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Canada's Iconic "BodyBreak" Show Almost Didn't Get Made Because Hal Johnson Is Black

They wanted him to recast himself.
Trending Senior Staff Writer
Hal Johnson's BodyBreak Almost Didn't Get Made Because He's Black

This is a throwback! While being about health, this show's original purpose wasn't actually to get people fit. In fact, Hal Johnson's BodyBreak almost didn't get made because he's black and TV executives wanted his part to be recast with a white man. 

In a YouTube video, Johnson spoke about the racism he has experienced in Canada how that led to the show being made.

"You think BodyBreak was started because of health and fitness? Well, it wasn't," he said. "It was started to combat racism."

In April 1988, he was hired by TSN as a reporter but the same afternoon he got hired, he got a call that took it all away.

Johnson was told that higher-ups didn't want a second black reporter.

A month later he met Joanne McLeod who would become his BodyBreak co-star and wife.

They had started talking about doing something about fitness for TV.

That same month, Johnson was doing a commercial alongside a white woman and a white man.

He was told to change positions so he was beside the white man and not the white woman because the client didn't want people to think he was with her.

"I didn't get mad. I just thought about it," Johnson said. "My dad had always told me never get mad at something because when you get mad you find a solution to it."

That afternoon he wrote out a storyboard about how he could change things so that everyone could be together regardless of race, gender or ability.

With that, BodyBreak was born.

Johnson and McLeod took the show around to 42 different companies and got turned down by every single one.

So, they went to TSN again. 

The program director loved the show and wanted to take it.

However, he said that there was a problem because he was black and she was white. He said that the Canadian public wasn't ready for a black and white couple.

Johnson was told that if he changed his part to be a white man then TSN would put the show on the air.

After walking away from that, McLeod suggested ParticipACTION.

Within two days they had a meeting and later got a contract to do six episodes.

Johnson noted that without the racism that TSN had and the racism he experienced during that commercial shoot, the show might not have come about.

"All those little things created BodyBreak," he said.

After Johnson shared his story, he trended on Twitter as people were talking about it.

TSN apologized to him through a statement put out on social media.

"We recognize that even 30 years later, there is still much work to do to improve our commitment to on-air and editorial diversity," the Canadian network said.

BodyBreak aired 65 episodes with ParticipACTION in the late '80s and early '90s.

    Lisa Belmonte
    Trending Senior Staff Writer
    Lisa Belmonte is a Senior Staff Writer for Narcity Canada’s Trending Desk focused on government of Canada jobs and is based in Ontario.
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