INTERVIEW: Neil Darish prepares for the future on final season of ‘Edge of Alaska’

Neil Darish is featured in Edge of Alaska on Discovery Channel. Photo courtesy of Discovery Channel.

Discovery Channel’s hit TV show Edge of Alaska is currently airing its final season. It will be a bittersweet feeling once the finale rolls around. Longtime viewers will hopefully have some questions answered about local entrepreneur Neil Darish and dedicated homesteader Jeremy Keller, no doubt with an assurance that the adventures will continue long after the cameras are turned off.

For newbies, Edge of Alaska details the winds of change in bucolic McCarthy, Alaska, a tucked-away oasis that is facing an uncertain future. Darish owns a few business interests in town and would like to see smart tourism growth, while Keller enjoys living off the land and keeping McCarthy as the postcard image he first laid eyes on.

Throughout the series, Darish, Keller and the locals have had their disputes and their causes for collaboration. Their great experiments have enraptured viewers and added to the ever-growing field of Alaska-set reality shows.

New episodes air Sundays at 10 p.m.

Recently, Hollywood Soapbox spoke with Darish about his adventures on the show. Here’s what he had to say:

On what fans can expect on the final season …

“Well, I know they won’t be disappointed. There’s definitely a few surprises. … I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but I can say that there’s, as they saw in the first episode, a new love in Mark [Wacht’s] life, which is pretty amazing. And I like seeing that because he’s a great person, and so I think there’s some changes in people’s lives. Certainly Jeremy and I are going through some turmoil as will unfold as the season goes on. I think there’s probably three or four surprises that are kind of from left field as far as my character goes. Obviously, again, without giving spoilers, with what was shown in the first episode, it’s pretty obvious that there are some big changes about to happen.”

On his first impressions of McCarthy, Alaska …

“I first came to McCarthy about 30 years ago, and it was just amazing. I fell in love not just with the wilderness, which is spectacular, but I had traveled enough to kind of expect to see spectacular wilderness in lots of great places. But it’s the old history that I really like, and just seeing all these old artifacts that had a relationship to the people that were from McCarthy in the day was kind of a shocker. So when I got there 30 years ago, instead of just being somewhat enamored with antiques — you know, my dad had a junkyard, he salvaged stuff, and there were always antiques, so I kind of get a kick out of antiques and stuff — but coming to McCarthy, it was really different. It was like a childhood ghost town look at the world, if that makes sense.”

On the lasting memory of the town …

“I could see that the saloon had history that was tied to the hotel that was tied to other people and just on and on, so there was all these connections to living people that made the artifacts, and the ghost town and this wilderness setting more than just seeing a cool antique somewhere. So I think I first got enamored by the idea that there was all this abandoned stuff, and it had more meaning than just an antique, than just a nice old thing to put on the shelf. … Over the years, while fixing everything up, I just learned more and more about the history. That’s what I like about up there.”

On why he met resistance from locals …

“When I talk to people in a wilderness setting or a remote setting, they don’t want anyone else there. That’s kind of common: ‘I got here. It’s really nice. I’d rather not anyone else be there.’ It’s a typical sentiment. I don’t like that sentiment. I don’t agree with that sentiment, and there were probably a number of people that come in in the summer. And their heart is there, and they’re way more upset than the people that you see on the show that live there year round because the people that live there year round, they realize that it’s a logistics struggle to get supplies and all that, and it’s a resource struggle. How do we make it all happen? And they recognize that tourism is a part of what this place needs in order to sustain itself.

On his relationship with Jeremy Keller …

“So while Jeremy is off the grid and doesn’t think he’s relating to tourism, he is because when he sells stuff to me or when he’s building stuff for people in town, the revenue starts from outside the town, and it’s brought to us by people that are visiting. When I first got there, the number of visitors in a day would be in the dozens, and today it’s not in the thousands or tens of thousands. But it’s in the hundreds. That may not seem like a lot, and compared to Cape Cod it’s nothing. But for us it’s enough. It’s about smart growth, so the whole time that I’m at odds with people about building, in my head, I’m thinking, well, why are they are here instead of like 100 miles further out? Because here is the town. Now the town’s been abandoned, but it’s going to grow again.”

On the importance of smart growth …

“I think some people they get to a nice place, and they don’t really want it to get ruined. So they fear other people, and they say, ‘We don’t want it to grow too fast.’ But over the past two decades, I can ask anyone of my neighbors, ‘Well, who would you want to get rid of? What new person that’s here from this growth, from this smart growth, this small, incremental, consistent growth, who do you want to kick out?’ Because that’s really what they’re saying. … We don’t want things to grow.

“I mean, no one is forcing someone to get electricity if they don’t want it. In the meantime, they run their own generators, and what our government, like the State of Alaska, they want to provide infrastructure. And so they rely on someone like myself in a remote community. That’s how electricity starts, centralized power, and so that’s a big change. And, yeah, I can see that that’s at odds with what people are afraid of, which is this sort of unknown that change represents, so, yeah, I’ll always be at odds with people who like what’s there and don’t really want to be an instrument of change. They don’t want to see change, and I respect that. But the change I’m doing is not ruining the town, and it’s not just a gentrification either. It’s about being respectful to the authentic, and I think that’s why after all this time, again, people can point and say you might do something wrong. But they don’t want me to go backwards and take away something that’s there that we built.”

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

Edge of Alaska continues Sundays at 10 p.m. on Discovery Channel. Click here for more information. Click here for Hollywood Soapbox’s previous coverage of Edge of Alaska.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications.

E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

3 thoughts on “INTERVIEW: Neil Darish prepares for the future on final season of ‘Edge of Alaska’

  • October 18, 2017 at 9:44 pm
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    Our family is going to miss this guy. So authentic and protective of the town he helped build. The younger generation needs to watch Neil get things done. We know we built in S.F. for forty years.

    Reply
  • October 29, 2017 at 4:48 pm
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    Really a shame to hear about the final season. A very interesting show. I wish all the people of McCarthy the best of luck in all matters.

    Reply
  • October 29, 2017 at 4:49 pm
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    A shame to hear about the final season. A very interesting show. I wish all the people of McCarthy the very best in all their endeavours.

    Reply

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