Interview: Jeff Goldblum – sartorial icon, man about town and culture enthusiast in ‘The World According to…’
Nobody analyzes things quite like Jeff Goldblum.
In the 12-part docuseries The World According to Jeff Goldblum, the man who many have come to embrace like an eccentric uncle canvases the globe in search of different cultures and ideas to help him better understand what makes humanity tick.
Every episode embraces a theme – from Coffee to Jewelry, Gaming to Tattoos – and folks from around the world that are passionate about all of them. Goldblum heads to Detroit to learn about bikes, to New Orleans for the Southern Decadence festival. He travels to Connecticut to make BBQ with some pit masters and to a gay line dancing bar in Texas.
Along the way, our intrepid host learns a lot about the cultures surrounding him and, of course, a little bit about himself along the way.
Daniel Trainor and Sam Stone chatted with Jeff Goldblum about the creative process behind the show, his appreciation for drag queens, where he gets his unique fashion sense and plans for Season 2.
Daniel Trainor: Hello, Mr. Jeff Goldblum! How are you?
Jeff Goldblum: Hello, I’m good! How are you? That’s the question.
Sam Stone: We’re doing great!
JG: Thank you so much for doing this.
DT: Oh my goodness, thank you. I have to say, when I started the show I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into, but I ended up just loving it so much.
JG: Thank you so, so much. That’s so gratifying to hear.
DT: Every episode is clearly about something that you’re interested in, but have a lot to learn from. What was the creative process like in terms of coming up with the theme for each episode and how intertwined were you in that?
JG: It all started with this Nat Geo show “Explorer.” I did a few gigs on that, some hosting. I loved them so much and they took a liking to me. We got together and they said ‘hey, maybe you should have a show where you host.’ We got to talking about what it could be and how I would do it. I had some notions early on that I could do something unique that was spontaneous and uncontrived. As we talked, we came upon the themes that are both familiar in all of our lives and that many, many people have a love for and, interestingly for the times we’re going through now, brought people together. We started to make lists and they would say ‘how about this and that’ and I would tell them what interests me. They were very generous and collaborative. We finally whittled it down to a dozen. Things where I could have a pre-enthusiasm for or things where I could be like ‘I don’t know much about that, but I’d be very interested to learn.’ At the same time, I thought maybe as I start to dream and ruminate on some of these subjects, that there’s some part of my own story that should be included. So I gave them my home movies and old photographs and I was able to talk about early associations. I thought it could be like a portal that I jumped through to add that spice. So yeah, that was it!
SS: You seemed so genuinely interested in so many of these things. How has learning about some of them changed the way you live your life? Are you grilling everyday? Have you tried drag yet? How much makeup are you wearing?
JG: [laughs] That’s so funny. Makeup, as you know, is part of my life. I’m getting ready to do Jurassic World: Dominion. The whole family will leave for England in a few weeks. I’ll be in the make-up chair again, getting myself all gussied up to be photographable. Although, now that I mention it, right now I’m looking at my thumbnail because yesterday my wife Emily was giving herself a little pedicure and manicure and the boys, 5-year-old Charlie and 3-year-old River were there, and they like nail polish, too. They’ve enjoyed it before, she’s put it on them. She gave them a little bit of her Lighten The Mood, it’s called. It’s a light pink. And then she painted it on my thumbnail. So I’m looking at my left thumbnail right now and it’s just lovely.
SS: That counts as drag.
JG: I think so! It’s very womanly. I’m very intuitive right now. All the power that is woman.
DT: I appreciated how the show explored queer themes in interesting ways – line dancing at a gay bar in Texas, drag queens in West Hollywood – and then you combine that with you appearing as a judge last season on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” what has the drag community taught you and why do you seem to have such an affinity for it?
JG: Well, that’s very interesting. It seemed to insinuate itself in many of these episodes. Of course cosmetics and jewelry, but also denim. That’s right! I really enjoyed that whole episode going down to that bar and line dancing. And then, Southern Decadence! I had the time of my life. I loved the drag show that I saw here in Los Angeles and the artists who were doing something brave, self-actualizing and authentic. Those are things that I’ve always aspired to and cherished in my own profession. I’m always looking for ways to open myself up, tell the truth, be a truth seeker, reveal myself even if the character that I’m playing is a different name. It was [acting teacher] Sandy Meisner’s credo, in contrast to some of the early British conventional ways, to not don the mask but to remove the mask. To expose yourself even under these imaginary circumstances. So, all of that made me enjoy and really be inspired by what they were doing. Plus, it’s just fun! My first job was a Broadway show, Two Gentlemen of Verona, and throughout I’ve been inspired and enjoyed dancing the dance of all of us.
SS: It was funny to watch this season in which people are meeting up over coffee, or going to a drag show, and people are in large crowds. Obviously, now we’re in a different situation nationally, and I’m wondering what Season 2 will be like in light of COVID?
JG: That’s a great question. We have high hopes for shooting as soon as we can. As soon as I’m done with ‘Jurassic’ in late October. November, December I think we’re going to start up again. We were cut off right towards the end of our first episode. I think they want me to be a little mysterious about it, so I don’t want to give away too much, but even so, given the changing world, hopefully for the better in many ways – for the more awakened, and enabling, and authentic, and inclusive. I hope that ‘The World According to Jeff Goldblum’ will reflect that. We look at the first season and we say ‘some of these things that have that ‘Our Town’ aspect, where we say if it were to be gone tomorrow, how much would realize that we take for granted? Especially things that bring us together and allow us to connect with each other.’ that might be a natural way to go into Season 2, and even enhance those aspects of it. I think I’ve already spilled the beans about the first episode being about fireworks. That’s obviously a public party that brings people together, and now that’s more poignant and relevant than ever, I can imagine. One of the things we did, left turn style, like we did in the first season – we went from fireworks to the stars and how fireworks seem to be kind of naive depiction of the stars that we all came from and that we’re all enthralled with. We talked to an astronaut, and other star gazers who are focused on the constellations and the universe and our understanding of where we are in the universe.
DT: No place else, other than ‘The World According to Jeff Goldblum’ could we cover Stars, Fireworks, Ice Cream and Drag all together! I mean it all works so well!
JG: I think so, too! We all come from the same stardust, and we’re all connected. All these proliferations of objects and things have a connection somehow. It seems like they are all, and we’re all, connected. It’s mysterious and kind of wonderful.
DT: I’d love to ask you a personal question because I’m from Detroit, and I loved that you went to Detroit. It really seemed like you appreciated your time there. I’d love to hear what Detroit was like, and maybe a couple of places that you went that surprised you with their culture, or how much you enjoyed the city, or an identity that you found in the city that surprised you.
JG: Detroit was just spectacular. I was very moved while I was there, and like many of these episodes, when I saw it I got choked up watching it. I thought it was a wonderful thing. And as I say at the end of the episode, it kind of is like going home again. Of course I have these associations with bike riding, because that episode was about bikes. As you saw in the episode I haven’t had one in my adult life, but now it’s a way to connect with my kids. Since we filmed that, and as you saw at the end of the episode, it’s me riding with Charlie one of the first times. I got choked up while I was there, and I started singing ‘Wheels of a Dream’ from my friend Brian Stokes Mitchell because I got choked up even there. How bike riding is bringing that community together and back to life, and doing the right thing for the environment and for our bodies is all stuff I’m interested in. I got that bike, and I have it in my backyard right now. I ride it around with the kids now.
SS: Jeff, I have to ask a personal question now, myself. It’s twofold: First, what is your style philosophy because you’re dressed to the nines in every minute of this show, and the second question is, can I have those leopard print jeans? How attached to them are you? Are you willing to put them on loan at all?
JG: Well, what’s your inseam? What size are you? What’s your waist and your inseam?
SS: My waist is a 30, which is a brag to say, for me. My inseam is…well you’re gonna have to take me out to dinner first, you know what I mean?
JG: [laughs] Okay, well I’d love to bequeath you with that. Although, they’re one of my prized possessions still. I love them, but there’s always enough to go around. I love getting dressed up, especially since I met this stylist friend of mine Andrew Vottero. We do everything together and he devised all the outfits for the show. I’m in this room where we’ve got a couple of racks of things that we’ve bought. I met him on a GQ shoot, and started to yap, because I’d never had a stylist, really, and I started to talk about my clothes that I like. I said “boy if you could come home to my closet and tell me what jeans to get rid of and all that.” We formed an alliance, and he’d never done it before but he became my stylist. After a little bit of time he just gently replaced everything. We’ve gotten in cahoots about every appearance I’ve made since then including movies. It’s a creative thing for me. I really like it.
DT: You’re serving looks every episode. The show in general is wonderful, but then the fact that we get to see you as this sartorial icon is a whole other world.
JG: Thank you! I like to dress up. It’s always occurred to me about characters, you know I like acting. I’m a student of acting, and I like working from the inside out, but also from the outside in. Thinking if you find the right pair of shoes, and the right something or other, it tells you what your inner life is and who you are and opens up many other doors. I like that part of it.
SS: Jeff, it’s been such a pleasure to talk to you today!
JG: My pleasure completely!
SS: We’re looking forward to season two!
JG: I can’t thank you enough, and I’ll see you in person and we’ll both be wearing those jeans!
All episodes of Season 1 of The World According to Jeff Goldblum are currently available to stream on Disney+.