Written by By Jessica Padykula, CNN
Will Smith might star in TV series like ” Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” ” Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: The Disney Musical” and ” An Awkward Black Girl” for well over 20 years, but we think we can confidently say he’s never attempted to race a cheetah.
The actor and world-renowned wildlife enthusiast has always sought to keep his real-life experiences “as real as possible,” he told CNN during a recent interview in New York City.
The 66-year-old actor will test his abilities in an upcoming episode of Animal Planet’s ” Ultimate Raptor Chase ,” in which he challenges himself to endure a 20-mile (32 kilometer) trial by cheetah in Botswana.
The episode, which will be available in time for Mother’s Day on April 14, will follow Smith as he sets out to catch his third cheetah in a 20-mile stretch of the Masai Mara National Reserve.
Set up shop in Nairobi
“I didn’t know this exact location until I got there,” Smith told CNN. “The reason I got there was I knew that these guys had saved this land for me for my conservation charity, as well as other people in the entertainment industry.”
Smith is just one of several people — like businessperson Dennis Henthorn, conservationists Dick and Nancy Faust and industry leaders Jim Nolan and Jim Judge — to have set up shop in Nairobi, Kenya in the early 2000s, as a way to help boost tourism and develop the country’s economy.
Through a number of initiatives, Smith’s Conservation International has raised over $39 million for communities in various African and South American countries to sustain wildlife conservation initiatives.
Smith will join this impressive list when he embarks on the cheetah challenge, a run — and a test of physical endurance — that tests even the fittest conservationists.
According to CNN special correspondent Mary Louise O’Connor, the last time a cheetah caught its third chum, Paul, was 2009.
“It might not have been wild enough — another cheetah was spotted the next day, but they were lucky — there were already three animals on the track at the time,” O’Connor said.
For Smith, the thrill of wildlife is a big part of the experience, and the hero-worship is not lost on him.
“I grew up around animals, and I still am,” Smith said. “I really love animals. I think that’s why I went into the business.”
Like the animals he’s seen on his travels, Smith continues to pursue his hobbies. For example, he’s an avid motorcyclist and bird watcher.
“My whole childhood, we would go fishing, and that was us and my dad in the car,” Smith recalled. “We’d just put on some music, and we’d go fishing. I’m still doing that.”
Smith recently returned from his first ever trip to Botswana, which he took with his daughter Willow.
“I just loved it,” Smith said. “It was amazing. I could not believe this.”