ISSUE 20

Jonathan Boynton Lee

We go behind the scenes with the Top Billing presenter and Legacy Lifestyle ambassador to chat about some of his best and strangest interviews and what gets him out of bed in the morning. 

 
As a presenter for Top Billing you must meet some exceptionally interesting people. Is there anyone in particular you have interviewed who has stood out for you and why? 
It’s impossible to single out just one. And I’m not just saying that. When you’ve shared the screen with the likes of Richard Branson, Michael Bublé, Channing Tatum, Harry Styles, Bruce Willis, Cameron Diaz, Peter Jackson, Kevin Spacey, Hugh Jackman, Emily Blunt, Idris Elba, and Ana Wintour, to name a few, how do you choose? My favorite though is interviewing and showcasing local, proudly South African talent. Top Billing is such a fantastic platform for up and coming talent in this country, to showcase their skills and get recognised. I love that.
 
Beyond the personalities, if you had to choose, which has been the most exciting interview you have ever done? Tell us a bit about it was it a location, an event, a persona? 
Again it’s so difficult to say. I love the travelogue shoots because you really get to explore the most beautiful places on earth, places you only dream of seeing. Hot air ballooning over the Sossusvlei dunes, witnessing the great migration in the Masai Mara and spending time with authentic Masai warriors, staying in the same R150 000/night suite that was used by Prince William and dancing in the ballroom where they learnt to dance for their wedding, tropical island villas, fashion week in Paris and New York, Cowboy school with Simba, free diving with seals and sharks, the list goes on and on. It’s still so surreal even thinking about everything we’ve done on the show. You just need to watch an episode of Top Billing and you’ll see that every location, event and person is so special. 
 
So within this line then, what about the strangest interview? 
Well I love diving with sharks, no cage, just them and me. They’re my favourite animals. So I was out in the middle of the ocean off the coast of Durban, covered in sardines and sardine oil so the sharks would swim right up to me and make for a good camera shot. There were about 40 of them. I was literally having to push them away one by one while I spoke into camera. Then we got a call from Jeremy Clarkson to say we were running late for his Top Gear interview. Had to rush to shore and straight into the interview with the three guys from Top Gear. They kept complaining that I smelt of sardines. It was horrible. I just wanted to be back in the ocean with the sharks.
 
Is there anyone you would really love to interview who you haven’t met yet? As well as a place you would love to visit?
Would love to interview Quentin Tarantino. He’s had a massive influence on my career as a filmmaker and I also want to slip him a script I’m working on. Then travel-wise I’d love to explore the whole of Africa. I’ve realised with all my travels that Africa is the most beautiful and magical place in the world.
 
So tell us, who is Jonathan Boynton-Lee when he gets home? 
Family man, philanthropist, couch potato. I’m very seldom home so the little free time I have is spent catching up with loved ones, working with my charities, and chilling on my couch with chocolate and a good movie.
 
If you internalise a little bit, what would you say really inspires you? What makes you tick, and what makes you get out of bed in the mornings? 
Life. “I don’t just dream at night, I dream all day, I dream for a living”. It’s very easy to get up in the morning and be inspired when you’re living your dream, and inspiring others to do the same.
 
What is your life motto or philosophy? 
I have two, summed up perfectly by two legends, Steven Spielberg and Gandhi. 
1. “Don’t just dream at night, dream all day, dream for a living.” 
2. “The only way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” 
 
If there was one legacy you could leave behind for future generations to learn from, what would it be?
Give more than you get. Love freely. Love loud. Love now.