Jack McBrayer may have started in comedy, but he’s been “bitten by the children’s programming bug” and hopes to connect with the next generation in his new show, Hello, Jack! The Kindness Show streaming on AppleTV+ now.
Hello, Jack! is a wonderful new children’s show from the fabulous minds of Jack McBrayer and Angela Santomero (Blue’s Clues and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood). The show offers so much more than just kindness, with lessons that youth can carry with them in life. Even my 9-year-old really enjoyed the show and the messages they shared.
Jack lends his wonderful smile that can brighten any day and makes his friendly character that much move likeable. The moment Jack walks out the front door and says, ‘Hey, you,’ it was like being transported to my youth when Mister Rogers walks into the room and says ‘Hi’.
This week I sat down with fellow Georgian, Jack McBrayer to chat about his new show and how it got off the ground. I’ve been telling everyone I know that Jack McBrayer is the modern-day Mister Rogers for Hello, Jack.
I have to insist that I’m no Fred Rogers, but I’m giving it my shot. – Jack McBrayer
There is a little hummingbird that makes a friendly appearance on the show. I wanted to know if he appears when someone does something kind.
Jack McBrayer – That is absolutely correct. The Hummingbird is kind of an unofficial mascot, but we do have him appear whenever an act of kindness occurs. I know it’s a bit subtle, and I’m hoping that with viewing more episodes, our viewers will start noticing when it appears, which points out it has meaning.
I’m dying to know what got the ball rolling for Hello, Jack. And did you have the idea and think, ‘I need a children’s show master. Oh, I know who to connect with, Angela Santomero!’
Jack McBrayer – Well, sorta. Fortunately, Apple was the middleman for that. The idea for the show came about, it really was a very personal thing for me. When I just started noticing more grown-ups behaving with a lack of compassion and a lack of civility, and a lack of kindness towards each other. Just in all areas. And that struck me as strange. I started thinking about when we, as humans, learn these social-emotional lessons of empathy and tolerance and patience and listening. And so I did start thinking about my experience watching children’s programming growing up. Of course, you have your literacy, educational programming, but then also shows like Mister Rogers Neighborhood, which really let us go a little deeper into how we were feeling as young viewers and letting us label these feelings and accept our feelings.
So, as much as I wanted to do that, my background was in comedy, so I didn’t think I was gonna like, storm the castle and be like, ‘I’m here. You’re welcome!’ When I went to Apple with the idea for the show, they were very receptive and very wisely and very thankfully, they teamed me up with Angela Santomero at 9 Story Media. Angela is the queen of children’s programming and quality children’s programming. She has come up with Blue’s Clues, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, which is from the Fred Rogers world, all sorts of programming that helped them build the foundation of what this show could be. So it was a perfect marriage if you will.
We did not cut corners on that, and that’s another reason it took so long. A great deal of research and curriculum and education in psychology and even you know, language, what words can we use? So there’s a great deal of thought and intention that went into every single episode.
Why did you guys choose to go with OK Go for some of the original songs?
Jack McBrayer – Well, I knew that I wanted these shows to have a gentleness, but I also wanted them to be fun. I’ve always enjoyed children’s programming that incorporated music, and I know that kids latch on to music within programs, and they are able to repeat them and sing along, and I think that’s a great way to get messaging across. So when I when we decided we did want music in the episodes, Apple Music teamed up with OK Go, who submitted a theme song and it was one of those beams from the heavens kind of thing. ‘This is it. This is it!’ So the theme song kind of set things in motion. OK Go does an original song for every single episode. They did our opening theme song, they did our closing song and I mean, it was in a very restricted amount of time, so I cannot applaud them enough on everything. Also, I am a huge fan of OK Go from way back. So a lot of our early conversations are just me trying not to fan boy. ‘That’s a great idea. Hey, when you sing that one song, let it rain, did you?’ I needed to reel it in!
They are just so talented, and they’re so fun. And like many of our collaborators, they embraced the vision. They knew what I was trying to do. They knew that I was trying to do it in earnest, but they also knew we wanted to add some playfulness to it. So finding that balance has been incredibly invaluable for everybody who has contributed.
Obviously the show is about kindness. But what are some of the other lessons that you’re hoping for children to take away from the series?
Jack McBrayer – Quite frankly, I like to think of kindness as the umbrella for which we can explore perhaps deeper things we have episodes that explore what is it like when we’re dealing with disappointment. What it feels like to pitch in to help the gang. What are we feeling when we’re trying something new, something unknown. So we’re able to touch on these things that really remind me of episodes of Mister Rogers Neighborhood where we could sit in an exploration of a feeling and talk about it and look at the different aspects of it. Under this umbrella of kindness, how can we touch on all of these elements under the lens of kindness through the lens of kindness?
It’s okay to be scared. Now, how can we deal with it? I think a lot of these lessons, I’m sure you absorb them at that time, but you might not think about them until much later in your life. Let’s plant the seeds.
What can we look forward to from the show in the future?
Jack McBrayer – Well, first of all, I hope people watch it, and they like it. I would like to explore different things, again under the umbrella of kindness. What is it like if anyone was in a situation of having to stand up to bullying or not giving up or being themselves, some kid-friendly themes that we can explore gently? But also, these are real things, kids are a part of this world as much as we all are. And I want them to feel at ease and comfortable and empowered to be able to deal with the issues that they are feeling that they are dealing with and will eventually grow into dealing with in different versions.
Are you working on any other projects for the future? Anything you are currently working on?
Jack McBrayer – Well, I am able to do just a little offshoot voice acting jobs, which I love. They’re super fun. They’re super easy, and it’s almost always with just a good group of people. But I’m not gonna lie to you. I think I’ve been bitten by the children’s programming bug. So I would like to see what else I can do. I’d love to be doing this for 20 years, but yeah, what else can we do? What other children’s programming can we put out there? Grown-ups are grown-ups, I still got hope for our kids. I would be curious to see what else we can do.
People are just like, ‘Oh, you used to be on sitcoms, and now you’re doing shows with children’s programming. Oh, sorry.’ Absolutely not! I am proud of this. I am energized by it. I’m excited to do it. I’m curious to see what the next thing could be.