Finding the Lonely Whale: Q&A with Actor and Producer Adrian Grenier

Conservation International’s Nature Is Speaking campaign recently used provocative films from A-list Hollywood actors to remind people that nature speaks to us every day … and that we need to do a better job of listening.

But those celebrities aren’t the only ones paying attention to what our natural world is saying. Filmmakers Adrian Grenier, Josh Zeman and Lucy Cooper have just launched a Kickstarter for an upcoming documentary about the “52-hertz whale,” an animal thought to vocalize at a frequency no other whales can understand. Adrian — star of the hit HBO series “Entourage” and forthcoming “Entourage” film — took time to explain the idea behind the film to Human Nature.     

Question: First off, who is the “lonely whale”? How did you first hear about it?

Answer: Lonely Whale is a whale that has been calling out his whole life but has never received a response from others of his species. He emits a different frequency than other whales. Whales are highly social, sentient beings; we, as humans, can only imagine from our own experience how that must feel.

My friend Lucy Cooper, who is an executive producer at Alldayeveryday, approached me because she knows of my work in documentary filmmaking and my environmental work. Ultimately, Lonely Whale has a lot to say about the plight of whales and ocean health. Specifically our focus is ocean noise pollution, which is drowning out the very delicate mode of communication amongst marine wildlife.

Q: Why did you decide to make this film?

A: Lonely Whale has this innate ability to inspire empathy in people. He is a hero protagonist who can move people with just a few lines of hearing his story. Those are the kinds of films I want to make.

Q: One of Conservation International’s goals is to show people how their lives depend on nature (even if they aren’t tree huggers). To put it bluntly, why should people care about this whale?

A: Lonely Whale is a spokesperson (or should I say spokeswhale) for communication, empathy and respect for the other. If we don’t have an appreciation and a sense of empathy for those who are different from us — not only within our own species, but extended to other living beings — then we will not be able to support the deep interconnectivity of all of our well-being. Lonely Whale inspires care for the other — and we need to recognize that we are the other.

Q: How will you go about actually finding the whale? If you do find it, what then?

A: Our goal is not necessarily to physically find Lonely Whale; to find a whale in our vast ocean is like trying to find a needle in the world’s largest haystack. We’re looking to discover what the whale has to say about us and our relationship to the ocean and each other.

What we’re trying to accomplish is very doable … and necessary. Through our Kickstarter campaign, we are striving to give scientists the funds and the opportunity to do real scientific research — studying and acoustically tagging hybrid whales and try to understand the effects of ocean noise pollution on whales and marine life.

Q: Promotional materials promise that this film “will explore what this whale’s lonely plight can teach us; not just about our changing relationship to the oceans, but to each other in our hyper-connected world.” Can you elaborate on that?

A: In this information age, we certainly have access to a great deal of data, so we have the ability to understand the struggles that our planet is going through. This age has created a cacophony of distraction from what we need to do as a human species. It’s not just about ocean noise pollution drowning out the voice of our lonely whale, but it’s also about the myriad of distractions that keep us from connecting to one another and our purpose in life: leaving the world better than when we found it.

Q: If you could recommend one action people can take to help our oceans (in addition to supporting your Kickstarter, of course!), what would it be?

A: If you eat fish, you can make a big difference by actively being conscious about buying and consuming fish that are carefully caught or farmed in ways that cause minimal harm to habitats or other wildlife.

Adrian Grenier is an actor and producer. His past sustainability initiatives have included being a cofounder for the sustainable living website SHFT, as well as an eco-themed app.