Jack Black is best known for his infectious
comedic presence on the screen and on the stage as the lead singer
of band Tenacious D.
But there's plenty more to this energetic, attention-getting
funny-man than just slapstick routines and an over-the-top
hyper-hip persona. He's also a father times two, quiet champion for
the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation,
and most recently, the voice behind an awkward panda named
Po, the reluctant lead character in Paramount Pictures
latest project, Kung Fu
Do you think Po's character in the movie resonates with
your own personality?
So you consider yourself to be this accidental hero
that's a little big, kind of clumsy and totally
He's a big full grown panda, but he's still very childish. While
he's very positive and a happy panda he's also very insecure
because he doesn't actually possess any of the Kung Fu skills that
he dreams of having. And that daydreaming, I share that with him. A
lot of times people will snap their fingers and say, 'Hello,
Do you feel you embody Cosmic Shame (the lyircs in this
Jack Black, Kyle Glass compilation urge listeners to follow your
heart/even when your heart cuts like a fart)?
Exactly. Nice reference.
Were you able to do some scenes with the other actors in
the recording studio?
The only actor that I worked with in live and in person was
Dustin Hoffman, because I guess it was important to the directors
that we get together and get some of that teacher-student magic
relationship going. So we did all our scenes together. And I was
really glad to get to meet him and work with him because he's so
legendary. He taught me some things about acting. Yes he did.
So how the heck do you prepare for the role of a
I just didn't think about the pandaness of it very much as much
as just, you know, who this character was, his thoughts and
feelings. I didn't spend anytime with pandas …and I must confess, I
didn't eat any bamboo.
Other than the animated films you've been in, what is
your favorite animated film?
Well, my favorite performance in an animated film is probably
Robin Williams in Aladdin. I thought he was so awesome as the
Genie. That was like one of my favorite things he's ever done for
sure. And when I was a kid I really loved Fantasia and this other
movie called Allegro non troppo [a Bruno Bozzetto animated parody].
I was a big animation buff as a kid. I wanted to be an animator for
Part of your comedy lies in what you've referred to an
your eyebrow technique. Does it comes into play when you're doing
voice work, too?
There's plenty of that eyebrow workout happening, yes. I burn a
lot of eyebrow calories.
They can use it or not because they're filming me while
I'm doing the recordings, and they can use any movements I do as
reference. I think there are some Kung Fu eyebrows happening there,
Does it help your comedic routine?
My eyebrows? Of course. I should insure them with Llloyds of
London. Powerful brows.
Changing gears a little bit, what was your secret desire
as a kid?
You know, I wanted to be in the arts. I didn't have a secret
about it. Everybody I knew wanted to be a painter, or an actor, a
musician or something but I just liked having attention, and I
think that's why I ended up going into acting because it felt like
that was where the most attention was. So maybe that was my secret.
I was desperate to be the center of attention.
Has being a dad changed the way you look at your career?
Do you find yourself drawn to different type of roles?
I guess I definitely feel more comfortable doing movies that
are, you know, strictly for like a family-oriented audience. I
don't feel insecure about that at all anymore. Like I might've
before gone, oh no, that's going to hurt my indie cred in the rock
world. I don't really care about that now.
When you did The School of Rock, it involved nothing but
hanging out with kids all day. At the time, it was probably a pain.
Now that you're a parent, do you think it was a good
Yes, it was good because I definitely got over my fears of kids
when I did that movie. Going into it I was like, oh no, what if
they don't like me? What if they think I'm boring or uncool? And
now I realize that you don't have to have all those insecurities.
Just be yourself. And kids are people too.
They were probably worried about the same things in
terms of hanging out with you.
Yes. Maybe. So at the end of that movie I didn't go oh, never
again, at all. On the contrary. I was like, that was the best cast
I've ever worked with and I'll definitely work with kids again. And
yes, it was all positive.
On to fatherhood part two. Congratulations on said part
two by the way.
Thank you. My personal family sequel.
My other half really wants to know if you eat his
I do eat his leftovers, now that you mention it.
Me, too. Well, whatever he doesn't get dibs on
Well, yes, he doesn't eat all of his broccoli. I'll help him out
with that as well as the mac and cheese that there's on his plate
uneaten, and well, you know, as for unexpectedness, I didn't know
how musical he was going to be.
He's not playing instruments so much , but he's good with a
I hear that!
He likes to sing and dance a lot. And I've been doing a lot more
dancing than I thought I would be as a dad.
It's like a mini School of Rock.
Yes, it is a School of Rock. He'll be dancing and then he'll
come over and grab my hand and pull me up to dance with him. So,
yes, that. I'm going to say that.
Tell me about your involvement with the United
Mitochondrial Disease Foundation. Why did you choose that
Someone close to my family is afflicted with mitochondrial
disease [symptoms include loss of motor control, muscle weakness
and pain, gastrointestinal disorders and swallowing difficulties,
poor growth, cardiac disease, liver disease, diabetes, respiratory
complications, seizures, visual/hearing problems, lactic acidosis,
developmental delays and susceptibility to infection], so I got
involved early on and continued to be involved to gain awareness
and you know, try to get support for it and get a cure for it
Convonista says: Jack Black and I chatted in late 2007. This
interview was originally released in early 2008.
Maria Pilar Clark is a mom times two and Windy City-based writer.
See more of Pilar's stories here.
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