1 of 6 | Rainn Wilson visits Iceland in "The Geography of Bliss." Photo courtesy of Peacock
LOS ANGELES, May 18 (UPI) -- Rainn Wilson said his new travel show, Rainn Wilson and the Geography of Bliss, premiering Thursday on Peacock, taught him the value of socializing.
Wilson, 57, visits Iceland, Bulgaria, Thailand and other countries to ask what makes people happy.
"One of the central takeaways that I brought home with me was the importance of connection," Wilson told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "To be ever expanding our idea of community is a super important part of the search for happiness and bliss."
Some of Wilson's activities are as exotic as bathing elephants in Thailand or swimming in the Arctic Ocean. Others are much simpler, like accompanying Bulgarian musician Ivo Dimchev, who performs private concerts in people's homes.
"Just getting to rock out in someone's bedroom in Bulgaria, what an incredible job that was," Wilson said. "I thought The Office was the best job I ever had, but this job was pretty good."
Wilson played Dunder Mifflin paper salesman Dwight Schrute for nine seasons on NBC's The Office. He has also appeared in movies like Juno, Super and The Meg and series Star Trek: Discovery, Dark Winds and Utopia.
In 2008, Wilson co-founded the digital media company SoulPancake, whose productions explored spiritual and philosophical issues. Participant Media bought the company in 2016, but Wilson's journey continues.
"It's really about finding and asking the right questions more than it is any hard takeaway and answers," Wilson said. "It's the exploration that is a lifelong pursuit."
The exploration included allowing for feelings of sadness or discomfort. In Bulgaria, Wilson explored the value of such emotions and the danger in suppressing them with toxic positivity.
"Joy and bliss allow for negative emotions," Wilson said "Sorrow, struggling and suffering are part of the human condition, and guess what? We get to go through them and emerge, transformed and uplifted."
The exploration of joy and bliss, Wilson said, allowed him to connect with people in places that did not recognize him from The Office.
"The Office was not very big in Bulgaria, or Ghana or Thailand, for that matter," Wilson said.
American viewers of The Geography of Bliss will get to see more of Wilson's personal humor. He reacts to all of the exotic situations in which he finds himself, though not as abrasively as Dwight did.
"People expect me to be like Dwight and I think a lot of people, frankly, wish that I was a lot more like Dwight," Wilson said. "I'm a little bit more broad-minded, a little more sensitive and a little more able to connect with people."
Connecting with strangers from around the world reinforced to Wilson how important physical interaction is. Zoom and social media are just no substitute, he said.
"We're finding, post-COVID, the longing people have to connect and meet folks and just be in a room with someone," Wilson said. "It's exhilarating. We humans thrive as social creatures."
Should he get to do a second season of The Geography of Bliss, Wilson has mapped out some of the places he would like to visit.
"I would love to go to Bhutan, north of India," Wilson said. "There's also a lot of pockets of really diverse happiness to be found in Colombia, a country that was really held back by the drug trade and the drug war for many decades.
"We wanted to go to Japan but it was too hard to travel there over COVID. I'd love to visit Japan."
Wilson said The Geography of Bliss marks a high point in his career, and he hopes the show can impact viewers as much as his trip impacted him.
"Getting paid to travel the world to talk to people about happiness -- it really just doesn't get any better than that," Wilson said. "I was really ecstatic that I got to do a show that really is about mental health and has a positive impact on the viewer."
All five episodes of Rainn Wilson and the Geography of Bliss premiere Thursday on Peacock.