Jack Black, star of bigscreen comedies including SCHOOL OF ROCK, the voice of the hero in the animated KUNG FU PANDA franchise and one-half of the band Tenacious D, is making a leap into series television as a lead actor and producer with HBO’s THE BRINK. Created by Kim Benabib and Robert Benabib, THE BRINK, Sundays at 10:30 PM, is a satirical look at the possible start of World War III. Black plays U.S. State Department employee Alex Talbot, a low-level screw-up assigned to the American Embassy in Pakistan, where he constantly aggravates his better-educated local driver, played by Aasif Mandvi (a BRINK co-producer). Events take a turn when Alex stumbles upon information that may topple the country’s militaristic leader, who is threatening nuclear war. Black’s other cast mates include Tim Robbins, Pablo Schreiber, Mimi Kennedy and Esai Morales. The behind-the-scenes team includes executive producers Jerry Weintraub and Jay Roach; the latter also directed on THE BRINK.
AX: Were you looking to do a series at this time?
JACK BLACK: Not necessarily, no. But it came to me and if someone like Jay Roach is attached, and Jerry Weintraub … The lines have blurred between quality television and quality film. Because a lot of the best stories are being told on television now, and that’s just the way it is, and I realized that I was enjoying watching my favorite series a lot more than going out to the theatre. So yeah, I guess I was sort of looking to jump in and party with those guys. I’d seen BREAKING BAD like the rest of the country.
AX: There’s a scene where Alex gets water-boarded. Is that really you in those shots?
BLACK: It’s me, but, you know, I had some protections. But water did go up my nose. I’m not going to say [I know] what it is to be water-boarded, but even that little taste was not very pleasant.
AX: You’re also one of the producers on THE BRINK. Do you enjoy producing?
BLACK: I do like to produce and I’ve done a few things. I like all aspects of bringing a story to the screen and I’m a control freak, so yeah. But I’m a little embarrassed about my producer credit on this. It’s good agenting – someone got me that credit. I didn’t really deserve it. There are lots of producers. I will say that I did lobby to get Aasif Mandvi when I heard that he was up for the role. That’s the only thing I can really take credit for.
AX: You were also a producer and star on THE D TRAIN, which got into Sundance …
BLACK: That one was tough to get going. We barely got that thing off the ground. The financing was pretty tricky. We got some European financiers and we scraped together the production and I had my hand in all things casting and development.
AX: How much does it mean that it got into Sundance?
BLACK: It’s a huge deal. I’d been to Sundance before, but never in competition, so it was very special to be accepted. BERNIE didn’t get into Sundance, and that was like one of my best movies ever, so I didn’t know if I’d ever get in there, so yeah, I was very excited to go out there and just bask in the glory that is the dance on the sun, I’m not going to lie to you.
AX: You have another KUNG FU PANDA movie coming out. Are your kids excited about that?
BLACK: My kids want to be in it. I’m trying to get my oldest boy in there. A little nepotism – I’m not above a little nepotism. I don’t know that he’s going to get all that he wants. He said he wants to be Po’s son and he wants to be human. It’s very confusing. Some crazy ideas. But we’ll try to get him a little voice in there.
AX: Are there sides to you as an actor that we haven’t seen yet, and if there are, do we get to see some of them in THE BRINK?
BLACK: Well, of course I have to say that there are some gears that I have that you’ve never imagined, because anything else would be just bad publicity [laughs], but yeah, I mean, there are things that I see that I love that I’d love to be a part of and as an artist, you’re always striving to do things that are new and show different sides of yourself and surprise the audience. And I think, yeah, I’ve got a few more things I’d like to do.
[THE BRINK is] kind of a new genre for me with the political suspense comedy. There’s a new flavor there that I had a great time with, and I love political theatre. I’m a creature of politics. I TiVo your Chris Matthews and your Rachel Maddows – I’m trying to think of a right-wing one to balance it out, there’s nothing there [laughs] – but I like politics. I’m up to date on what’s happening and I have passionate feelings about world politics, so it’s great to be able to have a show that deals in that world.
This interview was conducted during HBO’s portion of the Television Critics Association press tour at the Langham-Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, California.
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Article: THE BRINK star Jack Black discuss the new HBO series – interview