Mark Steines Talks His New Gig Hosting Nat Geo WILD's 'Animal ER Live'

Meaghan Darwish
Q&A Courtesy of Nat Geo WILD

Nat Geo WILD is delving into the world of live television with its latest four-part series, Animal ER Live.

From the makers of Live PDAnimal ER Live is giving viewers unprecedented access to seven different animal clinics around the country in real time. Mark Steines (Entertainment Tonight, Home & Family) hosts the special program, which will air four weekends in a row beginning Saturday, March 30 at 9/8c.

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Below, Steines opens up about the unique show, his love for animals and more.

Animal ER Live is… live. How does that work, do you have any dry runs to get a feel for the format?

Mark Steines: It's very similar to Live PD. It's the same sort of working component, I guess, but nobody's ever gone into seven animal clinics live like we are on Saturdays and Sunday nights for this four-week stint. I wish I could say that there are dry-runs or that we have rehearsals.

We're looking at different places, but other than that, we have no idea what's gonna happen from one night to the next. I mean, we're living within a heartbeat of what these doctors are living with and breathing and they're trying to save these pets that are family members to so many of us. So it's definitely a show that is cutting edge.

A dog receiving treatment at the veterinary surgery following an injury to his leg. (Credit: Nat Geo WILD)

What drew you to this project? Was it the animals, the live aspect or both? We know you have hosted the Hero Dog Awards in the past.

I'm just gonna say all of the above because there's very little television these days that is live. I do the Rose Parade each year, which is live, and that's so exciting because it's like doing, I guess, a Broadway show. When the curtain opens up, the audience is there and you go on, the show goes on, and that's part of the excitement of it.

Some of these clinics that we're going to are seeing anywhere between 30, 50, 70 or a hundred cases depending upon which facility or weekend. The two experts on set with me — Dr. Justine Lee and Dr. Will Draper — are both amazingly talented and have years and years of experience... If this show inspires one child, to say, "I want to have a life as a veterinarian because of this show, I watched what they did and the impact they had on lives and peoples' pets," I think that's a wonderful thing to come from this.

I have two dogs. I have a golden [retriever], and my wife has Norbert the Therapy Dog... [Animals] have something they can offer all of us.

Were you a fan of Live PD before signing up to do this show?

Truth be told, I hadn't seen [Live PD] before. I'm typically a crime-show watcher — Deadline and those type of things — but when I turned on Live PD I was like... are you kidding me?! From the get-go, I'm like, what a way to grab you right out of the seat of your sofa and right into the action…

(Credit: Nat Geo WILD)

Is your approach to a show like this different from your past work on entertainment news programs?

Yes, that's a really great question to ask because I've been contemplating that as well. I have [always been very prepared] for my entire career — and you can ask Leeza Gibbons this because I host with her on the Rose Parade, she's like "man, you do your research."  I'm to the point where people are rolling their eyes going "Really? Did you really need to use color-coded tabs?" But I just do. I take a lot of pride in it, and it pays off.

So I always do that, but in this case I've been thinking, what can I do to get ready? And there’s really nothing you can do to prepare for what's going to happen other than cutting in and being alert and present, but also being accessible to what you're seeing in television.

Do you have any personal connection to the show beyond serving as host?

I grew up in Dubuque, Iowa — both of my parents were farmers and I worked the farm life for many years over the summers. So I've been around livestock quite a bit, I've been around animals for a good portion of my life, and I very much believe in their wellbeing and being able to help out whenever we can.

(Credit: Nat Geo WILD)

I think too the other component is until I met my wife Julie, I really didn't understand the impact of therapy dogs and I watch her and have spent time with her at Children's Hospital and other events, and I see the impact that [Norbert] has on other people and to me that's really where it resonates with me.

Where can we expect to see you next? Any type of hosting or gigs you've been wanting to do?

Right now I am fully invested in this show at this particular moment. There are some other little things on the horizon that I'm considering doing but those are sort of more personal enjoyment and what not.

Portrait of a cute little dachshund carried by an unrecognizable woman at the veterinarian. (Credit: Nat Geo WILD)

Would you keep doing this show if it got picked up for more episodes?

Who knows what's gonna happen. [Live PD] on A&E was a huge [episode] order. I don't wanna get my hopes up and expectations up... I would love it if there wasn't one single shelter with an animal in it.

Animal ER Live, Premieres Saturday, March 30, 9/8c, Nat Geo WILD