'The Brink' Stars Jack Black and Tim Robbins on Saying Yes to TV, F-Bombs and "Getting Totally Nude"

The HBO political satire, which also stars Pablo Schreiber and Aasif Mandvi, premieres Sunday, June 21.
HBO

Film vets Jack Black and Tim Robbins are about to hit the small screen. Together, they star in HBO's upcoming political satire, The Brink, a comedy about a global catastrophe and the ridiculous leaders who navigate the world through it.

Among the inept politicians is Secretary of State Walter Larson (Robbins), who tries to stop World War III from happening — when he isn't too distracted by his own sexual fantasies. He becomes tangled up with Alex Talbot (Black), a low-level foreign-service officer stationed in Islamabad who gets caught up in a Pakistani coup. Talbot forges a friendship with his driver, Rafiq Massoud (Aasif Mandvi), and together they attempt to bring down an evil dictator.

"There's something about this, where it’s trying to address real crises and international conflicts, but in a way that reveals some of the absurdities that go on behind the scenes," says executive producer and director Jay Roach of the comedy, which was created by brothers Roberto Benabib and Kim Benabib, with Jerry Weintraub also serving as an executive producer. Adds Roach: "I always find it therapeutic to imagine what it’s like in the rooms where they make these decisions — some that blow up into huge scandals that ruin their entire careers."

For Black, the project marks his first major recurring role in a television series. So what lured the comedian, who only has done bit parts in shows in the past, to star in a 10-episode series? "The freedom to drop F-bombs and get totally nude," jokes Black of cable's privileges, adding: "Not that I necessarily do because that would be a spoiler." It also helped that his favorite shows in recent years — Eastbound & Down, Game of Thrones and Girls — are all HBO series.

Signing onto a television project is rare for Robbins, too, though he was seen last year in IFC's miniseries The Spoils of Babylon. “I’ve been offered a bunch of this television stuff, but I turned it down because I didn’t want to get involved in a six-year commitment with something that I wasn’t absolutely in love with,” he says, noting that he first was sold on The Brink after reading the pilot script, which he found funny, courageous and intelligent.

Mandvi, who already had been working in the world of political satire on The Daily Show, felt that the comedic material provided a natural transition for him. To hear him put it: "It seemed like swimming in the same waters, but from a narrative standpoint." Meanwhile, Orange Is the New Black's Pablo Schreiber, who plays a foulmouthed, drug-dealing Navy pilot, was just excited to play a more central character instead of being "one of 500 actors," like he was on the Netflix series.

And while the comedy in The Brink is heightened, it rings true enough that it's sure to ruffle some feathers. But the actors hardly seem worried about taking it too far. “The line in comedy is where you get killed or destroy a studio," says Black. "We try not to cross that one."

The Brink airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. on HBO.

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