If you have the Syfy channel, chances are Jael de Pardo is or has been on one of your favorite shows. She travels the world searching for the unknown and truly loves every minute of it. Some call her the real-life Lara Croft, but we like to call her our Femme on Fire. Catch her tonight on the season two premiere of Haunted Highway.
Playboy.com: So you get to work at Syfy and they bring you all around the world, which is so cool. I’ve been talking all day about how amazing your job must be. As I did research for this interview I kept uncovering more incredible places and things you’ve gotten to see and experience. What has been the experience that has stuck with you the most?
de Pardo: I’m very lucky; I’ve found myself in this position where I’m getting flown all around the world for work, and I love to travel. I would say one of the standout moments for me was filming an episode for Destination Truth in Egypt. It was sunset, and we had to do a scene where we were doing precision driving over the sand dunes right next to the pyramids. I just remember thinking, “Holy cow, this is amazing.”
Playboy.com: Wow, that’s incredible. You were also able to travel to Chernobyl, which is insane! I’ve always had a fascination with the photos that come out of the Pripyat ghost town. What are some of the things that came up during your trip that you didn’t expect when you went there?
de Pardo: I remember being really frightened about all of the radiation. We had to go through all these different government checkpoints to make sure that we could keep passing though, and we had a government official with us that was facilitating the entire thing. The city of Pripyat was astounding. There were all these abandoned supermarkets, elementary schools and apartment buildings . . . all these different places that were just skeletons of what life used to be. All the furniture had been toppled over, books strewn about, shoes . . . you’d find old photographs of families. When you look at [those kinds of details] it really humanizes [the place]. You realize that this is a huge disaster that happened and it was very real for some people. It was very sad. And then on top of that, we had to wear these anti-radiation suits while we were running around. They’re not the most flattering, mind you, and for a girl who loves her fashion it was probably the oddest thing I’ve ever had to put on. I felt like I was wearing a rubber bag. It was hilarious. All the while we had this government official following us around with a Geiger counter telling us not to go into certain places due to the high radiation. . . . So it was a frightening experience. But at the same time I would never take it back for anything because it was such a unique thing to get to do.
Playboy.com: I love that you play such an integral role in all the teams you work with. What’s the importance of that strong woman element in these sorts of fields of research for you?
de Pardo: You’re going to locations and you’re trying to find answers for an audience. You run into people who might want to lie to you. I think that you have to be very observant and astute in these kinds of situations. It takes a certain amount of wit. You have to be tough sometimes with people because you don’t want them to get one over on you. So it’s a fine balance of being friendly and approachable and at the same time not being afraid to ask the hard questions.
Playboy.com: Because of the things you guys are dealing with, do you run into a lot of . . . whack jobs? Like, they’re saying these things and you just know it’s bullshit?
de Pardo: There’s definitely those situations, yes. [laughs] But then I run into these people in situations that are so afraid of something that has happened to them. I remember talking to a woman who was in tears over something that had happened, so that always has been a little bit more alarming. You think, “Wow, could this really be happening to someone?” Even though I’m more of a skeptic when it comes to conspiracy theories and myths and that kind of thing, sometimes you run into people who truly believe what’s happening to them and it makes you pause a moment and take [their experience] into consideration.
Playboy.com: So because you mentioned taking a skeptical approach to things, which is probably a good tactic in your case, can you tell me the most unexplained phenomenon you’ve witnessed?
de Pardo: There was this curious thing we took a look at in England. A woman claimed that she was abducted by aliens. And it was really interesting because her husband had set up a video camera in her room to comfort her, because she was having these really lucid dreams of going away and having these people examining her. So he wanted to assure her that she wasn’t going anywhere, and oddly enough his camera captured this video of her pretty much just dissolving into the sheets. You see a mound where she is under the sheets and then all of a sudden it just dissolves and the bed just goes flat. It’s really bizarre because she just disappears for a few moments and then she comes back. Her body appears again under the sheets. We took the video and had it examined, but there was no evidence of it being tampered with, so we were really perplexed. This was actually the woman I was telling you about who was really upset and crying when we talked to her. She was a very religious woman and had no background of ever having thought about extraterrestrials. So it left me and everyone else very perplexed.
Playboy.com: Your show Haunted Highway is coming back, too!
de Pardo: Yeah, I’m really excited. The premiere for the show is November 27! And we’re premiering the second season. It’s such an exciting show for me; it’s such a great cast. I’m working alongside Jack Osbourne, who is awesome! We’ve been having a ton of fun with that.
Playboy.com: It’s a really interesting concept. Can you tell me a bit more about it?
de Pardo: I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie Blair Witch Project, but it’s basically a spinoff of sorts. The show is about a group of friends who go out on the road and decide that they are going to document an urban myth on their own. So we have our own cameras and we basically film the entire show ourselves. It’s us going out there and all these things start to unravel for us while we’re meeting people along the road trip. But then we find ourselves in the woods in the middle of the night and all these scary things start to happen. It’s a scary show!
Playboy.com: What’s a common misconception about these kinds of shows?
de Pardo: I think a major misconception is that we’re going to have an answer for everything! [laughs] We’re talking about things that are not easy to pinpoint—they’re not really tangible things. We’re looking for something that may or may not be out there. We may not always have the answers, but we’re inviting people to come out on this adventure with us while we try to figure it out.
Playboy.com: What’s your…
Favorite food: I grew up around a lot of Italian food, so I love authentic Italian food. I love visiting the Italian countryside. I also really like Japanese food.
Favorite drink: I love champagne and I love me a martini!
Worst pickup line: I don’t think my worst pickup line was with someone who used words. I had an incident once where I was out at a party and this guy, don’t ask me why, but he didn’t have his shirt on. He was a muscular dude and he walked up to me and his way of trying to get me to look at him was flexing. He came over and showed me his bicep and flexed it. I think he tried to make it subtle but it was so obvious to me and so overt that I just thought to myself, “Oh my god, did this guy really just do that?” He did it again, which answered my question. Luckily my friend came over and saved me. It was the worst thing I had ever seen a guy do! [laughs]
First memory of Playboy: I feel like Playboy is such a big brand name that I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I first saw the magazine. When I first moved to Los Angeles, years and years ago, I was asked to host a red carpet at the Playboy Mansion. It was my first time there and it was amazing. It was such a cool event and being able to see all of those things you hear about like the grotto, Hef’s zoo and all of the Bunnies running around was a really cool experience. Obviously I had seen the magazine before, but that was a real standout Playboy moment for me.