Rarely does a person connect with an audience to the degree that they transcend the screen. One of the few examples of that phenomenon is Emmy nominated host, actor, and musician Jeff Goldblum.
The man responsible for the fantastic Mildred Snitzer Orchestra is also the host and producer of Disney+’s The World According to Jeff Goldblum, the National Geographic series which intertwines the host’s own family and upbringing with fascinating subject matter. The half-hour series has become a massive hit for the Disney streamer, already in production on its second season.
Goldblum’s charming personality and inquisitive nature make the host a natural for the series’ investigative reporting and civilian interviews. It’s a wholesome family experience reminiscent of Mr. Rogers, but with the addition Goldbum’s patented rhythm, immense vocabulary, and indelible wit.
Awards Focus spoke to Goldbum ahead of the Emmys, discussing the shooting schedule of the first season, the heartfelt moments that stuck with him, and how the edit ultimately influenced the tone of the episodes.
Awards Focus: Throughout the first season, you visited Detroit, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and different parts of California to name a few placed. Did you ever find yourself shooting two episodes at the same time, possibly due to the availability of experts?
Jeff Goldblum: Yes we did, my fellow executive producers at Nutopia, Arif Nurmohamed and Jane Root, are incredibly brilliant. They’re top notch documentarians and they cast all those experts and interesting people, but sometimes yes it overlapped.
We’d be talking coffee one day and then the next day it was denim. In this next season, they’ve said that we’re going to ]try to do less of that, but it was kind of fun. I don’t mind going from ice cream to RVs, it could certainly be overwhelming, but it put me in a state of confused ecstasy.
AF: You’re Emmy nominated for the sneakers episode. I’m curious, as you learn things, does that affect which shoes you might gravitate towards now? Does it give you a new appreciation?
Goldblum: I certainly have a new appreciation and this was one of the episodes where I had a preexisting fascination with the topic. I’ve gone through obsessions with certain shoes, and I’d haunt this place called Sporty LA. I also go to places that have curators who know what’s current and trendy. I loved these particular Adidas shoes at one point and then these vintage Nikes that I got in every color.
I would get too many of them and had to give them away or donate them. Now the process is with me and my stylist, if that doesn’t sound too obnoxiously luxurious. Andrew Botero, who has been doing this with me for six years, dressed me for every episode in the series.
I always ask him about shoes that are state of the art. Now they make shoes especially for your foot. That was interesting in that episode, and when they put that pair of glasses on me, I was a little skeptical. I thought, “What kind of machine is going to tell you what I like better than I can?” It’s fascinating where the technology is going.
AF: When it comes to capturing true emotion and the beauty of America, there are a few examples that comes to mind. The community bike ride in Detroit and that whole bicycle episode was very special.
Goldbum: That chokes me up tremendously, it was very beautiful and sweet. Henry Ford III gave me that bike, and I still ride around with my two sons and wife. That community and that connection that everybody has really got to me. When I watch it, it still gets to me.
AF: Another moment that stood out is that bond you had with the really talented young Amish electronics engineer on the RV, who was so dedicated to his beliefs. There was this moment when you ask him if he’s ever thought expanding his mind. You toe that line so carefully and you don’t make him uncomfortable, but you try and reach him in a dialogue. That was so beautiful.
Goldblum: I remember him so well, and I remember that encounter at the picnic table. There was stuff that we cut out because that conversation went on for a while. I was trying to be delicate while getting a little excited that I might be able to excavate something inside him that was conflicted or otherwise open to a world that he’s a little bit shut out of. It was fascinating. And we did have a beautiful, nurturing and nourishing encounter. I think that exchange was healthy for both of us.
AF: The great thing about this series is the accessibility for adults and children. It reminds me of the charm and sincerity of Mr. Rogers, but your fast-paced wit which really elevates it. Do you consciously focus on that? Or do you allow yourself to have a little more freedom and fun, and then edit out anything that might be slightly risqué?
Goldblum: When we entered the Disney family, and we always knew it was a wholesome thing, even though we wanted it to be intellectually substantial and even something that could be called edgy, and personal to me.
Mostly, I would just be free as a bird. But I’m trying to be sensitive, for instance in that encounter with that Amish gentleman. I didn’t want to offend anybody that I’m in contact with, but I let myself loose and yes, they did cut some things.
They were very good at finding what was wholesome, yet still special to me and a little witty. We wanted some intellectual heft here and there. We’re still going to try to enhance that as we enter our second season and I hope we get a chance to start shooting that again soon.
Byron Burton also contributed to this article.