What if you could combat aging and discover the full potential of the human body? Global movie star Chris Hemsworth (“Extraction,” “Thor,” “The Avengers”) explores this revolutionary idea in the new National Geographic original series Limitless with Chris Hemsworth, created by Darren Aronofsky and hailing from his production company Protozoa and Jane Root’s Nutopia.
New scientific research is shattering conventional wisdom about the human body and offering fascinating insights into how we can all unlock our body’s superpowers to fight illness, perform better and even reverse the aging process. This science is put to the test by Hemsworth, who, despite being in peak superhero condition, is on a personal mission to learn how to extend our health, strength and intellect further into our later years. Undergoing a series of epic trials and extraordinary challenges in order to understand the limits of the human body, he’ll learn firsthand how we can live better for longer by discovering ways to regenerate damage, maximize strength, build resilience, supercharge memory and confront mortality. Entertaining, immersive and life-changing, Limitless will rewrite the rulebook on living better for longer.
In celebration of the premiere, Disney+ held a panel at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York with Hemsworth, executive producers Darren Aronofsky, Jane Root, Ari Handel, Arif Nurmohamad, and Ruth Shurman. Also in attendance were experts featured in the series Dr. Modupe Akinola, Dr. Peter Attia, Ross Edgley, Dr. BJ Miller, Tanya Streeter, Dr. Sharon Sha and Alua Arthur. Juju Chang, co-anchor ABC News Nightline, joined the Limitless team at the world premiere, along with National Geographic stars Mariana van Zeller, Jimmy Chin, and E. Chai Vasarhelyi.
“The reason I wanted to do the show was a deep dive into longevity and live a little longer, healthier. [I wanted to live a] better life and to work with some of the world-renowned experts in that space. [My goal was to] come away with a wealth of knowledge and to be armed with the tools [and to be able to do that] was an absolute blessing,” said Hemsworth.
Throughout the series, viewers will watch Hemsworth do everything possible to delay the aging process; from ice baths to conquering stress as he teams with extreme athletes who test the boundaries of the human body. However, in episode 6’s ‘Acceptance,’ he faced his most extreme and emotional challenge: three days in a retirement village while wearing an aging suit that turns the simplest activity into a Herculean task. This is not just comedic relief but a scientific one that tests the theory that the best way to combat aging and fear of mortality might not be to fight it but accept it.
“[Episode 6] was so profound for many reasons. [It] made me think about my family in a more intense way and my kids and it makes the most of every moment. I’m not taking anything for granted and I’m incredibly thankful for the experience. It was a one-off and it was a beautiful experience,” said Hemsworth.
“We [try to] control whatever is right in front of us so we can deal with it [immediately]. It’s the narrative of something in the past or the future that often scares the hell out of us. You become the narrative that we slap on top of that situation as opposed to what we’re dealing with right in front of us. If we stay present more often and in all these circumstances and situations, it’s not thinking about the outcome, it’s about what you got right now and I find that it’s a much easier space to deal with,” Hemsworth finished.
The six-part series, created by The Whale director Darren Aronofsky, combines both education, humor and clever experimental situations that challenge and harnesses the potential of Hemsworth’s mind and body to stay sharper, stronger and healthier for longer. These include swimming 800 feet across an Arctic fjord, climbing a 100-foot rope dangling over a canyon, and walking along a crane atop a 900-foot-tall skyscraper.
Inspired by science fiction, Aronofsky first got the idea for the docuseries in 2006. “It started when I did a little film called Fountain back in 2006 that dealt with longevity and a man who wanted to live forever. Back then, it was in the realm of Science Fiction. A lot of the ideas were from this one line where Hugh Jackman says, ‘Death is a disease and I was cured.’ We nearly cut it out of the movie because we thought people would laugh at it. Now there’s a lot of money and a lot of people are really interested in that world,” said Aronofsky.
“Then, many years ago, I met Dr. Peter Attia and we became really good friends. He was stuck on the cutting edge of thinking about this kind of science, really studying it, understanding it, invoking it in the world and bringing it forward. We just kept talking about it and I felt it became time it was finally something a lot of people would be interested in. Then we made a call to Nat Geo, and they got the idea pretty quickly and then Chris Hemsworth was next. Chris wasn’t really prepared for [any of the experiments], it wasn’t like he was told in advance [what he was going to do]. He found out in real time on screen, the way people watching it would find out.” Aronofsky finished.
In episode 3 ‘Fasting,’ Hemsworth turns to longevity doctor Peter Attia to find out how changing his eating habits can help his quest for longevity. Ironically, the answer is to eat no food at all for four long days. If he can bear the hunger, fasting will unlock his body’s own anti-aging powers and give Chris the edge he needs when he tries to hunt for his next meal … by spearfishing off the Great Barrier Reef. But Hemsworth revealed the fasting period takes more of a physical toll than he expected, and he hit a wall on the third day.
“Fasting is a huge physiological challenge. It’s really not something everybody should do, but with somebody in Chris’ state of health, we thought it was something we could do to really push the boundaries of what regeneration could look like. As unnatural as fasting might seem to us in our environment of obviously endless and plentiful food. It’s actually the kind of process that is so prevalent in nature and evolution. In our evolution, our body has remarkable adaptations to it, and it does seem pretty powerful,” said Dr. Attia. “The Ice swim I did was pretty excruciating,” Hemsworth chimed.
In the series, Hemsworth is joined by his brothers, fellow actors Liam and Luke Hemsworth, as they dive into near-freezing Arctic waters to maximize longevity to test the theory that exposure to extreme temperatures can trigger our bodies’ own defenses against the killer diseases of old age.
Speaking about episode 2 ‘Shock,’ the experience gave Hemsworth a greater sense of connection to family and friends. In the series, Hemsworth teased before he and his brothers dive into the freezing cold water, “All my brothers and my friends have done so far is laugh at me, so this is payback time.”
Filming with his friends and family “brought out a truthful version of myself and allowed me to be vulnerable. I was surrounded by people I loved and would also call me out at moments when I wasn’t very truthful. It’s a unique experience and was pretty overwhelming in a variety of ways. It made me think about the past years we’ve had together, the future years we’ll be together and the need to soak up every moment. If this were the final days, I’m not ready to go. I want more of this connection.”
Hemsworth concluded with, “I feel like each one of the episodes has made me realize my gratitude as I overcame some crazy challenge or extreme sort of circumstances. ‘Oh, thank God, I’m here. Thank God, I’m alive. Thank God, I’m complete.” But then there’s also the appreciation for everything I have for this moment, the opportunity I’ve had to be a part of this and interact with each other. I’m used to hiding behind a character and diving into different story lines that have nothing to do with my world and having that space. [But with this, I had to be] comfortable with the uncomfortable.”
For Aronofsky, Limitless was a personal journey of grief. He lost both his parents this year. “As I was losing my mom, I got an early cut of this, and I watched it on the couch with my dad next door to my mom while she was passing. About halfway through, I tried to pause, and I was like, ‘Is this okay?’ because there’s a lot of heavy shit going on in it and he was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, keep it going. We watched all the way through. We didn’t really discuss it, but it was extremely helpful for me watching this and having their wisdom. It was such a crazy idea when it all started and I’m incredibly grateful to all of these brilliant people.”
Limitless with Chris Hemsworth is now streaming on Disney+. To learn more about the series, check the full panel from the NYC premiere in the video above.