Generation-spanning star Jeff Goldblum allows viewers to see the world through his eyes in his upcoming show on Disney+.
Within minutes of talking, Jeff Goldblum’s curiosity shone. Before I even got one question off, he began asking questions about my surname; how to pronounce it, what were its origins, etc. This is what it is like to spend time with Goldblum. One thought leads to another, one question to the next, sometimes related, sometimes not. For aspiring conversationalists, look no further than the man who has spanned generations of stardom. From 1986’s The Fly and 1993’s Jurassic Park to more recent appearances in Thor: Ragnarok and Isle of Dogs, Goldblum is a household name for people of all ages.
His unique and charming demeanor, child-like sense of wonder, and decades of prominence created the perfect formula for The World According to Jeff Goldblum, a collaboration with National Geographic that will ring in Disney’s newest streaming platform, Disney+. Each episode, by meeting the experts and learning about the history and technology, Goldblum explores in-depth the things that he is naturally curious about: ice cream, sneakers, tattoos, denim, BBQ, gaming, bikes, coffee, pools, cosmetics, and jewelry.
If you think these topics benign, then you might want to try seeing them through the curious eyes of Jeff Goldblum. In this exclusive interview, he details his favorite moments filming the series, where his natural curiosity comes from, and the coolest things he learned from filming.
Innovation & Tech Today: How did The World According to Jeff Goldblum come together?
Jeff Goldblum: They had – it was a couple of years ago now probably – that show for National Geographic on their network called Explorer, and they were fiddling with the format of that. They had several different people, from what I gather, host a few episodes, in my case, three episodes. I had a good time on that and I think some of the same people that were involved got this idea afterwards: “Hey, maybe Jeff and we should do something else.” And we started to talk about it. It sort of just got creative, by and by, and we started to find our way, and figure out what I could do, or what we wanted to do, and it just sort of found itself.
How about that? Then we’ve been filming for the last, I don’t know, six months or something like that. We finished – guess what – yesterday, last night! Yesterday was our final shooting day. I still have some voiceovers to do, but we’ve done all the on-camera stuff now.
I&T Today: Did you have a favorite episode to film?
Jeff Goldblum: I loved them all. We went all over the country, and as you saw, they set me up with unexpected events and people; but boy, I had a good time.
We went to Cleveland for that sneaker convention. We went to Las Vegas for [Nostalgia Con] that you saw in the “Ice Cream” episode, and you saw where we went to Portland for that wonderful guy, Tyler Malick. Then also Portland, you saw Paul Francis at the Adidas place. How about that?
If you didn’t see the “Tattoo” [episode], I probably shouldn’t give everything away, but we went to Hawaii and met these people for tattoos. Also Baltimore we went to – wow, I’d never been to Baltimore. I’d never been to Burlington, Vermont, where we went to meet Ben and Jerry.
Oh for Denim, we went to an old place where abandoned mine shafts are. I shouldn’t give away what happened there, but that was related to denim. For barbecuing, we stayed here in LA. Then we went to Austin, Texas. Oh boy, barbecue, oh boy. I shouldn’t even tell you, but we saw some things that we could barbecue that are probably not the first thing you think of for barbecue.
We went to San Francisco; oh boy, that was tattoos. Very interesting and unexpected. I’d never heard of this aspect of this variation of tattoos before. Then still up in San Francisco, the Levi’s Center, and then Seymour, Texas. I’d never heard of Seymour, Texas, but I found myself on a cattle ranch there.
I kept saying to everybody around me on the crew, when would I ever get a chance to be here and be doing this? The answer was probably not ever, except for this show.
I&T Today: You really covered the whole country!
Jeff Goldblum: Oh my gosh. Detroit we went to. Elkhart, Indiana, I’d never been before. Oh boy, I went to a wedding, but I can’t tell you why. I shouldn’t tell you what episode that went along with.
Hey, we just got back from New Orleans. I’ve never really hung around the French quarter.
I&T Today: Well, as a jazz musician that must have been especially cool for you.
Jeff Goldblum: It was spectacular. I didn’t get a chance to see much; we kept our shoulders to the wheels there, nose to the grindstone. Is that the term? I think so. Hey, our new album comes out November 1st!
Then we went to Houston. Oh boy. I met those people from NASA. That was a dream come true. I won’t even tell you which episode they had to do with, but NASA, that was something. So, that’s some of the places. How about that? It’s been an amazing six months. One of the more amazing summers of my life, I’ll tell you.
Then yesterday, that was our last day, I won’t tell you exactly what we did, but my wife and two kids – my four year old boy, Charlie, and our two year old boy, River – took part in some of the filming, believe it or not.
We were very careful not to exploit them. They hardly knew that they were being filmed I think, but they had a good time.
I&T Today: It may be premature, but if a season two comes along, is there a new topic that you’re itching to explore?
Jeff Goldblum: Well, I’m appetized by very, very many things in the curiosity file, and I can imagine doing a whole bunch more. It is premature because nobody’s said that we’re going to do any more, but I think it might be very exciting to. I can think of several things. Let me see. Somebody was talking about the World of Magic, so that might be interesting.
Many things have been done on all these [subjects], but we seem to go off of the beaten path and find some left turns to take and unexpected places where my interests may lie. So, that could be interesting. There are a whole bunch of things we could do on that.
I&T Today: You came across a number of different technologies that are driving and revolutionizing these industries. Was there one piece of technology in particular that blew your mind?
Jeff Goldblum: That is so interesting. Well, you can imagine. We went to NASA, like I said. I met a lot of interesting people, including a couple of astronauts who are currently in training, and a couple of others who have been in space a few times. Then, believe it or not, I was on a call from the Space Station, and there’s a guy up there named Mark Vande Hei. The connection was very clear, and I had a little conversation with him. How about that?
Then there’s an aspect of tattoos where, and you’ll see in the show whereby, all sorts of systems within our bodies can get monitored, and even so-called hacked, by the people who may have your best wishes at heart, or not. As I’ve been reading, it was through this series that my interest was sparked, so while we were shooting I read all three of those books by Yuval Harari – Sapiens, Homo Deus, and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century – and he talks a lot about all sorts of things. Technology and the upcoming technological disruption, he calls it, where there’s an intersection of biotech and AI, and all the possibilities, and challenges, and risks that we may be facing. So interesting. So interesting … What a moment we find ourselves in, right now particularly.
I&T Today: Have you always had this interest in science? Do you try to stay up-to-date on the latest in science and technology?
Jeff Goldblum: Well, there’s so much to keep up on. You can pick one avenue or another and start to investigate, but I was always more a performing arts and creative type, although I made good grades in school. But my dad was a doctor, and he was always a good science student and practitioner, and always kept upgrading, staying current with his resources, and was always excited when I asked a question about science.
Then of course I’ve played Jim Watson, who discovered DNA, along with Francis Crick, and I’ve run into the real James Watson over the years. The last time was a couple of years ago on a cruise, as a matter of fact. So, we’ve been in touch. He’s getting older now. I think maybe in case it was the last time we saw each other, he said, “You know, I never wanted you to play me in that movie.”
I said, “Wow, really?” I said, “So sorry. Why not if I may ask?” He said, “You know who I wanted to play me is John McEnroe.” I said, “Really? Oh, okay. Well, sorry. There you go.” Then that’s what I told [screenwriter] Tom Stoppard. He said, “Well I think he may have meant John MalKovich.” So, I went back to Dr. Watson, and I said, “Did you mean John MalKovich?” He says, “No, I meant John McEnroe. You know, they had that scene,” and I hadn’t remembered it, “where you played me playing tennis as a young man, and I think he would’ve been much better at that.” I said, “Oh, I see what you mean. Yeah, I’m sure he would’ve.”
Anyway, I played that part, and I did my due diligence when I played that part. I investigated it as much as I could. Likewise, amalgam, and chaos theory, and even the teleporter I’ve had to study for many other parts here and there, and so I have gotten interested in science and like to keep talking about it. I was on the show by Neil deGrasse Tyson this last year. Another NatGeo show. We had a fascinating – at least it was fascinating to me – hour long conversation on camera that I really enjoyed.
I&T Today: In one of the episodes, you talk about how you have this child-like sense of wonder. Where do you think that comes from for you?
Jeff Goldblum: Well, that’s a good question. I think it’s kind of natural maybe in all of us. I see my kids and they’ve got not only ecstatic joy at their fingertips, often worn on their sleeves, but their curiosity and their sense of wonderment is right there too.
I think picking something like acting, which I was passionate about from the start, and devoting my life to that over the last few decades has kept me feeling vigorous, vital, vibrantly curious, interested in all manner of things, you know?
Now, having these kids, I must say, it is sort of a spectacular kind of rebirth and happening at the same time is this show too, which you know feeds into my curiosities. I do feel chipper and full of vitamin A.
I&T Today: As you were diving into these 12 episodes, was there one fun fact or tidbit of information that really stuck with you?
Jeff Goldblum: Whoa. Well, I’ll tell you something. I had a nice talk with one of the astronauts who’s been up [in space], and he said that after being up for awhile, it was like six months in a space station or something, he said, and many people have been up there for an extended period of time. Astronauts – not the women who were up there, but only the males – come back and they have something that all sorts of their bodies have to reacclimate in all sorts of ways, but the men, they got something with their retina that has happened, and never the left retina, it’s always the right one. The right male retina and he starts describing some condition and nobody knows why it happens.
They’re investigating it now, but he thinks we’re in the same sort of set of circumstances as the sailors when they were just exploring the world, when they discovered, all these sailors were getting scurvy and nobody identified why. They didn’t know at that time even what vitamin C was or anything. They then of course started to suck on limes, and this and that. They fixed it, but they discovered it only after the fact. He says, “I think we’re set to discover all sorts of things about the human body based on these little things that happen as a result of being up there.” Isn’t that something?
I&T Today: You’ve been in movies, you have your own TV show, you’re a jazz musician. What’s next for Jeff Goldblum?
Jeff Goldblum: Just finishing this show as of yesterday, I’m still sort of buzzing with the overstimulation I had with the kids and everything, and our album coming out right around the same time. So, my plate feels full, but my appetite is inflamed. This movie came out this last month, called The Mountain, Rick Alverson directed it. I play a guy, based on the real guy, Walter Freeman, who introduced the lobotomy to North America in the 40s, 50s.
That was fascinating. I learned as much as I could about that. So, now I’ve got a couple of new movies that I can’t formally talk about, because they’re on the slate for this next year. So, I’m really interested in that. It just seems to be a fertile period now and I’m happy with everything that’s happened. If nothing were to happen from this point on, I think I’d be satisfied. Although, having said that, I’m more eager than ever to plow forward.
I&T Today: This final question was asked by one of our readers. If you could bring one piece of science or technology from any of your movies into reality, what would it be?
Jeff Goldblum: That is interesting. Well, teleportation would be fun I suppose. No TSA pre-check or anything like that, you just get in the machine and bingo, you’re at the Cannes Film Festival.