‘Oprah’ crew films at N.C. Research Campus

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 4, 2009

By Emily Ford
KANNAPOLISóProducers for the Oprah Winfrey Show spent eight hours Sunday at the N.C. Research Campus, gathering footage for an upcoming episode.
“It was very exciting,” campus marketing director Phyllis Beaver said. “Oprah always has been interested in the latest in health and wellness, with Dr. Oz and some of her other segments. The North Carolina Research Campus is a natural fit.”
A representative for the show confirmed Tuesday that crews had been in Kannapolis. Because the studio portion of the show has not been taped, Don Halcombe said he couldn’t reveal the topic for the show.
The show does not have an air date yet.
The Research Campus, a new $1.5 billion biotechnology hub in downtown Kannapolis, includes branches of eight universities that plan to use molecular technology to create superfoods, find new treatments for disease and personalize nutrition.
Campus founder David Murdock, the 85-year-old owner of Dole Food Co., and Winfrey are friends. The show apparently has filmed them together at another location.
In Kannapolis, two camera crews filmed seven scientists in the Core Laboratory and other labs at the campus.
“It was a long, hard day,” said Dr. David Nieman, director of Appalachian State University’s Human Performance Lab in Kannapolis.
The show sent out-of-town viewers to the campus to learn about high-tech equipment and groundbreaking research, Beaver said.
The viewers had written to Winfrey or worked with her staff and came from Fayetteville, Huntersville, Florida and Chicago, she said.
A scientist in the ASU lab tested one viewer on a treadmill while Nieman explained his nutrition research.
A camera crew filmed Dr. Scott Olenych with the multi-million-dollar instruments in the microscopy lab.
“They asked me to give them a sound bite about what kind of impact we’ll have on science and research,” said Olenych, who trains scientists to use the microscopes.
Researchers received only a few hours’ notice that the cameras would arrive.
“I didn’t have time to change clothes,” Olenych said. “They were trying to get in and get the story before the weather hit.”
They didn’t quite make it. By 8 p.m. when filming ended, it was snowing hard. Most of the crew and out-of-town viewers were stranded, said Beaver.
Over the course of the day, the crews filmed Dr. Steven Zeisel and Dr. Carol Cheatham of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Nieman and Dr. Andrew Shanely of ASU, Dr. Wei Jia of UNC-Greensboro and Dr. Ashley Dunham of Duke University.
“We were very happy to have the opportunity to show what is happening here,” Beaver said. “I can say they were blown away by what they saw. It’s the cutting edge here.”
Winfrey became interested in the campus when Murdock told her “what is on the horizon for us,” Beaver said. “It’s a glimpse into the future.”
Due to the bad weather, the producers talked about coming back but didn’t say if Winfrey herself would travel to Kannapolis, Beaver said.
“The publicity is nice, but even more important to Mr. Murdock is to get his message out,” she said.
Murdock became convinced that exercise and nutrition can fend off disease after his wife died of cancer in 1985.
He acknowledged last year that he was considering some kind of collaboration with Winfrey.
Winfrey has been to his California Health and Longevity Institute in Westlake Village, about 35 miles northwest of Los Angeles, which includes a state-of-the-art television studio.