In April, Showtime will launch an ambitious and novel documentary series called “Years of Living Dangerously.” The ambitious part: It’s a 10-part series that aims to examine climate change through a number of personal stories.
The novel part is the people telling those stories. A few journalists, including “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl and MSNBC host Chris Hayes, report segments of the show, but the bulk of the series’ correspondents are well-known actors, including Matt Damon, Jessica Alba, Don Cheadle and “Vampire Diaries” star Ian Somerhalder.
“It seemed to us really important to make sure we had reach with this series,” David Gelber (“60 Minutes”), one of project’s executive producers, says Thursday (Jan. 16) at the TCA winter press tour. “We decided that we would find people like Ian who are passionate about the issue, who are not necessarily experts.”
He continues, “We didn’t want an actor to be opining, to be giving their point of view about this issue. We wanted them to be asking questions on behalf of the audience, and they’ve done it spectacularly well.”
Somerhalder’s segment profiles Anna Jane Joyner, the daughter of televangelist Rick Joyner, who has split with her dad over climate change and now works with Christian groups on environmental responsibility. Somerhalder says Rick Joyner stopped paying Anna’s tuition at the University of North Carolina because she was becoming “too educated” about climate change.
“I love Rick Joyner. There’s nothing against him. It’s just something that comes up in our story,” Somerhalder says. “[But] you can imagine the struggle in this young woman’s life to have her voice heard and have this notion nurtured that we need to come together and to fight to get her father to change his mind.”
Somerhalder also hopes some people who follow him on The CW and on social media (he has 4.5 million-plus Twitter followers) will be moved to take action after seeing “Years of Living Dangerously.”
“I’m just leveraging social media, the access that a vampire TV show gives me,” he says. “Let’s be honest … leveraging that social media exposure to the tune of hundreds of millions of people, eventually … is where the activation comes from. So ultimately, it’s leveraging that to create true, quantifiable global change and that’s” the objective.
“Years of Living Dangerously” premieres at 10 p.m. ET Sunday, April 13 on Showtime.