Mike Rowe, well-known storyteller, announces 'Something to Stand For,' new film celebrating America

Mike Rowe, well-known for "How America Works" and "Dirty Jobs," has a new film out June 27, 2024 — and in an on-camera interview, he spoke to Fox News Digital about patriotism and America.

Jun 10, 2024 - 06:37
Mike Rowe, well-known storyteller, announces 'Something to Stand For,' new film celebrating America

FIRST ON FOX: A popular host, storyteller, producer and author has a new project coming out — and "it lines up, not coincidentally," with the Fourth of July, he told Fox News Digital in an on-camera interview. 

Speaking in a video interview from his home studio in Northern California, Mike Rowe, host and narrator of "How America Works," "Dirty Jobs" and "Returning the Favor," among other endeavors, told Fox News Digital all about "Something to Stand For," his new film hitting theaters across the nation starting June 27, 2024. 

"It's not like any other film I've seen," he said. "Frankly, I'm not sure what to call it. It's not a documentary, although there's a lot of historical information in it, and it's not a classic narrative. There are probably 300 actors in it, but they don't really talk to each other. They're all there to help bring nine individual stories to life." (See the video at the top of this article.)


He pulled these nine stories, he said, from his podcast, "The Way I Heard It" — opening a window into the world of those who helped bring us the nation we call home.  

"It was a chance to learn something you didn't know about somebody," said Rowe. "Sort of a little mystery with some biography shot through, with some history."

"Anyway," he added, "I wrote a few hundred of those things. They turned into a book, and then they turned into a TV show, and then somebody said, ‘Hey, what if, for an occasion, you took half a dozen or a dozen of these stories and put them into a movie?’" 

At first, he and his team talked about doing a Christmas movie, he said — but he very deliberately chose a July 4th connection and theme instead. 

"The movie consists of nine of these short mysteries stitched together by me, with a trip to Washington, D.C. I visit various monuments and memorials and have some unplanned encounters with some veterans


"And it all comes together in a way that is — and I don't want to overstate it — but you know, it's pretty good. Positively delightful, I've been told," he added with the self-deprecating smile and good humor his audiences have come to enjoy and appreciate. 

Rowe reaches nearly 9 million people on his social media channels alone. He shared much more about "Something to Stand For" with Fox News Digital. 

He and his team shot the historical recreations for the new film in Oklahoma "with Oklahoma actors and an Oklahoma crew."

Said Rowe, "Some of the recreations are really ambitious. The casting is great. I didn't want to shoot in L.A. or New York," he added. "This is not a Hollywood production. This is a message from the heart, and we shot it in the heartland. I'm really proud of that."

He said that working on it and making the stories come to life was "a privilege. And it's humbling — to put it together is really instructive. You learn a lot of things when you work on a project like this. And it all happened very fast."

Rowe noted that he's read stories about "script development and movies taking years to get off the ground. Well, this happened in about two-and-a-half months."

Ultimately, he said, "it didn't happen because the ‘Dirty Jobs’ guy had some secret wish fulfillment to be on the big screen. It happened because our country seems to be torn in half. And it worries me that so many people on both sides can't seem to agree on so many things."


Rowe said he believes that the stories included in his film "are emblematic of people and ideas that we could all agree were worth standing for."

The United States, Rowe made a point of saying, "was formed by imperfect people and we are still very much a work in progress." He wanted to foster a new appreciation for the past but also a realistic one, he said. 

"The movie doesn't attempt to wrap itself in the flag and say, 'Hey, we did it. Go us. We're perfect.'"

It is "not that at all," he said. 

Even so, it's "an unapologetically patriotic movie that gives me, I think, permission to say that in spite of the imperfections of our Founders and in spite of the world we find ourselves in today, we still have a lot to be proud of, we still have a lot to be grateful for — and we still have a lot to celebrate." 

Fundamentally, he said, "that's what the movie is. It's a celebration around Independence Day. And I hope the movie will make it easier for people to feel grateful about the miracle they've been given" — the miracle known as the United States of America.

"We're alive. We walk the Earth," he said. "We've hit the greatest lottery of all time. We live in a pretty wonderful place. So, above all, [it's about] feeling grateful about that."

He continued that this is "not just a thing that I think we owe our forefathers. It's a thing that we should selfishly latch onto right now. Because studies show if you feel grateful on a basic, fundamental level, you're going to be a terrible victim."


He elaborated, "You're going to have a very hard time feeling sorry for yourself and feeling bitter about any number of things … It's certainly been true in my life — and I've never met anybody that that basic truth doesn't apply to."

Said Rowe, "If you're a fundamentally grateful person, you're going to have a hell of an easier time navigating the world as we know it." 

Rowe said he realized not long ago about his career "that really, what I've been doing is tapping the country on the shoulder and saying, ‘Hey, what about him? What about her? Get a load of that.’" 

And then, he said — he leaves the scene. 

"It's so important to leave," he said. "You know, I don't stay too long in one place or linger, typically, because there are a lot of people that I think are worth knowing and a lot of stories worth telling."

He said that his life and really his career "have been defined by the behind-the-scenes camera."


And "this movie was different because the stories that are in it were carefully written, and they were very deliberately delivered from a stage in an empty theater, straight to camera. And then they were very deliberately brought to life with actors who were very deliberately cast."

So "I would say the biggest difference [between this film and what he's done before] is the level of intentionality that goes into a movie, versus a ‘Forrest Gump’ randomness."

Rowe said his favorite moment of making "Something to Stand For" happened "when those two things collided."

He was walking through the World War II memorial in D.C., about to "introduce the next story" on camera. "And this memorial, by the way, if you haven't seen it — it's just breathtaking. It's just overwhelming. And while I'm standing there collecting my thoughts, I looked over and I saw an Honor Flight enter."

The Honor Flight Network has been welcoming America's veterans to Washington, D.C., since 2005.

Half a dozen older gentlemen in wheelchairs, he said, were there with their families, and "volunteers [were] pushing them around. And I saw this guy, 91 years old. His name was Andy Michael. I didn't know it at the time, but I turned to my director and I said, 'Hey, grab the camera, guys. I'm just going to go over and talk to him, and I want to put him on camera.'"

He said that upon introducing himself and beginning to talk to the older gentleman, he learned that "he's my dad's age. He was in Korea at the same time as my dad," said Rowe.

"And he saw some some hard things and and did some hard things. But he had never been to D.C.," said Rowe. "He had never been to this memorial. Here he was for the first time in his life, looking around at all those stars on the walls and all of those beautiful — all that statuary" of the memorial. 

"And I tell you what, man. You see a 91-year-old man who risked his life a generation ago for you with tears of gratitude running down the wrinkles of his leathery face — well, if you don't put that in a movie, shame on you. So he's in the movie." 

Rowe talked about the power of storytelling, about the power to move people in a film.

"Look, nobody wants a lecture. Nobody wants a sermon. Nobody wants a lesson," he said.


"I might personally believe that we probably need all of those things, but nobody wants it … Nobody wants to see a middle-aged white guy shaking his finger at them, telling them to work harder and learn a trade and be more grateful and pull your pants up and blah, blah, blah. Nobody. That's just not persuasive," he added. 

"So what you can do on the big screen is let people know that you give a damn about all of this. And, you know, I tell the stories I tell because I have an agenda — and sometimes my slip shows. Whatever. I can live with that."

Rowe said that for him, the saving grace was that "I was really honest and authentic … I [wanted] to let the viewer see me doing something that I really hadn't done since I was in the eighth grade, which was to go on a field trip and wander through the statuary and, and just be with the monuments. Be with the memorials."

He also commented on a shocking news story that came across his phone just minutes ahead of his interview with Fox News Digital. 

The headline was, he said, "U.S. flag burned as veterans memorial vandalized … leaving crowds horrified." It happened in Morgan Hill, a little town near San Francisco.

"You know, I don't know who did that," said Rowe. "But I have no sympathy or patience for them."


He said that when he thinks about the "statues that have been pulled down and the outrage over the past and the attempt to correct it through graffiti and vandalism — I didn't write this movie for those people, but I did write it because of them. Because there's such a difference between having a legitimate disagreement between left and right, conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat."

Yet his new movie, he said, "is really for people on both sides of the aisle who see themselves first and foremost as Americans — and who share my disgust at that kind of straight-up vandalism."

"That's not political, right? That's anti-American. And it's rooted in certainty and ignorance.

"And so to the extent that we're able to be able to tell stories about imperfect people who did great things — I hope that will elevate the logic of remembering them."

Rowe said, "The need for patriotism is, I think, clear and present" today. 

"And it starts with our ability to separate it from politics."

He went on, "Patriotism has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with curiosity and a desire to appreciate the past. [George] Santayana was right. Obviously, if we don't learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat it."

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He said he believes it's "incumbent on storytellers to do their best work and to tell the stories as honestly as they can. We do live in a time when you show me a room full of experts — and I'll show you a room full of people who don't agree."

And "that's hard for the townspeople. That's that's hard for regular people. Whether it's doctors who can't agree or whether it's journalists or politicians or historians — I stipulate all of that. None of us were in the room when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed or the Declaration of Independence was signed. We weren't there." 


"But if we're curious and if we're willing to listen to various takes from various experts, then we can at least begin to form our own opinions and our own connection."

Said Rowe, "And that's what I'll leave you with. We're either connected or we're not. We're either connected to our workforce or we're not. We're either connected to where our food comes from or we aren't. We're either connected to the people who provide the energy we rely upon — or we're not. 

"And we either appreciate those people or we don't. My foundation" — the Mike Rowe Works Foundation — "deals with all of that on a daily basis."

He also said, "To me, it translates and migrates pretty easily into history. Everything I just said can be applied to how we feel about our shared history and the level of enthusiasm we have for it, and ultimately, the level of patriotism that metastasizes as a result of it."

And "to me, that's what Independence Days is about. And that's why this movie lines up, not coincidentally, with that part of the calendar."

"Something to Stand For" hits theaters June 27, 2024.