My 5: The Pop Culture Mysteries That Keep Filmmaker Andrew Jenks Up at Night (Exclusive)
By Emily Krauser
Seven Bucks Productions / Getty Images
If you were a fan of Andrew Jenks' MTV series, World of Jenks, or have followed his impressive journalistic adventures, like the HIV/AIDS crisis film he directed for Netflix, It's Not Over, and the documentary series, Unlocking the Truth, then you know that inquisitive is basically his middle name.
Now, the award-winning filmmaker and documentarian has taken his penchant for diving deep into stories of the misunderstood from the screen to the airwaves, launching his podcast, What Really Happened?, with Cadence 13 and Seven Bucks Productions, the company co-founded with Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia. Written, hosted and co-produced by Jenks, the new audio series is a deeply researched, groundbreaking look into the real-life narratives of six public figures who have created intrigue in modern history: Muhammad Ali, Chris Christie, Princess Diana, Michael Jordan, Britney Spears and Winston Churchill.
Jenks quickly knew that Johnson's team would be the perfect fit for his next endeavor, as they were as intrigued as he was when he pitched the story of Ali saving a man from committing suicide back in 1981.
"Luckily, Seven Bucks [is] inquisitive, really love history and are patient, and they hung in there as I told them that after years of research on my end, I realized there’s a chance Ali may have staged the event," the 31-year-old filmmaker tells ET. "We kept talking, decided that would be the first episode, and each episode after would be different famous or public figures during a time in their lives in which something went misunderstood or overlooked."
Patience was key to making this podcast come to life. To really try and understand the good and bad motives behind everyone he covers, he tracked down previously unknown figures who had major roles in each person's story and spent months and sometimes years doing research to get to the root of each story. It's also more in line with the intense work he's done with his documentaries than his most public work with MTV.
"World of Jenks was really about documenting a personal experience I had with somebody -- a UFC fighter, a young man with autism, a rapper -- and understanding what it was like to live in somebody else’s shoes in the moment. This is almost the reverse," he explains. "I remove myself personally and try to only look at facts, authoritative accounts and interviews I have with historians or experts."
Plus, it's also given Jenks a chance to get some good advice from Johnson. "Work on my triceps. And abs. And legs, shoulders, biceps and cardio. Other than that, totally good," he jokes.
Intrigued by pop culture mysteries ourselves, ET asked Jenks to share the five that have fascinated him most over the years. We have a feeling you've been curious about these, too:
"We explore this in our podcast, looking back at what really happened, now 10 years later and with so many different accounts. I realized that the media, and the public at large, didn’t stand up for her the way we could have. It's easier to say now, yes, but she was clearly suffering from mental health issues, and many networks and publications took advantage of this, and so did people in her world. The person whom I think was most dangerous and disregarded his moral obligations is Dr. Phil for giving a public statement after seeing her. We certainly get into that."
William Shakespeare's True Identity
"I really to want to find out if he’s real or just a conglomerate of people."
The Murders of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur
"It’d be terrible taste on my end to not include Biggie and Tupac on this list. I think that’s the greatest pop culture mystery of modern times."
The Life and Death of Princess Diana
"Princess Diana’s death is sad on so many levels and particularly because it overshadows her incredible accomplishments. I am not as intrigued by all of the different takes on how she died, but more on all the different accomplishments in her life. We do an episode on this and end up talking about all of the people in Africa she helped by attempting to eradicate land minds."
Michael Jordan's Retirement
"He retired in 1992, and since then, basketball experts all disagree as to why. Some say he simply lost interest in the game, others have conspiracy theories that involve his father’s death, which I don’t agree with. With that said, there is one quote that Jordan gave during his press conference announcing his retirement, in which he said, '…if the urge comes back, if the Bulls will have me, if David Stern lets me back in the league, I may come back.' David Stern was the commissioner. Why would he not let him back in the league unless Stern had given Jordan a ‘silent suspension’? We look into this in our episode of What Really Happened?."