Jack Black, Aasif Mandvi on Balancing Geopolitics and Comedy in HBO’s ‘The Brink’

Jack Black Aasif Mandvi Esai Morales
Barry King/Getty Images

The creators and cast of the HBO show “The Brink” discussed balancing comedy and drama, and tackling serious issues with a wink at the show’s premiere at the Paramount Theater on Monday.

“I don’t think we crossed any nuclear lines… if you will,” said Jack Black. “I think it’s all funny.” The comedian added his thoughts on what makes the show especially relevant considering current geopolitical conflict. “Everyone sort of has this sort of thing in the back of their head, this dread that something bad is going to happen at some point. So I think it’s refreshing to be able to laugh at this whole situation. If you can laugh at something that’s scary, then you’re better off.”

In the tradition of black comedies like “Dr. Strangelove” and political satire like “MASH,” the new HBO comedy focuses on a geopolitical crisis and its effects on three disparate men: the Secretary of State Walter Larson (Tim Robbins), a foreign service officer (Black) and a Navy fighter pilot (Pablo Schreiber).

Aasif Mandvi, who stars in and writes for “The Brink,” said there was one point when current events had an eerily resembled the show’s plot. “There’s a story later in the season where we have seven Pakistani girls that Jack and I have to rescue,” he said. “And at the same time that we were writing it, the Boko Haram thing happened.” The “Daily Show” comedian said that it was a reminder to him that “the world is far more absurd than any satire could ever be.”

Exec producer and pilot director Jay Roach said one of the things he hopes viewers take away is the show’s ability to shed light on people with issues who are tasked to save the world, which he said is more realistic than perhaps we would like to think. “You might walk away thinking, ‘I bet it’s actually more like this than some of the more serious stuff that we’ve ever seen,'” he said.

Schreiber confessed to feeling uncomfortable with a particular subplot that happens later on the show. “(It) felt pretty crazy, and it was hard to wrap my head around that,” he said. “We were experimenting with that line throughout the season.” But ultimately he felt it was his own issues as an actor, rather than the plot itself, that caused him to hesitate.

Creator and executive producer Roberto Benabib boldly stated that, as the show progresses, the possibilities are limitless. “There is nothing we won’t approach,” he said. “But this is a show about geopolitics. It’s not a show about terrorism, so that’s a distinction. But in comedy, if you can strike the right balance, nothing should be sacred.”

In addition to Benabib and Roach, Jerry Weintraub and Kim Benabib are the show’s other executive producers. The 10-episode season bows Sunday, June 21.

(Pictured: Jack Black, Esai Morales and Aasif Mandvi at “The Brink” premiere)

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  1. Samala says:

    I hope this show is as good, if not better, than Veep. As Veep’s season comes to an end, I’ll look forward to another irreverent show.

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