Adrian Grenier Talks Environmental Docu-Series “Earth Speed”
The actor aims to connect viewers to nature through his new show, now streaming on Instagram and YouTube
By Tolly Moseley
Portraits by Phil Kline
Documentary photos by Akira Chan and Alex Walker
I’m staring at my computer screen, watching a denim shirt-clad man in dappled light tell me about his life.
“I spent about a year living in a small, tiny camper,” says Adrian Grenier, aka Vincent Chase, aka “Baby Bro” from “Entourage.” He’s narrating the first episode of “Earth Speed,” his new docu-series on environmental innovators — but first, back to the camper.
“I bought it from a guy on Craigslist, I drove it back to Austin and I parked it in a tiny patch of land. I began what many call the dark night of the soul,” he murmurs. “It was where I started to unravel my ego identity, and started to find greater purpose. Upon reemerging, I found myself here. In nature. With a much more grounded, rooted sense of self.”
It’s all very romantic, in a Thoreau-like sense of the word (“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately … ”). But here’s the thing: I believe Adrian.
I believe he craved purpose, because I met him years ago, when he was still searching for it.
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Jog your memory back to the early-to-mid 2000s, when prestige TV was still getting its sea legs. We had “The Sopranos,” we had “The Wire”; in short we had HBO, with AMC as the dark horse no one saw coming (“Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad”). And then we had “Entourage”: HBO’s cis male echo of “Sex & The City,” a frothy fantasy of cars, babes and movie contracts. Adrian played the lead character, loosely based on Mark Wahlberg, though unfortunately (for us all), we never did get a flashback to the making of “Good Vibrations.”
Back then, Adrian’s real life seemed to mirror his character’s, which is to say he was famous and good-looking. The world was, as they say, his oyster.
I covered Adrian at the height of his “Entourage” fame, for a lifestyle piece on Churchkey — a now-retired beer company he created with his best friend. And chatting with him, I got the sense he was … bored.
“Actors are infantilized,” said Cameron Diaz in a 2020 interview with ‘goop.’ “We’re put in a position where everything is taken care of for us.” I’ve thought about this quote a lot since I came across it, struck as much by its blunt truth-telling as I was by the weird way we treat famous people in this culture (maybe every culture). Actors are in the business of imitating life, but how are they to do that, when the Famous Person Industrial Complex™ scrubs away all of life’s serendipity? It’s continual need for problem-solving, its inconveniences and hardships?
Adrian wasn’t bored with Churchkey, but he was clearly looking for something beyond Hollywood. It was around this time he started doing more environmental advocacy, a calling rife with hardship — and hope.
That brings me back to “Earth Speed” (available now on Instagram and YouTube, produced by Bia Carminati), which follows Adrian as he talks to various environmental figures, some based right here in Austin. That includes Jamie Wheal, author of the very phonetic “Recapture the Rapture: Rethinking God, Sex, and Death in a World That’s Lost Its Mind” (Harper Wave, 2021), and, btw, a mountaineer.
“For sure, that was a crisis in life and meaning, in relationship to self and others, in the middle of your life,” says Jamie, talking to and about Adrian in Episode One, summing up his dark night of the soul.
“It sounded like, at least as you’ve described it to me, that you intuitively sought out the things you felt had the greatest deficits in your life and world. So getting humble and numinous, rooting yourself in the soil and growing things, being creative in the real world and 3-D, not in simulation.”
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It’s this philosophical quality that characterizes “Earth Speed,” whose overarching message is: if we want to heal Earth, we also have to heal ourselves. But what does that healing look like?
“When people connect, they care,” Adrian says, drawing on his organization Lonely Whale, which doesn’t seek to save whales — but rather, foster personal connections between individuals and the ocean.
“Empowering the individual is what we need right now,” says Adrian. “With permaculture for example, if you look at the most resilient systems, it’s not about mono-crops, it’s not one-size-fits-all, it’s about diversity of thought, of inclusion, a diversity of thinking across whole populations. If we can all level up on an individual level, it’s easier to show up and participate.”
In layman’s terms: if people are inspired to have a relationship with the Earth, they’re more invested in the Earth; when they treat it better, they’re healed in the process. But the “leveling up” step is slightly more mysterious, so every episode “Earth Speed” opens with a call to action of sorts – one that asks viewers to look within.
“Each episode of “Earth Speed” has practical applications on personal development, self-sufficiency, sovereignty, a nature-based lifestyle and the businesses that are helping to scale those concepts out in the larger society,” Adrian tells me — and here’s where we get down to brass tacks, healing-wise.
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I think for Adrian, and arguably for most of us, modern life moves so incredibly fast that we simply lack the time to create an intimate relationship with the dirty, muddy ground. We’re working. We’re paying our bills. We’re trying not to drive and text. We’re swatting away a million phone notifications. So when we see someone like Adrian, who achieved the type of career success that millions strive for — and still felt empty — he seems, bizarrely, like the most reliable messenger of a nature-based lifestyle. First red carpets, now grassy fields.
“If you’re trying to change the world externally, that requires that you go tell other people what to do,” Adrian tells me. “It requires that you exert a certain amount of control on the world outside yourself, and no one person can have ultimate purview over the entire complexity of all society and all of nature, that we can dictate the right answer. But we can make a personal choice, and dictate what’s right for us, from our own ethical lens, from our own spiritual perspective.”
Adrian was (and still is) a UN goodwill ambassador for the environment; he’s an investor, he is by any measure a serial entrepreneur. But clearly, he’s happiest on his farm just outside of Austin, where things are quieter. Slower. Where this relationship can flourish, where he can dictate what’s right for his land, by directly observing what it needs to thrive. And then turn around, and show us what he’s learning, from the environmental innovators he talks to.
I ask Adrian how he’d describe “Earth Speed” in a single sentence — and what he tells me seems to describe his current life ethos as well.
“A lifestyle in the cadence of nature,” he smiles.