By Lynette Carrington
Maricopa resident Jax Menez is resourceful, resilient and relentless and The History Channel is willing to bet viewers think so, too! Menez is a former police officer who, after a decade in law enforcement entered the private investigations industry. He is now one of the trio of stars of “Missing in Alaska,” debuting at 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m. CST Friday, July 24 on the History Channel. Together with Ken Gerhard and Tommy Joseph, Menez and the adventuring investigators tackle the wild weather and untamed terrain of Alaska in search of the nearly 4,000 people that go missing in the expansive state each year. Sadly, most of those people are never found.
“My diverse investigative background allowed me to find a niche real fast in the private sector,” states Menez. “A lot of skills an investigator has can be learned or taught but some things that make you special are already inside you that can't be explained-a calling, so to speak. I own and operate my own company, Atwell Investigations in the Phoenix area. But I travel all over the state and other states for case work.” He spent some years in Alaska as a kid and still has family there. Even that limited experience was a big help to Menez in acclimating to the vastness of the state.
“The show is great! Unlike a lot of shows that have been centered out of Alaska I believe we have done a good job of capturing Alaska without sensationalism or exaggeration,” Menez explains. “Alaska is a vast land mass that makes Texas look small, yet it only has two percent of the United States population. Traveling all over the state also shows you how different and unique all the parts of Alaska are. It isn't one huge icy land mass-what it is can be best described as unique. There is nowhere else in the world like Alaska. Because of its uniqueness, the ways to go missing there are immense. There isn't a definable category to say why people go missing. There are just too many ways which makes finding them very difficult.”
Pairing Menez with Gerhard and Joseph was a stroke of casting genius that serves “Missing in Alaska” well. Menez explains, “It was quite the gamble putting us together especially when you have three Type A personalities from three very different belief systems and approaches toward investigations. That being said, it has been very strong beginning to a very unlikely trio. The differences we have had made us such a strong team and have really created something that I don't think anyone has anticipated. At this point I don't see anyone ‘breaking up the band!’”
Like any true adventurer, Menez was prepared for whatever Alaska had to throw at him. “You have to be prepared daily for the conditions you’re in and the environment you’re working in or missteps will happen,” he explains. “Alaska has great people and great food. There is a lot to Alaska you have to experience first-hand to understand how different it is than the lower 48 states. Filming is almost always in the worst conditions but we have gotten to experience a lot from both ends of the spectrum.”
“Working with the History Channel has been a great experience,” explains Menez. “They try very hard to get things right to show the viewer as accurate an account of what we are doing as possible. While TV is TV and about entertainment, they try to keep things as real as possible. I think that goes to speak for the type of viewers they know watches their shows. They know they can't get away with a dumb project like some channels can. They know that their viewers are intelligent thinkers and contemplate-not just couch potatoes.”
Alaska captured Menez’s heart and soul and he thinks the show will equally impress viewers, too. “Sure there is incredible scenery, wild action, entertaining re-creations, dangerous situations could all be talked up in-depth here, but for me there is one thing that stands out about this show,” says Menez. “It is the focus we give Native Alaskan folklore. Native Alaskans are amazing people and so very different than lower 48 states natives. It has been an extreme pleasure to learn deeply about their cultures, legends and folklore. This single fact will make our show very compelling and for the viewer, very educational.”
“Missing in Alaska” is literally what it says and the show will engage viewers from start to breathtaking finish. “In Alaska, going missing usually means going missing without a trace,” explains Menez. “Nature has an inherent ability to ‘take back’ very quickly. So when someone goes missing there usually is no closure. Our job is to establish facts as to why they went missing all the while trying to not become victims ourselves.”
As with any television show, “Missing in Alaska” was also a learning experience. What did Menez learn while in Alaska? “Alaska is one of the most majestic places in the world,” he states. “Native Alaskans are absolutely fascinating and their art work, paintings, and carvings can be held up to any ancient culture in the world. Lastly, moose, not bear, are Alaska's most dangerous animal. They are grumpy, mean animals and when you have one chasing you when you’re on a snow machine (lower 48 states call it a snowmobile) you will get that!”
“We were truly blessed by the network to start right out of the gate with a 13 episode layout. I know the History Channel is very excited for this product and I don't think viewers will be disappointed in the show, finishes Menez.
“Missing in Alaska,” debuts at 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m. CST Friday, July 24 on the History Channel.
For a schedule of additional upcoming episodes of “Missing in Alaska” visit www.history.com/shows/missing-in-alaska/episodes.