Skadoosh! Jack black is back as Po in Dreamworks Kung Fu Panda 3. I’m a huge fan of Black! He’s a talented guy- a musician, actor, comedian, writer and father to two young boys! I’ve been a fan of his for a long time and still remember him standing a few feet away from me at the Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny premiere! If you haven’t heard of his rock band Tenacious D, I highly recommend checking out their music. Jack has a awesome voice. Oh, and if you didn’t know, Dave Grohl is the drummer on the recordings. Speaking of Tenacious D, I asked Jack if we’ll see more of them and he said “Yes” and that he couldn’t wait to rock! For now, he’s voicing Po who takes on a different role in this film and searches for his chi.
I attended a fabulous roundtable with Jack and a few other bloggers. We joked around about Po’s age. I asked Jack if he knew how old Po was. Jack said he should’ve done his homework, “In human years? See, that’s the thing is I think that pandas actually mature much faster than humans. So, we’re going backwards here. But, I think he’s probably 17 years old, still a teenager. I interrupted, “I think he is 46.” Jack laughs, he is 46.
“I think of him as a kid because it’s like he’s just discovering in this film, there’s a pretty panda. And he’s too nervous to actually talk to her in that way. And so, he’s still kind of like the, “Oh, she’s got cooties,” kind of fear of female pandas. So, I’m hoping that in the future that he’ll settle down and have a family. I think that would be a great plot twist for future ones.
I think Po would be a fun father – just like Jack! Here are other fun moments from the interview.
What is it like voicing such a well-loved character like Po?
“With this particular character, I was really just being myself, kind of a younger version of myself—minus the jaded 45 year old Hollywood dude. So, it’s like a teenage me, just in love with kung fu. And I wasn’t really doing a character voice. All those years ago when we first were talking about doing Kung Fu Panda, Jeffrey Katzenberg approached me and was like, “Uh, you’re writing School of Rock and High Fidelity. We love you over here at DreamWorks. We want to do Kung Fu Panda with you.” And I was, hesitant because, I had this rock band. I kind of had a cool rock and roll edge to me. And I was like, “I don’t know if I want to go into, the kids’ world. I think I might want to go a little harder, a little darker with my career.” So I wasn’t sure. I was at a crossroads. I was like, “I don’t know if I want to do that.” But, then Jeffrey had the animators do a little sample of Po animated and with my voice from High Fidelity. And I was like, “Oh, so you don’t want me to baby it up. You don’t want me to Romper Room it.” So, I was like, “Okay.” So, that made it very easy–In that way.
How has it been having your kids actually grow up with this character as well?
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. So I’m happy to have something that they’re proud of in my resume.
I love the partnership with the fatherhood involvement, like getting fathers more involved in their kids’ lives. Are you very involved in your kids’ lives?
Very much so. That is one of the great themes of the movie, and also the theme of teachers. And that’s kind of my favorite part of the movie is the emotional resonance, especially at the end with the father and the family and all the different people in the community coming together to help this kid conquer the universe, conquer the forces of evil in his life.
I’m very involved with my boys. I help them with their homework.
So, what advice do you have for young kids who want to become an actor? There are so many kids that admire you and look up to you
I always try to steer them towards writing and directing. Acting is really fun and I’ve always loved doing it, but I got advice early on from a teacher named Deb Devine who said, don’t just sit around waiting to be a puppet in someone else’s show. You know, you got to go out and tell stories and make your own stuff or else it’ll probably never happen.
Po’s looking for his Chi in Kung Fu Panda 3. What do you do achieve inner peace?
You know, I do a little meditation, not like official meditation. What do you call that thing when you have a word? A mantra. I don’t have a master who’s taught me on the top of the mountain how to meditate, but just quiet times alone when I can just get back to what’s important and empty the mind of everything if possible. Breathing, “Whew,” just stillness and peace.
Are you able to practice this with your sons?
Yes. You know, that would be great, but I am not going to be able to. At this juncture, no, I don’t think they’re going to be joining me for morning meditations.
I do have a fantasy that someday we will meditate together as a family, but I don’t think that’s going to be anytime soon. They won’t do anything I say, but–unless I have to, put the foot down and say “There will be consequences unless we all meditate and get inner peace.” That’s not the way you get inner peace.
We have a photo in our house up on the wall of all of us, like, fake meditating, like, pretending meditating. I’m like, 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. But that’s the closest we’ve gotten to actual peace.
What’s been the most surprising thing that you’ve discovered about yourself as a father?
I just go one day at a time. You know, you’re always thinking about what’s the best thing for them and what do we need to do. And I think it surprises me how powerful the influence of screen time is with those little iPads. I wish we never would have started, because now you can’t take it away. There’ll be a mutiny. There’ll be a revolt.
That was a big surprise, when I found out that Steve Jobs never let his kids have the iPads or the iPhone. It’s like, “What did you invent this for?” “Oh, it’s not for kids.” There should be a thing on the box that says, “Don’t let your kids get addicted to this horrible machine,” as I’m looking at my iPhone the whole time. You feel real hypocritical if you’re like, “No screen time,” and then you’re just straight into the thing.
Po has a lot of big moments in this film and his character has evolved in the past few films. What messages or things can kids take away from the film.
Well, a big theme that runs through all three of the films is the adoption situation that he’s in. 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 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.