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29 May 2023

Rainn Wilson’s Q&A: “As a child, I found my father wishy-washy and forlorn”

The actor on Star Trek’s James T Kirk, his love of Succession, and how not following advice can make you rich.

By New Statesman

Rainn Wilson was born in Seattle in 1966. An actor, comedian and producer, he is best known for his role as Dwight Schrute in The Office (US), for which he won three consecutive Emmy Award nominations.

What’s your earliest memory?

As a child on the Mosquito Coast of Nicaragua, my first memory is of actual mosquitoes. I vividly recall, aged about three, waking up surrounded by netting and spending time every morning joyfully slapping to death the mosquitoes that hung like tiny bats in the webbing.

Who are your heroes?

My childhood hero was a combination of Star Treks James T Kirk and William Shatner, the actor who played him. The lines blurred. To me, the character seemed a far greater role model than my father, who I considered wishy-washy and forlorn.  Kirk was fierce and amazingly handsome. Plus, not only was he a seducer of the women he met throughout outer space, he was a seducer of alien women as well.

What book last changed your thinking?

Whenever I am floundering, I turn on the audio book of The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. His strange, meditative German voice propels me into a state of bliss.

[See also: International Booker winner Georgi Gospodinov: “We’re living in the memory gap”]

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Which political figure do you look up to?

The first president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah. He united the tribes of the area and fought for independence from colonial Britain. Unfortunately, in later life he became an authoritarian jerk.

What would be your “Mastermind” specialist subject?

I know an absurd amount about world religions, geography, rock ‘n’ roll, chess and modern art.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

Mexico City in the 1930s.

What TV show could you not live without?

Succession. And, unfortunately, I’m going to have to learn to live without it quite soon.

Who would paint your portrait?

Francis Bacon.

What’s your theme tune?

Besides The Office theme tune? The song from the Clint Eastwood movie series with him and a beer-swilling, redneck-punching Orangutan, Every Which Way but Loose.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

“Whatever you do, don’t buy crypto!” I did not follow that advice and have made a lot of money because I didn’t.

What’s currently bugging you?

The hypocrisy inherent in partisan politics that no one ever seems to notice. What we pillory Donald Trump for we ignored in Bill Clinton. And conversely, what some rail at Hunter Biden about, the Trump progeny revel in.

What single thing would make your life better?

World peace.

When were you happiest?

There is no “were”. The past doesn’t exist.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

I would have become a high school English teacher who demands to only teach books that are, or have been, banned at one point in time. I would wear lots of cardigans and have walls full of inspirational posters, such as the one with the terrified kitten hanging by its claws from a tree branch that reads, “Hang in there, Baby!”

Are we all doomed?

Yes and no. A golden age of humanity awaits! However, we must go through the fire to emerge from our painful, thrashing adolescence into a more mature chapter.

“Soul Boom: Why We Need a Spiritual Revolution” by Rainn Wilson is published by Hachette

[See also: Russell Tovey’s Q&A: “In another life, I’d run the Tate Modern]

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This article appears in the 31 May 2023 issue of the New Statesman, The Rise of Greedflation