my 12-year-old boy Alex. He, of course, knew all about it.”

In Jenks’ episode, Ivan the Terrible faces off against the conqueror of Mexico, Hernan Cortes. “They, of course, have their team of experts,” said Jenks. “Their brain is an actor and their brawn an expert marksman, fencer and stuntman.”

The series, currently in its third season, is one of Spike TV’s highest-rated shows with about 2.5 million viewers. “The show features the experts talking trash against their opponents and making references to the historical record,” laughed Jenks. “‘Just give us more stories about torture!’” they kept saying. I must have heard that 100 times.”

History's Jenks To Appear On Spike TV's
Ivan the Terrible

The show consists of gruesome tests using the weapons of each side. Then the experts evaluate damage and assess lethality, using wonky gadget wizardly talk.

“I chime in with riffs on this or that battle, Ivan’s traveling chamber of torture horrors, stories about horrific deaths and insanity, and just how blood-curdling it all is,” he said.

Jenks is the author of Russia in a Box: Art and Identity in An Age of Revolution in 2005 and Perils of Progress: Environmental Disasters in the 20th Century in 2010. His latest work is The Cosmonaut Who Couldn’t Stop Smiling: The Life and Legend of Yuri Gagarin. Jenks worked in the 1990s as a journalist and editor in Washington, D.C., where he covered NASA, EPA, military high-tech programs and the emerging Internet. He studied the Russian language at the Pushkin Russian Language Institute in Moscow in the late 1980s and worked as a translator in the Moscow CNN office as well as on Soviet fishing boats in the Bering Sea. He received his B.A. from Bucknell University, his M.A. from the University of Michigan and his Ph.D. in Russian History from Stanford in 2003.

Jenks doesn’t recall much glamour from his recent stint in television. “We had a day of going over the script (which I tried to amend in the direction of historical perspective), then two days in the field (on a production ranch north of Los Angeles), and then a day at the show’s inside set in a warehouse in Los Angeles,” he said.

“It was grueling—hours and hours of set up, sun-up to sun-down, hundreds of takes, etc.,” he said. “They seemed to like my goofy and animated way of explaining Ivan’s terrible tendencies (honed in my Foundations of Russia course), and so they hired me. This will likely play a limited role in my promotion but it was fun and will command the respect of my son, though not of my wife.”

For more information, visit the “Deadliest Warrior” website.

–Richard Manly