Jack McBrayer has spent the past couple of years very concerned about how kindness is lacking from everyday interactions. In particular, he’s worried about kids, who are missing a Mister Rogers-like figure who can teach them empathy. So the 30 Rock actor did what no one expected. He started working on a preschool show. And that effort has culminated in the new Apple TV+ series Hello, Jack! The Kindness Show, which premieres on November 5.
Created by McBrayer and Angela Santomero (Blue’s Clues), the seven x 20-minute series is a live-action/animated hybrid produced by 9 Story Media Group and Jax Media, with Brown Bag Films handling the animation. In each episode, McBrayer invites kids into his world, where he plays games, interacts with people in the neighborhood, and teaches them about the three C’s—caring, connecting and cascading kindness. The first season will also focus on the top-level themes of empathy, humor and imagination.
A prolific voice actor (Wreck it Ralph, Phineas and Ferb, Despicable Me, Amphibia and Puppy Dog Pals are among his many credits), McBrayer began working on the show concept in 2018. He attended several children’s media conferences, including The National Association for the Education of Young Children, where he met consultant Dr. Junlei Li (now a consultant for Hello Jack!), who was giving a talk called “What Would Fred Rogers Think About the World Right Now?” Inspiration struck.
McBrayer knew he wanted his show to be about teaching kids (and maybe their parents) how to be kind in the way Fred Rogers did for previous generations.
“I’m no Fred Rogers, but I want to give it a shot and see what I can do,” says McBrayer.
Rogers’ legacy looms large over the series. After pitching it to Apple TV+’s Tara Sorensen in 2018, McBrayer was put in touch with 9 Story and Santomero, whose experience creating and working on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood—a Mister Rogers Neighborhood spin-off—felt like it would be a natural asset.
The show pays homage to Mister Rogers in subtle ways, too. Whereas Rogers interacted with puppets, using those conversations to tell stories or explain more difficult concepts, animated segments will serve a similar purpose in Hello Jack!
With a background in comedy (notably playing 30 Rock’s Kenneth), it was important to McBrayer to make his show funny as well. In keeping with the theme of kindness, the comedy itself isn’t sarcastic or winking; instead it tries to strike an earnest and sincere tone.
Finally, music plays a big part in the series, stemming from the 18-plus months it was in development. While waiting for a greenlight, McBrayer acted in a stage production of The Waitress on London’s West End, which inspired him to increase the number of musical segments in the series. Each episode will now feature an original song by the band OK Go.
With the first season ready to air, McBrayer has already turned his attention to future episodes (there’s no official confirmation on that yet but he has his fingers crossed), and hopes to start tackling bigger issues.
“Mister Rogers was able to talk about the assassination of Robert Kennedy in 1968. He could talk about death, divorce and racism. He could go very deep, but always in a kid-appropriate and gentle way,” McBrayer says. “I want to go deep—let’s talk about things that kids keep hearing about today. I would be so excited to [tackle these important topics] in future seasons.”