Levi Sampson is no stranger to pushing boundaries, so it seems natural he'd be co-hosting a TV series titled Sky's The Limit.
"It was a step outside my comfort zone," admits Sampson, who with Suzanne Teresa hosts CHEK-TV's slick new half-hour series that offers a refreshing take on business travel and international arts, cuisine and culture Mondays at 8: 30 p.m.
"But it also made perfect sense because I've always been stirred to encourage others to go after their goals and dreams, and this is an easy way to do that."
Sampson, 31, is the former track and field star best known as president and part owner of Nanaimo pulp mill Harmac Pacific, and chairman of CHEK - two companies he played an influential role in rescuing through an employee-ownership solution.
Teresa, also 31, is an award-winning commercial photographer with an expanding roster of clients worldwide.
At first glance, the co-hosts of the show directed by Victoria's Arwen Hunter seem to have little in common. She's a dynamic, outgoing woman who attracted attention as a Maxim model three years ago; he's the boyish, quietly efficient entrepreneur, a straightshooting business visionary often found wearing suits and ties.
Teresa is also smart and quick-witted, and Sampson is more playful and adventurous outside the boardroom than you might think. And although frequently airborne, the co-hosts who both hail from elsewhere - Sampson from Yorkton, Sask. and Teresa from Oshawa - call Nanaimo home.
"There are so many sides to both of us," Sampson says. "People who think of Suzanne just as this Maxim hottie will see, once you watch the show, there are many layers there. She's an intelligent woman and does fantastic work."
A selling point is that the telegenic couple epitomize young, successful business persons and are thus ideally qualified to act as tour guides to the world of business travel as they jet off to Hong Kong, Sydney, London and, closer to home, Tofino.
A preview of the show reveals their winning on-air chemistry that Sampson says comes naturally.
"We're good friends and we became better friends as the series went on and we travelled to all these unique places," he says. "We always pick each other's brain about how to incorporate how each of us do business, and we push each other's boundaries."
Teresa theorizes that what makes them effective as co-hosts is that their personalities offset each other.
"He's a thinker. He thinks about everything formulating in his brain, whereas I talk about it," she says. "I'm a goof. I say a lot of things. But we come from the same perspective. We both have dreams and this idea in our head that we can do whatever we want to do. You persist and follow your dreams."
Teresa also smiles and laughs a lot - a trait she insists isn't modellingrelated.
"It's just who I am," she says. "I'm getting wrinkles from smiling too much."
You'll see it in Hong Kong sequences, where Sampson enlists her advice while being fitted for a custom-made suit at Sam's Tailors. We also learn about customs like the importance of having a bilingual business card and presenting it with two hands.
They also visit Bo Innovation for an exotic 16course meal, and a colourful encounter with Allen Leung, an eccentric, playfully tyrannical so-called Demon Chef whose management style - heavy on yelling - won't be adopted by Sampson anytime soon.
"No, not at all," Sampson says, laughing. "That's a very different management style than myself."
Sampson also took great delight in watching Teresa having to eat chicken feet on camera for a dim-sum sequence.
"I think it's the grossest thing I've ever put in my mouth," she recalled with a laugh. "I don't like fat, skin and veins. I eat lean meat. Everything's cut and edited of course, but that was at 7 in the morning, just an hour after we had to get up."
Sky's The Limit evolved as a creative collaboration three years ago when Sampson began brainstorming with Teresa, with whom he had mutual contacts. She had been pitched various ideas "but nothing quite fit," until they joined forces, he said.
"You guys are travelling around the world anyway for business, so why not combine and show both sides - not just the suitand-tie corporate side," Sampson said, recalling an early pitch discussion.
He said "it feels good" that the show's crew included CHEK employees and that it's airing on B.C.'s oldest private TV station.
"That's one of the reasons I agreed to do it, to have a top-notch, Canadianmade show air on a locally owned station."
While each co-host has a list of highlights - such as Teresa's portrait shoot with Hong Kong's bad boy of fashion Wayne Tang - the most memorable was scaling an active volcano on the South Pacific country of Vanuatu.
"It was an amazing, eyeopening experience," Sampson said. "Being at the top of an erupting volcano, you feel about an inch tall in the grand scheme of things."
Admitting she had to be talked into it, Teresa said it's an experience she doesn't regret.
"Watching the sky opening, with lava blowing out above your head and big rocks flying toward you was the most incredible thing I've experienced in my life," she said. "You could literally die in three seconds."
Both were also profoundly affected being around some of the friendliest and contented people they've ever met.
"Everyone didn't have much, and they didn't want much," Teresa said.
"If somebody needs something they take care of that person," Sampson added. "That was a powerful thing to see."
As much fun as it was making Sky's the Limit, it's moments like these that made it all worthwhile, they said.
Says Teresa: "It's about understanding different cultures and being open and accepting how different people live their lives."
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