A chat with Joan Cusack, Chicago native and voice of new “Peep and the Big Wide World”

Beloved by adults for her comedic grace and by children everywhere as the voice of Jesse from the Toy Story film series, Chicago ‘s own Joan Cusack hits the small screen as narrator of the Emmy Award-winning public television show “Peep and the Big Wide World,” which begins its new season Jan. 3.


“Peep and the Big Wide World” airs on Sundays at 6:30 a.m. on
WYCC. You can find out more about Peep, check out more than 50
Anywhere Science and Math activities and Explorer’s Guide, plus
watch clips from the show at peepandthebigwideworld.com.

The series, which focuses on science and math, combines the innovative idea of teaching science to preschoolers while following the adventures of Peep, a newly hatched chick; Chirp, a smart and sassy robin; and Quack, an irascible and endearing duck.

In the new season, Peep tests his mettle in the big world with some very fowl encounters. Episodes feature famous voices such as Megan Mullally, who, in the season premiere, lends her voice as an obnoxious duck who takes all she can from Quack. Oscar winner Holly Hunter guest stars as a real, live capital “R” Robin who can sing, build nests, take baths and even fly!

But what keeps the momentum of the little creatures going is Cusack and her recognizable voice. Chicago Parent had the opportunity, via e-mail, to ask her about living in Chicago, science and her favorite Chicago sports team.

How do you help your kids learn about science and nature?

I think children are naturally curious, and I try to just encourage that.

What advice do you have for parents of city kids who might not have those big backyards to do nature experiments and the like?

I heard once that if you just don’t worry about everything being clean all the time, and let them makes messes occasionally, or let them look at what happens with the milk that spilled on the floor, how it travels or where it pools, that all can be naturally scientific. Granted you have to be in the right mood!

What are the advantages for kids living in the city of Chicago to learn about nature and science? What are the disadvantages?

I think anyone who lives in Chicago knows that the spectrum of things available to you and your family here is outstanding, although one disadvantage is that you can’t learn about actually climbing mountains here. “Peep” has hands-on, science and math activities that kids and parents can do anywhere.

Why do you think some kids and parents are scared of science and math? How does the show help to overcome those fears?

Everyone has different kinds of minds. Some are more suited to one kind of thinking versus another. But being curious and being logical are tools everyone can use.

What’s your top family activity in Chicago ?

Definitely Blackhawks games. We love going to those as a family.

How do you balance being a working mom in Hollywood with the laid-back, Midwest atmosphere of Chicago ? How do you keep your children grounded?

It’s that very laid-back Midwestern attitude that helps a lot! And recognizing when people are getting too stressed out and finding something relaxing and/or authentically fun to do.

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