Jeff Goldblum is standing in a hall of masks in San Dimas, California when he’s taken back. How could he not be? Everywhere he looks, on each shelf and behind every sales rack, there is another row of ghoulish faces staring back at him. Some have rubber fangs, others a latex eyeball, and then there’s that wolf-man get-up over there.
At the time, Goldblum’s filming the opening segment for his latest episode of The World According to Jeff Goldblum, a streaming documentary series courtesy of Nat Geo and Disney+. Yet, simultaneously, he’s also being transported back to childhood and career obsessions. Like everyone else visiting the Immortal Masks shop that day, Goldblum loves monsters. But unlike those other fine folks, he’s actually played one of the most famous monsters ever unleashed on cinemas: the grotesque Brundlefly in David Cronenberg’s 1986 version of The Fly.
So in spite of hosting an otherwise wholesome family series on a Disney streaming service, the actor must still sneak in a gnarly photograph from his time in the makeup chair and under the brush of Chris Walas, who won an Oscar for Best Makeup design on that film.
When we catch up with Goldblum some months later, and on the eve of that episode along with four other The World According to Jeff Goldblum installments debuting on Disney+, the actor is in good spirits. On a chilly Manhattan morning he is able to fondly recall his fascination with monsters growing up, plus his own experiences with Seth Brundle’s nightmarish transformation.
“I had seen Lon Chaney [Sr.],” Goldblum says when we ask about his fascination with monsters and what compelled him to become one. Referring to the first Lon Chaney who was also known as the Man of a Thousand Faces, Goldblum alludes to the iconic transformations of the silent film star, who one month could become the monstrously disfigured Phantom of the Opera and in another the tragic Quasimodo. Goldblum also speaks affectionately of growing up and seeing Bela Lugosi in re-releases of Dracula (1931), Boris Karloff in Frankenstein (1931), and Lon Chaney Jr. in The Wolf Man (1941).
“My sister and I went and saw a double bill where we saw I Was a Teenage Frankenstein and I Was a Teenage Werewolf with Michael Landon, you know, Little Joe from Bonanza and from Little House on the Prairie. But one of his early movies was I Was a Teenage Werewolf… I liked that!”
For Goldblum, it was the appeal of going through a similar transformation, as well as his friendship with William Hurt–whom he worked on Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill in 1983, and who had before that starred in Cronenberg’s Altered States (1980)–which drew him to getting the Lon Chaney treatment. Whereas certain other actors read script treatments for The Fly and shuddered, Goldblum smiled.
“At the time there was no question for me,” Goldblum says, “I just go with my gut feeling and my instincts. And I remember when I read that script, I’d maybe seen when I was a kid the original The Fly—we saw a lot of Vincent Price movies, my sister and I. We used to go to the Leona Theater in Pittsburgh. We saw a bunch of those. [So] I read it, and there was no question about it. I thought, ‘This is fantastic. I want to do this.’”
It’s just one of the career triumphs Goldblum can nod to, if even in passing, in The World According to Jeff Goldblum. In the same “Monsters” episode, the Grand Budapest Hotel actor also visits the workshop of Phil Tippett, another Oscar winning special effects guru who worked on, among other things, Jurassic Park (1993) alongside Goldblum. The performer teases that Tippett “speaks very eloquent and poetical about monsters and our shadow selves, and how to form monsters that really dig deep into people’s guts and psyches.”
Yet the whole series seems to be an excuse for Goldblum to dig into his own personal psyche and the long harbored passions which drove him as a child. In the first season, he did entire episodes on things as universally beloved as ice cream and swimming pools, and in the second season he takes similar deep dives into the ancient histories our species has with dogs or dance. But each of these subject matters, like movie monsters, are also matters that personally mean a lot specifically to Goldblum’s youth.
“[It was] not exactly a mission statement,” Goldblum says about the series digging into his own passions. “But it organically grew. It evolved in our conversations. They’re so great, the people from Nutopia and Nat Geo, and we started to say, ‘Yeah, what do we want it to be? Maybe things everybody loves but things that you love particularly?’ And I started to talk and riff on the thing, and it started in many of the cases to boil down to, ‘Here’s what I have a long history with, and what I had a big association with. When I was a kid I liked dance.’”
Like monsters, Goldblum can recall as a child attending the Bolshoi Ballet when they visited Pittsburgh and seeing on a separate occasion the prima ballerina Maria Tallchief—the first Native American dancer to hold that title—perform in Pennsylvania. This in turn led to Goldblum seriously studying dance as a child.
“I had an interest in dance,” says Goldblum, “and it became a big part of my life later in one way or another.”
Hence all the subjects of the first five episodes of season 2, such as dance, fireworks, and even the company of man’s best friend in dogs—a creature Goldblum insists his relationship with is deeper than simple friendship—have been thing which followed Goldblum to this day. They can also now be explored in all their joy on Disney+ where the first five episodes of The World According to Jeff Goldblum Season 2 are currently streaming. Fans can expect the next five episodes to stream sometime early next year.