Jack Black's Parenting Advice: 'Love Your Kids and Let Them Follow Their Passions'

The 'Super Mario Bros. Movie' star spills on gaming, family fun night, and how he connects with his teenage sons, both on-screen and off.

Jack Black as Bowzer at the Super Mario Bros. Movie Premiere

 Kayla Oaddams at WireImage | Getty

If there's one thing you've got to admire about Jack Black, it's his ability to retain a sense of childlike wonder. And his ability to ignite it in others.

He's starred in some of your kids' favorite movies, from School of Rock to Kung Fu Panda to Jumanji. This week, he returns to big screens everywhere as everyone's favorite video game villain, Bowser, in The Super Mario Bros. Movie, an animated adventure in Brooklyn and beyond—where he takes on Mario and Luigi, and Princess Peach, too.

We caught up with the actor and proud pop to two to talk about dream roles, the import of family fun night, and, of course, gaming with his kids.

Bowser is the dream role, right?

I was playing Nintendo Donkey Kong way back in the early '80s. So it goes way back, to like when I was 12 years old. And over the course of the decades, just watching the whole Nintendo universe grow into hundreds of games and stories, it's been amazing. But it was really through my kids, when they started playing Nintendo Switch, that I was introduced to Bowser through their gaming in Super Mario Bros. So when I got the call saying, "Hey, do you want to play Bowser?"—it was just an instant yes. It's an iconic role. It's the most recognizable in video games, arguably. And it just sounded like so much fun because I'm also a huge fan of [the company] Illumination. They did Despicable Me. Are you kidding me? The animation was surreal. Like, the Rainbow Road! Every once in a while, you get a no-brainer.

I feel like you get a lot of no-brainers though. You've done some pretty amazing movies, especially kid stuff. What draws you to the material?

I guess because I'm kind of like a big kid. I have a mischievous sense of humor. And it's just sort of like a natural thing. I've kind of got a clown energy, larger than life. That's just who I am.

You and the kids are gamers, right?

Yeah, my son Sammy turns me on to all the best games. He was actually telling me about The Last of Us before the TV series ever came out. He was like, "You gotta play." And he always gives me the tips on the latest games. He actually came up with the idea for Jablinski Games, this gaming channel I started a few years ago. I just sort of did whatever he told me. And it kind of blew up and I was like, "Dang!"

So when you guys are playing who wins?

When me and Sammy play, he usually beats me. I mean, when we go head to head. But we play mostly story mode games. And we'll take turns, like, "You go until you die and then I'll take over." Then we trade off. We started playing Uncharted. It was two brothers that were on an adventure together. It's pretty cool.

Your boys, Tommy and Sammy, are officially teens. What does family fun night look like now?

Yeah, that's that age where they're starting the separation, trying to figure themselves out. But we do still get to hang out when it's movie night. A good night will be a rad meal, and then we'll go to the living room and watch like an episode of something cool or a movie. And we take turns, like, "Whose turn is it to pick?" It's always a fun way to spend some time together.

What are you guys watching now?

You're gonna say that this is not good parenting! But we have been watching The Last of Us.
It's just good storytelling.

Speaking of which: someone said you might just be in the running for Superman?

Oh yeah, that's just in my mind. I did the Superman video for Instagram, but that's part of my comedy series of superheroes that I'll never be asked to play. I love doing those little videos for Instagram. It's kind of a fun way to make a little bit of comedy without having to do all the work of a movie. You just do an afternoon of content. I get a kick out of that. But yeah, things have been real busy lately and I'm making another movie with the Farrelly brothers, Dear Santa. Got Super Mario Bros. And we've got another Kung Fu Panda coming soon. That's really cool. And more Tenacious D. It's like playing. I love it all.

The boys seem to love being on camera with you. Do we have any other future movie stars in the family?

As of now, they're not really looking to act. But they are interested in creativity in terms of music and directing and filmmaking. We'll see. I'm not going to pressure them in any certain direction. I just like them to follow their passion and do what they're interested in. That's my plan, and that's always my advice: Just love your kids and let them follow their passions. And stay out of their way if they want to. If they want to play drums, let them play drums; if they want to make movies, let them make movies. Because it's kind of like reverse psychology. Anything I tell them they should do, they're going to do the opposite. So I try not to not to mess around that way.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is in theaters nationwide now.

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