You may have heard of Vice. The media company recently made headlines for shuttling Dennis Rodman to North Korea, where he hung out with elusive leader–and big-time basketball fan—Kim Jong un. The trip was filmed as part of an upcoming HBO docuseries that promises to feature stories overlooked by the mainstream media. So far, that’s translated to interviewing failed suicide bombers in Afghanistan and touring a rogue gun market in the Philippines. And that’s just the first episode.
“It has to be a good story, it has to be interesting,” says company co-founder and Vice host Shane Smith, about the topics featured on the newsy series, which counts Bill Maher as an exec producer, and CNN’s Fareed Zakaria as a consulting producer. “It doesn’t have to be blood and guts and guns.” (Though rest assured, there’s plenty of that).
Though the Brooklyn-based Vice made its name as a risque magazine in the ’90s, it has morphed into a multi-arm organization with bureaus in 34 countries, and off-shoots like a record label, a video division, and a fashion magazine, to name just a few. The brand has also garnered buzz for its popular Youtube channel, that, much like the HBO series, often features videos which delve into dangerous territory, like say, a Taliban-controlled area of Pakistan, to tell provocative stories.
Smith—who says he couldn’t accompany Rodman to North Korea because of this footage—explains that there are some limits.
“We don’t want to die,” says Smith, who adds that Vice has had to cancel three trips to Somalia because of safety concerns. “The first time we went we were going over from Yemen and a crew was shot at the day we were supposed to arrive.”
But that doesn’t mean he’s done trying. When asked where he’d like to go if the HBO series gets picked up for a second season, Smith says Syria, The Kingdom of Mustang, and of course, Somalia.
Vice premieres on HBO on April 5 at 11 p.m. ET.