When connecting with Jeff Goldblum over the phone to discuss his Disney+ series, The World According to Jeff Goldblum, the routine question-and-answer pattern went a little differently than expected. Gov. Gavin Newsom had just issued a stay-at-home order for California. After a brief discussion regarding how we were holding up, the Emmy-nominated actor, 67, quipped that he was happy to “have some activity” while home with his two children and wife.
Pandemic etiquette talk transitioned to how his show — which boils down to watching Goldblum discover things in a way only Goldblum can — offers the kind of uplifting content the world needs right now. Each of the 12 episodes focuses on a topic most people love, from ice cream to sneakers to tattoos, with the effusive actor excitedly exploring, questioning and sometimes experiencing things for himself. Here, Goldblum shares why the series is an ideal fit for his “spontaneous exchange and interaction.”
Do you feel now, more than ever, this series offers an escape?
Looking back at them now, they sort of document the time before, I guess, everything changed. They may become a period piece before things changed. We were in the middle of starting to do more — we were doing the second season. We’d already shot most of the first episode, which is on fireworks … Now when we go back, hopefully we’ll see how the world is. But I’m sure what we do will reflect in some way, maybe even poignantly, where we’re all at globally. Many of those episodes are about connection and how wonderful it is when you’re in the world.
Throughout the series, you act as both student and teacher — how did that format come together?
They had this show on the National Geographic channel, before Disney had taken it over, called Explorer. They were tinkering with the format and had different people, me included, do a little arc of hosting jobs for it. I tried to give it my spin, and uh, we fell in love with each other. They’re so smart over there, and what they were trying to do was so smart. I’ve always been a fan of documentaries and scientists and global exploration. So, we fell into conversation with each other and they said, “Hey, maybe we should do a show around you.” And I said, “Here’s maybe what I could do. I like to have spontaneous exchanges and interaction with people — just in my own unconventional way — and maybe I don’t have to pretend to know anything that I don’t. I don’t have to be a teacher. I can be kind of a guide and [the audience] can be learning along with me. Maybe it can even be kind of a dreamy trigger for my own inner autobiography, somehow, and I can share that if it comes up.” So, all that kind of came to be part of, you know, many elements of the show, which I really had a blast doing.
You make a point of exploring the pros and cons of a topic, such as those who love denim as well as the impact of the production of denim on the environment.
[The researchers] are very good. We talked about it, and it aligned with my sensibilities, too. Doing the show made me even more inflamed with curiosity about where we’ve come from and where we’re going. It came into focus that not only did we want to be positive, but we wanted the series to be illuminating and provocative. So many of these things have unintended consequences, as it turns out.
What was a favorite episode or experience of yours while filming?
I found [the ice cream episode] very moving, to find out about how the Navy has ice cream socials in the service and then go to one and bring them my ice cream. I found that very moving. The swimming pools one also, with the women who were exercising and doing aquatic ballet in the pools. And then going to NASA, with the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory and meeting astronauts onscreen and offscreen.
What more do you hope to explore in season two?
I wonder if anything in the animal world or dogs might be of interest … the world of magic … Maybe the world of monsters, as I’m now looking at [my son] Charlie here. We always talk about monsters … So, all kinds of things. It’s just the world as we now know, and are anxious to get back to, is so unbelievably rich.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in a June stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.