Q&A: Outdoors shaped Mike Rowe’s appeal

From spending a day on “Sesame Street” helping Oscar on his dirty jobs to serving as pitchman for Ford F-150 trucks, Mike Rowe has become a ubiquitous TV presence in his jeans, jersey, work boots and baseball cap.

Rowe, 52, recently launched a new show, “Somebody’s Gotta Do It,” Wednesday nights on CNN. The series, which features people who are passionate about their jobs, opened strong, drawing about 1 million viewers, with half of them in the highly coveted 25-54 age range.

Q: Do you think your connection to the outdoors helped shape you into the persona viewers see on TV?

A: I think it did. … We heated the house with a woodstove. We had half a dozen horses on property we didn’t own but on a stable that we built. We had chickens. We had what my mother called a garden, but was actually a half-acre of corn.

Q: Sounds kind of idyllic.

A: We would go back every weekend and either cut down a tree or find one that had fallen, my granddad, my father and I. We would cut it up; we would split the wood; we would stack the wood. If you’re trying to raise a son, it gives you a chance to say things like, “Chop your own wood; it will warm you twice.”

Plus, having a granddad next to you. Grandfathers today – I think they’re kind of missing from the national conversation today.

Q: One of the aspects of your TV appeal is that you project a clear, confident, uncomplicated notion of masculine identity at a time when there is a lot of confusion or uncertainty about it.

A: Rather than making it about gender … to me, we’re living in a nonlinear world. … But the truth is we are linear creatures. Everything unfolds one after the next. And that’s the thing we’ve become disconnected from. I mean, most people don’t know where their food comes from. We’re confused about the fundamentals. How does our food wind up on our plates? How exactly is it that when I flick the switch the lights come on?

Q: How do you see your TV image?

A: Two things happened. One, I got a lot of press because I was the subject of a homily in a big church service in the Midwest. The same day, I was nominated as (D-Listed) Hot Slut of the Week. …

Q: The hot slut thing is great, because I wanted to ask if you think of yourself as a sex symbol.

A: Wait, I lost to Bea Arthur.