Rainn Wilson’s ‘Idiot’s Guide’ Docuseries Is Climate Change 101
Rainn Wilson will most likely always be remembered for playing Dwight on The Office, but his latest venture could leave a much bigger mark on the world as a whole. His web series An Idiot’s Guide to Climate Change, which just dropped its first-season finale on SoulPancake‘s YouTube Channel, offers both an eye-opening look at the effects of global warming on our environment and practical steps everyone can take to slow down the destruction.
Through six, globe-hopping shorts, the actor—soon to be seen in Amazon Prime Video’s Utopia—meets with scientists and experts in the field, while also providing viewers with an entertaining entry point into the work being done across the world. But it’s not all facts and frightening data. After all, it’s Rainn Wilson working the camera here and even Stanley would admit the guy is a hoot.
Here, he explains what inspired his Guide and where he hopes to lead it after this season.
For something that’s a very dire situation, you actually make learning about this stuff and informing people about it very entertaining.
Rainn Wilson: Oh, great. Yeah. That was our goal. I think that An Idiot’s Guide to Climate Change was to look at the science of climate change through a fun, fresh lens and get it to an audience of people that weren’t necessarily all caught up on the science and how it all worked. Because it feels like we live in these bubbles in the United States where the people that are the pro-science, climate change believers all talk to each other. And then people who, I’ll be generous and call them science skeptics, they all talk to each other and listen to certain other news. And we wanted to just make something for everyone. It’s fun for the whole family, regardless of who you voted for and your political affiliation, and that was our goal.
And that’s what I got from it. You’re not talking down to anybody, it’s not preaching anything. Instead, you are actually showing what the effects of all this have been, which is important. How long were you traveling to film this?
Well, it was a pretty short trip. We went to New York and Iceland and Greenland. I was like four days in Greenland, two days in Iceland and maybe 30 hours in New York. So the whole thing was shot in six days, plus little pieces that we shot back here in L.A. It was a whirlwind trip.
That’s some messed-up jet lag.
Yeah. Yeah, it was pretty crazy.
And what got you into this? Is this a passion project?
I’ve always been concerned about climate change, especially over the last four or five years as I was reading more and more. And then I met Dr. Gail Whiteman, who features prominently in this, and got to know her organization, which is called Arctic Basecamp. She was the one who was like, “If you want to really know about climate change, you’ve got to see it first-hand, you’ve got to talk to the scientists and try and go in the field.” So we were talking a long time about how to do that.
And then I had some space open up, and I thought that I better put my money where my mouth is. It’s not enough to just send out some angry tweets and be a keyboard social activist. I’ve got to shoot something. I’ve got to make a show. I’ve got to reach a new audience. I’ve got to try and shake things up a little bit. It was borne for me out of action. And it’s not like, “This is it. I’ve done my bit for climate change now that I’ve done these six videos.” There’s way, way more to do. But this is the first step in my climate activism.
Nice. Obviously, travel is a little curtailed right now, so just jumping on a plane and going to Iceland is not exactly the easiest thing anymore. Are you planning a second season?
Yes. So SoulPancake is a YouTube channel mostly, but has pretty limited budgets. We would like to maybe find another home for it and continue the journey, continue the odyssey of An Idiot’s Guide to Climate Change, me being the idiot of course, not the viewer. [Laughs]
Well, the longer you do this, you’ll be less of an idiot. You’ll be more educated as you go along.
I know. In a certain way, it behooves me to stay ignorant, because that will allow me to be the idiot host of the show for a longer period of time.
Your season finale for Idiot’s Guide features a chat with 17-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. And she’s hilarious, it turns out.
Yes, she’s very funny. Well, there’s a man named Callum Grieve who is on the board of Arctic Basecamp and he works with Greta a lot. So he helped hook it up. She’s surprisingly funny and nimble and she can improvise. And that was her first foray into acting.
And also, all the points that she makes are valid. God bless her generation, they might be the ones who can turn this ship around.
They’re going to have to. And that’s part of what Idiot’s Guide to Climate Change is. It’s like, this is a show for the 15 to 25-year-olds that are going to need to save our planet.