'Years of Living Dangerously' Turns Actors Into Correspondents for Climate Change Doc

Years of Living Dangerously TCA - H 2014
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Years of Living Dangerously TCA - H 2014

The producers of Showtime's climate change documentary Years of Living Dangerously are unapologetic about pressing a clutch of Hollywood A-listers into service as correspondents.

"These are not cameo appearances," Ian Somerhalder, who is one of those correspondents, told reporters gathered Thursday for the network's winter press tour. "We wanted people who had a real commitment to this issue."

Matt Damon, Harrison Ford, Olivia Munn, Jessica Alba and Don Cheadle are among the documentary's actor-correspondents, and James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger are among the executive producers. Damon is a veteran environmental activist; he co-founded the global sage drinking water initiative Water.org and also has lent his voice to previous environmental documentaries. Ford is on the board of Conservation International and has worked with the organization for 15 years.

"We didn't choose actors just to have a marquee name," added Weintraub.

Schwarzenegger, who has been a leader on the issue (often in stark contrast to many of his Republican colleagues), also will serve as a correspondent. Scientists, he said, talk in "numbers and statistics."

"A scientist will never get the attention of an actor," added Schwarzenegger. "I always felt there was a communication gap in bringing ordinary people in and making them part of the movement. I think the environmental movement only can be successful if it's simple and clear and makes it a human story."

Years of Living Dangerously, which will premiere April 13 on Showtime, is among a growing canon of documentaries at the premium service. And entertainment president David Nevins noted that the network can take on controversial topics -- or topics that might not get a wide audience -- in part because he does not have to worry about scaring away advertisers.

"Climate change [is] such a political hot button," he said, "I don't think you would get any advertiser support."

Indeed, the anti-science rhetoric in some corners of the conservative movement has meaningful federal environmental efforts. And Years of Living Dangerously executive producer David Gelber, a veteran of CBS News' 60 Minutes, revealed that there was trepidation at other networks.

"We did go to other networks," said Gelber, "I'm not going to say which ones. And some of them were afraid for political reasons."