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Sam Wallace’s royal ancestors

Weatherman Sam’s secret mission revealed some exciting surprises about his past
Sam Wallace

Sam Wallace isn’t known for being a man of few words.

The affable Breakfast weather presenter can usually talk the hind legs off a donkey when he gets going, but as he tries to explain his latest project, TV One’s new show The DNA Detectives, he’s having a few issues.

“Well, I can’t tell you exactly where I ended up going, because it would give it all away!” he says, smiling through his frustration. “But what I can say is that it was the best eight days of my life.”

Sam (33), along with a host of other Kiwi celebrities, has taken part in the show, which tests an individual’s DNA, and then sends them to the corner of the globe where their markers indicate their ancestors were originally from.

“To follow your personal path is one thing, but to travel the world while doing it is another. It was fantastic. So, so amazing.” Sam’s journey took him to the other side of the world – his first trip to Europe.

Due to his long career in television – it’s been 14 years since Sam popped up on our screens as a presenter for kids’ show Sticky TV – the great Kiwi OE never quite happened. “I’ve never done much travel. It’s kind of one of the sacrifices of working in television, jumping from contract to contract. Not that I’m complaining!” he quickly adds. “I love working in TV. It would be a very hard thing to leave. But I’m grateful I got to explore Europe a little bit!”

Finding out exactly where he has come from has long been a dream for Sam. “Being a white New Zealander, it’s kind of hard to draw on your heritage – it doesn’t go back a long way,” he explains. “So to find out all of the different parts that make up who you are, and actually seeing your history, gives you a much better sense of identity.

“But it’s ironic really, as I explored more and found out so much about my roots, it made me realise just how much being a New Zealander makes me who I am, and how proud I am of it.” As you’d expect of someone with the surname Wallace, the Aucklander does have some Scottish heritage. But Sam wanted to find out if he’s related to legendary knight William Wallace, the subject of 1995 blockbuster Braveheart.

“It turns out I’m hugely related to some famous people,” he coyly admits. “I was sharing markers with some of the world’s royalty too. “But there was one point where the testers told me I have DNA from a certain island, and I had never heard of it,” he says. “They had to show me on a map. To go to those places and meet the people – and then you see little bits of yourself in them – was awesome.”

And while his European escapade didn’t throw up too many shocking surprises – “there were no questions about the postman or anything like that!” he laughs – that’s not to say it wasn’t without a few hiccups. Sam, along with a producer he was travelling with, fell terribly ill just as they were due to make their way back to New Zealand.

“We were on a Mediterranean island – that’s keeping it vague enough – and it was the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen. We headed to the airport, and I was feeling a bit weird. Thirty minutes later, I was shirt off in the airport bathroom, lying on the floor. I was so, so crook – the sickest I’ve ever been,” he recalls.

Meeting the locals was a highlight for the warm-hearted TV host and his crew.

“We boarded a flight to the mainland, but during take-off, I knew I had to vomit, so I got up and ran to the bathroom. I had all the flight attendants screaming at me in languages that I didn’t understand.”

Sam’s condition meant he wasn’t allowed to board his next flight to Dubai. Instead, he had to stay an extra day in Europe while he recovered in his hotel room with visits from a local doctor. Despite his mystery illness, however, Sam still looks back on the trip as one of the best experiences of his life – one that has taught him about more than just his lineage.

“I discovered I’m from some places that would have put my family on the other side of the allied forces during World War II. Knowing this kind of messed with my understanding of the world,” he says thoughtfully.

“And also, when you know how much of a mongrel you really are, you have to be just a little bit more accepting and tolerant of other cultures! “I just want people to be open to taking these tests – they are accessible. Go and get a little insight. It could change your life.”

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