Television personality Hal Johnson, who co-hosted the Canadian health and fitness segment “Body Break,” says the long-running series was started to combat racism.
In a four-minute YouTube video, Johnson says he was hired by TSN to be a sports reporter in 1988.
Later that day, he says he received another call from the same person saying that he wouldn’t get the job after all because network executives said TSN already had a Black reporter and didn’t want to have two.
Johnson also described a commercial shoot at a Toronto racetrack that year, where he was joined by two white actors to rehearse a cheering scene.
He says that before they shot the scene, a director asked the white woman to sit beside the white man instead of Johnson.
Johnson asked the assistant director about the switch afterwards and was told the client didn’t want the white woman to be seen sitting beside a Black man.
Johnson wondered to himself how he could change things, and after meeting Joanne McLeod, Body Break was born.
Johnson says he was met with resistance when shopping Body Break around to Canadian companies though. He was told the Canadian public wasn’t ready for a Black and white couple.
The two pitched Body Break to Participaction, a federal government program for healthy living, and went on to create 65 Body Break episodes, which were a television fixture for a generation of Canadians.
Johnson and McLeod also appeared on “The Amazing Race Canada” in 2013.
Bell Media’s TSN did not respond to a request for comment.
The Canadian Press
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