Jack Black Is Nuts - The Years Project

Jack Black Is Nuts

By Joel Bach

Why does Jack Black need therapy? Because couldn’t we all use some therapy when it comes to climate change? At this moment, the human race is faced with a profoundly existential threat – one that promises to displace billions of people, wipe out millions of animal species, and flood, burn, cook and starve countless more.

Just let that sink in for a second.

Yet we’re not taking the necessary steps to prevent it.

It’s enough to make anyone crazy.

I was the showrunner and series director for YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY. As we dug into story selection for season two of the show, we zeroed in on sea level rise in Miami as an obvious candidate. Miami, by virtue of its unfortunate geography, suffers from a climate curse. Not only is the whole city at a low elevation, it sits on a bed of porous limestone, which means that even if Floridians were to build sea walls around the city to protect it, the water would still rise from below. Some projections show large parts of Miami under water by 2050 and all of it submerged by the end of the century.

And yet, strangely, building construction in Miami hasn’t slowed one bit. When we filmed there in 2015, the city had just issued 200 new permits for high-rise building construction. Yes, the U.S. city most vulnerable to sea level rise was looking to build more. Instead of taking precautionary measures, Miami was doubling down on a future that would never be.

At some point the insanity of it all became an obsession for me – and I decided to try to capture it in the show. So, I suggested to the producer, Jon Meyersohn, that we film a climate therapy scene with Jack and a real therapist, right there on the beach. Within two hours of that conversation Jon had located, spoken to and secured a highly-regarded therapist in DC named Lise Van Susteren, whose chief concern just so happened to be the psychological impacts of climate change.

Ok, I have to be completely honest here.

Lise wasn’t totally on board with the idea of filming a scene on a beach with Jack Black staged to look like an actual therapy session. Jack wasn’t convinced, either. When I proposed the idea to him before filming he raised an eyebrow and told me he would give it a shot, but he also made it clear the scene “might not make the movie.”

On the day of filming the scene got off to a shaky start. Jack and Lise were giving it their best but it just wasn’t clicking. It was 90 degrees that day. To me it felt like 150. My brilliant idea was a dud.

But then it did start clicking. Jack started to buy into the concept. As did Lise. That had nothing to do with me. It had to do with Lise, a real pro who understands the psychological components of climate change better than anyone, and with Jack, whose generosity as a human being allowed him to continue to keep giving it a whirl. So a staged therapy scene somehow morphed into a real therapy scene. A hokey idea became something genuine. What you’re seeing isn’t acting or fakery on the part of Jack Black. It’s real. He engages and goes deep to try to make sense of the climate crisis.

The question is, did Jack emerge from the session transformed? Did it make him feel better in any way about the climate crisis? Was he able to move forward in life with a newfound manageable grasp about what to do in the face of it all?

No, not really. It’s impossible for any of us to grasp, much less accept, what’s coming. But the more we talk about climate change and give it the attention it deserves, the more we will be able to make some sense of it.

And only then will we do something about it.