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G FORCE | JOAN CUSACK

Preschool science rocks

Joan Cusack, an Oscar-nominated actress, says of narrating “Peep and the Big Wide World’’: “It’s good, meaningful work that I’m proud to be a part of.’’ Joan Cusack, an Oscar-nominated actress, says of narrating “Peep and the Big Wide World’’: “It’s good, meaningful work that I’m proud to be a part of.’’ (David Livingston/Getty Images)
By Sam Allis
Globe Staff / November 28, 2009

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The Oscar-nominated actress Joan Cusack begins her fourth season in January as the narrator of “Peep and the Big Wide World,’’ the acclaimed children’s science show produced by WGBH. It airs on PBS stations across the country and, until the end of next year, the Discovery Kids channel. In it, three cartoon characters - Peep, a baby chicken; Chirp, a young robin; and Quack, an endlessly amusing duck - explore the world around them. The 47-year-old actress talked by phone to the Globe from Chicago, where she grew up, and now lives with her husband and two boys, 9 and 12.

Q. Why did you do this show?

A. I’d read Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink’’ about “Sesame Street’’ just before they asked me to do the show. I found the book fascinating regarding early education and the combination of content and entertainment. The watchability skyrockets with content and entertainment. It is the same model as “Sesame Street’’ but it’s about science. . . . It’s good, meaningful work that I’m proud to be a part of.

Q. Is preschool too early to put kids’ shows on TV?

A. In the grand scheme of things, whenever you can find programming you can trust, that’s such a gift for parents. It’s very hard to be a parent. It’s the most meaningful thing you can do, but it’s nice to take a little break and let them watch the show. If you find something else for them to do, that’s great. But for some people it is really hard. I’m thinking of moms. You’re working and you need quality time but you also need a break. Kids sometimes need a break, too.

Q. Do you want to do more children’s shows?

A. I do. . . . I like the idea of giving kids tools for living. It’s a natural thing to do. How do you handle situations? A lot of socially oriented TV shows touch on this a little bit. If there’s a kid show that comes up, I’d love to be able to do that for kids. It’s nice just to be at a point where I don’t have to do anything if it’s not meaningful.

Q. What about your movie career?

A. I’ve done little parts and things. As I get older, my children will be a lot more independent. I can do something in the summer. I’d love to do another TV series, an adult series. They’re shooting a lot in Detroit now. They have great tax breaks there. That would be a dream for me. But it’s nice doing this show over time. It’s like golf. You just hit another shot to get better. It’s very easy for me to do. I live [in Chicago]. The recording sessions are here. I’m on for however long they’d like to have me.

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