It’s being billed as the most dangerous tightrope walk in the history of the Wallenda family: tonight in the Windy City, Nik Wallenda is set to cross the Chicago River while more than 50 stories high above the water, with no tether and no net.
For an encore, he’s then to do a second, shorter wire walk, between the two famed Marina Tower buildings located nearby. And this time, he’ll be blindfolded.
Not a feat for the faint of heart.
“Nik is probably the coolest, most calm guy when it comes to these things, as you would want him to be,” says Natalie Morales.who, with Today colleague Willie Geist, will co-anchor Discovery Channel’s coverage of the high-intensity event, which is being produced by NBC’s Peacock Productions. “I think we feel more of a comfort level, knowing how well he trains for the unforeseen circumstance.”
“I think we’re so confident in Nik because he’s so confident in himself,” adds Geist. “He does things he knows he’s capable of doing.”
TVNewser caught up with Morales and Geist in Chicago as the two prepped for today’s broadcast. It will be the second time the pair will anchor such coverage, having teamed up last year with The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore for Wallenda’s Grand Canyon walk.
Cantore is part of tonight’s event as well, providing updated forecasts during the show. He told TVNewser in Chicago that while the weather will be blustery – temperatures in the low-to-mid 40’s, with winds between 15-20 mph – that’s his forecast for those of us on the ground. For Wallenda, “the winds can be a little bit stronger up there.”
Should the gusts be too great during his walk, Wallenda has said that his backup plan is to hold on to the wire and wait for help to arrive.
It will be a dangerous endeavor. Peacock Productions President and General Manager Sharon Scott confirms with TVNewser that there will be a 10-second delay during the broadcast, and Morales and Geist say they’re prepared should something go awry.
“Rest assured, there is a plan,” says Geist. “But we don’t plan on using it.”
Another strategic consideration for the anchors is how to handle their direct communication with Wallenda. The three will be able to talk with each other during the second, shorter walk – the one that will have Wallenda blindfolded.
“We’ll be careful with the kinds of questions that we ask,” Morales says, “and make sure that he’s okay with us first approaching him and talking with him, and making sure that he’s comfortable – we don’t want to break his focus at any point in time.”
Geist concurs that the hosts will try and sense whether Wallenda wants to talk with them.
“It’s totally up to him,” Geist says. “We’ll do whatever he wants.”
The tough weather conditions, along with the sheer challenge of the walks, and the demands of live television, are certain to draw curious viewers from the more than 220 countries in which the show will air.
The 2013 Grand Canyon walk was watched by more than 13 million people, something that surely pleases Nik Wallenda.
“He’s a very driven man,” Cantore says. “He wants to please the crowd.”