Henry Rollins explores rage for Nat Geo

With Explorer: Born to Rage, Edge West Productions teamed up with Henry Rollins and National Geographic Channel to bring the story behind the mysterious 'Warrior Gene' to audiences.
December 15, 2010

With Explorer: Born to Rage, Edge West Productions teamed up with Henry Rollins and National Geographic Channel to bring the story behind the mysterious ‘Warrior Gene’ to audiences. the program, which premiered last night, next airs this Sunday, December 18.

Phil Day and Aidan Pickering of Santa Monica-based Edge West wanted to analyze some of the more raging male behavior seen on television, so they did a little research to ‘bring some intelligence to the pot,’ said Day, the prodco’s owner and creative director. In the course of his research, producer Pickering found that a gene had been discovered by scientists, nicknamed the ‘warrior gene.’

Although the science of it is considered to be in its infancy, with over 10 years of research and six studies around it, the MAOA (monoamine oxidase) gene was the perfect seed for an episode of National Geographic’s ‘Explorer’ series. The project just needed a host.

‘National Geographic and I have been conspiring to work together for a few years. Finally everything came together,’ says former Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins, now a spoken word artist, author, and TV presenter. His reputation for intensity made him a perfect fit for Born to Rage.

‘I’m interested in anything that gives me more information into how we humans tick,’ he says. ‘People are my bread and butter. Also, with anything to do with anger, I am easily curious.’

National Geographic Channel commissioned the one-off in order to bring the new science to its audience. ‘Our Explorer series is the longest-running documentary series on television, and science has always been the hallmark of that series,’ says Steve Burns, NGC’s executive vice president of content. ‘It’s a spectacular film with a lot of surprises. It has startling and entertaining science.’

The MAOA gene is a neurotransmitter that tells the brain to mop up certain brain-transmitted devices, like serotonin, explains Day, while the ‘warrior gene’ is a mutated version of the MAOA. With the ‘warrior gene’ the chemicals are mopped up slowly, and this leads the brain function to potentially turn into impulsive and aggressive behavior. Two individuals that the Edge West team approached, NFL linebacker Dick Butkus and actor Danny Bonaduce, were tested and do not have the ‘warrior gene,’ proving that it’s not easy to spot a person with the mutated gene short of a DNA test.

‘Because the science is in its infancy, we wanted to pose the right questions to start a debate about genetic behavior and how that science is going to affect us, and how it already has,’ says Day.

In the series, Rollins approaches bikers, gang members, mixed martial arts fighters and more to see whether they had the ‘warrior gene,’ and he even steps forward to take the test himself. ‘[Rollins] was big enough, brave enough and bold enough to do it,’ says Day.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.