Between a high-profile press tour, a vortex of online negativity and a raging conversation around female genitalia, it is likely you are aware that Gwyneth Paltrow launched a docuseries on Netflix in late January.
“The Goop Lab,” announced exclusively by Variety last year, is a six-episode manifestation of Paltrow’s lifestyle brand Goop and its many content verticals, built around a central thesis that the Oscar winner described as “optimization of self.”
Response has played out across the normal spectrum on which Paltrow and Goop are received: adoration from like-minded seekers, interest from fashion and film fans, and invective from trolls and pockets of the medical community. During a recent conversation at Netflix headquarters in Los Angeles, Paltrow had an easy smile for all of it. She’s been here before.
“I will never understand the level of fascination and projection. But we don’t want to not change the conversation just to please everybody,” Paltrow said. “We do what we do in total integrity, and we love what we do. It doesn’t even matter, really, that some are trying to get attention for writing about us.”
Indeed, in the days following Variety’s initial report last February, headlines declared the partnership between Paltrow and the streaming giant “a win for pseudo-science.” The almost-retired performer and CEO chalks it up to clickbait.
“That kind of media, a lot of it is dying. The business model is failing, and they’re turning to the tabloidization to get the clicks. So it works, when they write about me, apparently. Because they keep doing,” she said. Paltrow added she would be open to the criticism “if it was something I could learn from.” But when it comes to Goop-friendly topics like energy healing?
“[It] might not be backed with double-blind studies, but its been happening for thousands of years,” she said.
A lot of Goop’s experimentation involves already-familiar practices, as illustrated on the series and explored in-depth on Goop.com. Jumping into a freezing ocean to prolong life and stave off anxiety? Experimenting with psychedelics to ease PTSD? Acupuncture, for the love? Goop is not responsible for introducing any of these notions into the consciousness. What’s new here, at least for Paltrow, is the way she approached the medium — as an unscripted television producer, not a movie star.
“It’s so bizarre, and so different. Normally someone hands me something and tells me what I’m playing. This was from our imaginations and what inspires us, and what we hope to learn more about. It’s been a pretty cool experience,” Paltrow said. “The most difficult part was honing down what the six subjects were going to be. The trick was the process of distilling down our content and have all the topics be different enough.”
Outside of scripted features and television, Paltrow’s credits are limited. She has appeared in documentaries about makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin and designer Valentino Garavani, and more than a decade ago popped up on a PBS series about Spanish cooking.
“I’ve never done anything unscripted — like, how does this work? How does it feel good? How does it not be …” Paltrow asked, searching for the words.
Like “Jersey Shore,” we wondered?
“Right. What is this world? What is the construct?” she said. “The most difficult part was honing down what the six episode subjects were going to be. We wanted it to appeal to lots of different people. You can get really specific on a subject, and then it might not be as appealing.”
For the past five years, Paltrow has done a delicate dance with how much she will allow herself to be Goop’s preeminent spokeswoman. She has repeatedly said that her ideal version of scale would be to grow Goop past the point of her own image. Currently valued at $250 million with several rounds of venture capital investment, her high-wire act is working.
“For the show, I asked, ‘How can I be in it, but not too in it?’ It was important for me that Goop staffers be the stars of the show. We have such incredible people at the company. I thought there would be so much more impact to meet and love them, and watch them go through those things,” she said.
Go through it, they do. Goop employees explore their private parts and sexual hangups, insecurities around aging, parental traumas, and other topics that Goop chief content officer Elise Loehnen jokingly said amounted to “an HR nightmare.”
Netflix has yet to announce a possible renewal of “The Goop Lab,” but streaming or not, Goop will be there asking the questions, Paltrow said.
“What I think is great is that we are a brand that people feel strongly about,” she concluded. “One way or the other.”