To some, Jack Black is half of the rock duo, Tenacious D (I’ve seen them live- trust me when I say- ROCK STARS!!). To others, he’s the funny dude from movies like High Fidelity, Tropic Thunder and, as of this past Halloween season, he’s R.L Stine too. But to kids, he’s the adorable, lovable, goofy Po the panda in the DreamWorks franchise, Kung Fu Panda. Po and crew have returned for Kung Fu Panda 3 in which Po reunites with his biological dad, Li (voiced by Bryan Cranston). He must learn to achieve “chi” to conquer the newest nemesis, Kai (voiced by J.K. Simmons) who is out to take his chi and dominate the world and underworld.
I got a chance to sit down for a roundtable with Jack Black and several other bloggers during a press day for the film. Besides seeing how funny he is in person, he also shared a few facts like how he almost turned down Kung Fu Panda, how his sons won’t say he’s cool, bribing one son with a lollipop to meditate for a photo and much more.
Jack Black believes the underlying theme through all three movies is the same- family and community and loves that they connect to adopted children like his niece.
A big theme that runs through all three of the films is the adoption situation that he’s in. You know, he’s an adopted kid. And that really comes to the fore in this one because his biological father comes into the picture, and it’s like, “Uh, well”–so, it’s kind of heavy because I have a niece who’s adopted, and she was with me when we first watched the film. And I was checking her out, and she was into it. But, I could tell she was like, “Whoa.” I just wondered what was happening in her mind, you know? But, I think it’s good because it’s all about family and about the community and how important that is.
He almost didn’t do the voice of Po because he wasn’t sure he wanted to become a “cartoon.”
I wasn’t sure. I was at a crossroads. I was like, “I don’t know if I want to do that.” But, then he had the animators do a little sample of Po animated and with my voice from High Fidelity. And I was like, “Oh, so that’s what–you don’t want me to, like, baby it up. You don’t want me to Romper Room it.” So, I was like, “Okay”, that made it very easy.
Even though his sons love Po, his older son won’t admit that he’s cool for voicing Po.
It’s cool that my boys get to see and hear Daddy in something that they like. But, I know they have mixed feelings because I think it’s inherent in fatherhood for the kids to not think their dad is cool. They love it, but then they also go, “Yes, but, you know, you’re not as cool as”–I don’t know. I don’t want to mention other cartoons that they love. But, they are very excited to come to the premiere. So I’m happy to have something that they’re proud of in my résumé.
He likes to meditate and actually has a family photo where they are all fake meditating.
We have a photo in our house up on the wall of all of us, like, fake meditating, like, pretending meditating. I’m like, you know, this. And I was able to get them to pose for that photo. And my little boy had a little lollipop in his hand while he was mediating, which was very funny. Like a bribe, “I’ll give you this lollipop if you come pretend to be meditating.”
Although he loves connecting with younger audiences, he truly enjoys all aspects of his career.
It just sort of comes natural. I have some clownish, immature, childish parts of my personality that naturally resonate with that audience. But, I take just as much pride and joy in doing films for kids as I do for adults, you know? If I can make a group of kids laugh, that feels just as great as making a big audience of adults laugh.
Kung Fu Panda opens January 29th and is rated PG.