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July 09, 2020

Just Curious

Jeff Goldblum is interested in everything, and in his new series he goes where his inquiring mind takes him.

Sarah Hirsch
  • Pari Dukovic /National Geographic

Jeff Goldblum is exactly who you want him to be.

He is a close talker. He peppers his sentences with hmm and uhh . He often uses three words to describe one thing. What is it like to see tattoos of yourself on people? "Flattering, crazy, surreal."

And he goes off on comical tangents: "I can wiggle one ear at a time," he says, demonstrating. "You've never met anybody else who can do that, I'll bet. If they can, they're not going to hide their light under a bushel."

He also has a preternatural interest in any and every subject. Who better, then, to host The World According to Jeff Goldblum? The series, streaming on Disney+, covers a wide range of topics, from cosmetics to sneaker culture.

Whether Goldblum is recounting a call he received from an astronaut in space or how he learned synchronized swimming from retirees (experiences he had during filming), he brings equal zeal to both.

"I'm particularly intrigued with, enchanted by, interested in and curious about people," says the host–executive producer, who traveled (pre–Covid-19) to meet assorted experts around the country for season one.

"And as it turned out, many of these episodes became about me revealing my own relation to these things, and getting into unexpected and always delicious encounters with the people involved."

He concludes with a wide grin and one of his frequently used phrases: "How 'bout that?" The actor had previously hosted several episodes of the National Geographic science series Explorer. That, coupled with his natural curiosity, led to this show, which is produced by Nat Geo with Nutopia.

"We came up with this idea that it would be familiar objects that we could uncover some surprising facts about. I felt like I learned a lot," he says. "Even off screen, it opened up my portals of interest, and areas of study and exploration and investigation."

Even choosing the title of the show — which has a second-season order — involved an investigation of sorts.

"I made lists on my phone and talked to random people in airports," Goldblum says. "I didn't give anything away, but I'd go, 'Oh, thank you. Sure, I'll take a picture. Hey, can I ask you a question? Which of these four names do you like?'"

He didn't set out to name the series after himself. "I would say I aspire toward anti-narcissism. Not always successfully, but it's a goal that I think is worthy, that gets you interested in somebody else besides your own darned, boring self."

That said, at this pre-quarantine interview he wears a white T-shirt bearing the name of his own jazz band, The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra (named after a friend of his mom's).

Sporting a multicolored cardigan, black jeans, zebra-striped socks and black-and-white checkered Vans, he's every bit the fashion plate. "Well, I don't know," he demurs. "I'm some kind of platter... a plate... mmm , a combo platter of some kind."

Not many people can wear their own merchandise while touting anti-narcissism, but Goldblum can. And that's exactly who you want him to be.


This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 6, 2020

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