At home with: Chris Mei

By Danielle Leonard

As Canadians, we tend to consider ourselves experts on the weather. Knowing the forecast is serious stuff that impacts our plans, moods and conversations. So, when I meet with Chris Mei, the 13-year veteran host of The Weather Network on a cold morning in March, I’m hesitant to complain about the dreary weather and forecast of wintry conditions. I am, after all, meeting with someone who really does know more about the weather than the rest of us. Does that make griping about the weather off limits, I wonder?

When Mei opens the door to his home, however, he’s wearing his signature smile that’s recognizable to anyone who has watched him on-air. In fact, as we start to chat, it’s clear that there is no line between his upbeat weather man persona and the warm 49-year-old husband and father of one, who is skillfully crafting me the perfect java with his assortment of brewing devices. He’s a natural and animated conversationalist – hinting at the performer he admits he’s always wanted to be. As I sip my steaming cappuccino, I figure that’s an ideal place to begin.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a rock and roll star. Growing up, I always played in bands as a drummer and singer and did lots of theatre. I was in a talent agency and played small roles in movies and TV. Honestly, I did anything to be a performer. When I finished high school, I attended York University to study performing arts. But, during my first year, my father passed away and I decided to take a break from school, promising him before he died that I would eventually return. I spent a couple years in British Columbia exploring all that I could of western Canada and the U.S., still not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. It wasn’t until my cousin’s wife reminded me that I’d always wanted to be a radio broadcaster that I felt the spark that led me to radio broadcasting at Mohawk College. It was a great fit. I loved it and excelled in the program.

Did you ever think you’d become a weather host?

No. Not at all. I’d been working in radio for a few years for a station called Wave 94.7 and, at the same time, I was the host for TVHamilton’s flagship magazine style show, called South 905. Between the two jobs, I was busy and getting a tremendous amount of valuable on-air experience. As often happens in this business, though, the cable TV show was coming to an end. Around this time, I was approached by someone from the Weather Network at an event that I was emceeing. This person asked me to audition for their live 24/7 broadcast. I was reluctant – I didn’t know anything about the weather. But she’d said not to worry about that because what the network wanted most was someone who could engage and improvise. She emphasized that I would not believe how much I was going to learn on the job. So, I auditioned and was hired.

What might people be surprised to know about you?

I actually love the science behind weather. When I first started working at the Weather Network, I was determined to learn everything I could about it, the history behind it, the science. It became my obsession to understand all of it – earth science, meteorology and atmospheric sciences. At first, I did it to prepare for my role, but I grew to love the way the weather is constantly evolving; it’s never the same and it’s so much bigger than all of us. I also have a real passion for world religions and meditation. I’ve practiced meditation for many years just because it felt right. Now that I’ve studied it, I understand why I do it.

With all this studying, I’m guessing you’re a big reader. What are you reading now?

I’ve always got a few books on the go. Right now, I’m reading three books. One is a textbook called The Mind Illuminated which is a complete meditation guide by Culadasa. The two other books are Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing by Dr. Vasant Lad, and The Chakra Experience by Patricia Mercier.

You’re very upbeat and energetic on The Weather Network, do you have a different persona at home?

I’m the same person on TV as I am in real life. My wife will say to me, you must drive people bonkers at work if you’re the same there as you are at home! I’m always up – I try to stay happy and energetic all the time. My 16-year-old son describes me as a puppy. I’m constantly hugging him and keeping things light. He’s similar to me in that way. While I have evolved to become this person over time, he gets to start off this way!