Season 2 of Jack McBrayer's "Hello, Jack: The Kindness Show" premieres Friday. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+
NEW YORK, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Wreck-It Ralph and 30 Rock alum Jack McBrayer says he hopes Hello, Jack! The Kindness Show offers a bit of stability, comfort and entertainment through "a lens of positivity" to preschool-age children who have lived most of their lives during the coronavirus pandemic.
Season 2 of the live-action series premieres Friday on Apple TV+
"I want to show them that kindness doesn't have to be a grand gesture. Kindness can be the smallest little thing. It can exist in any aspect of your life," McBrayer, 49, told UPI in a Zoom interview Monday.
"The curriculum that we want to deal with is kind of timeless, but especially important during these times. We want to show connection."
For example, many kids missed out on seeing and learning about facial expressions when the people in their lives were wearing masks over their mouths and noses to stem the spread of the virus.
"One element that I was excited about with Hello, Jack was the direct connection with my home viewer," McBayer said.
"Mr. Rogers was so exemplary with that. It was so informative. So, I wanted to have that. Even though it is through a screen, when you are watching shows like that, it feels like you are being spoken to directly. I think there is great value in that. So, I was excited to incorporate that into every single episode."
The show's leisurely pace sets it apart from more frenetic, overstimulating children's programs.
"There's a lot of 'Zing! Pow! Boom!'" McBrayer said of other shows aimed at young viewers.
"This one, we take a breath every now and then, and we take the time to pose a question to our home viewers. That feels different. That feels special. In a way, it feels like a little throwback, but I'm OK with that, too."
The entertainer, who is known for his smile and sunny disposition, said he is comfortable with being the face of kindness.
"It makes me feel good to be kind," he said.
"It's not completely selfless at all. I gain something from doing it. I've been asked if I feel pressure, if I have bad days. Of course, I have bad days. I'm a human being. But I think, in my older age, I've realized: 'I can't control this, I can't control that.' So, it's just a matter of me figuring out when to start screaming," he laughed.
"No, it's a matter of me figuring out what are the things I need to worry about and what are the things I don't need to worry about as much. A lot of that just comes with experience."
McBrayer has worked extensively as a voice actor in cartoon projects such as Amphibia and Wander Over Yonder, but he said acting opposite a character or object that will be animated and added into Hello, Jack! later in the production process offers new challenges.
"I did want that fantasy, that imagination, but the animation, of course, has to show up after the fact. So, when we are recording the live action, then we have to pretend this flower is coming to life and we have to pretend this watermelon is talking to me," McBrayer said.
"It's totally different than just voice-over animation where you just sit in a studio and talk to a microphone all day long."
McBrayer, who appeared in 2019 in the West End production of Waitress, also sings in Hello, Jack!
"Oof. I love the idea of it," he said.
"The thing is the band, OK Go, who does all of our music, is so talented that sometimes it bums me out a little bit when I hear myself compared to what they are singing," he added.
"Even though I am not a trained singer, I also want to share the idea that you don't have to be a trained singer to enjoy singing and to enjoy expressing yourself creatively. In a way, I'm OK with the fact that I'm not hitting every single note. I want kids to appreciate that and just not care. Be loud, be proud!"
McBrayer is pleased with the critical reviews and audience feedback the show received for the first season.
"That made me feel validated," he said.
"Season 2, we really are just continuing with some of the stuff we explored in Season 1 -- themes that are relevant to a preschooler, told in an engaging and meaningful and appropriate way. Also, we wanted to see how playful we could be, [so] let's incorporate some music and animation and imagination into that."
McBrayer said he sees firsthand the fruits of his labor because people send him videos of their wee ones watching the show.
"The kids are just locked in, and it really does fill my heart with joy. I worked so hard and this really was the intent," he said.
"I wanted to share these messages of compassion and kindness, but really make it enjoyable and fun and appealing, and make it so parents would want to watch it with their kids."
McBrayer said he loves the idea of being a part of people's childhoods with fans starting out watching him on Hello, Jack! and then checking out his other work as they get older.
"To be a part of children's programming makes me proud. I'm really proud," he said. "I'm energized by all of this. I've found a focus that I like. I want to keep pursuing this for a long time."