On his new TV show "Growing Belushi," Chicago-area native Jim Belushi plays a variety of roles, including passionate cannabis farmer, demanding boss and perhaps most surprising, nude swimmer.
"I've done everything else. I've done off-Broadway, Broadway, musicals, dramas, comedies," Belushi told the Tribune about his turn on unscripted TV. "I've done TV comedy, TV drama. I do improvisational shows. I do Blues Brothers (shows) across the country. I've played a clown. I played an orangutan, and the unscripted television business is a formidable business in our entertainment industry, so it seemed natural to me because I'm an improviser from Second City in Chicago, and this whole show was improvised."
"Growing Belushi," which follows the high jinks of Belushi, his family and his employees on his 93-acre Oregon farm, airs at 9 p.m. Wednesdays on Discovery. The three-episode series comes as Belushi plans to sell a limited-edition Blues Brothers x Grassroots flower at the Greenhouse cannabis dispensary in Skokie, Ill.
"Grassroots is super excited about our relationship with Jim. It's been a long time coming. We've spent a fair amount of time together over, at least a year at this point, talking about and seeing (what) fit for them and for us," said Mitchell Kahn, co-founder and former CEO of Grassroots. "Jim is really in the business and committed to being in the business, and this is not just a celebrity who wants to put his name on something."
The Skokie dispensary is expected to open Sept. 3. Belushi said he and frequent collaborator Dan Aykroyd intend to drive a Bluesmobile -- like the one in 1980's "The Blues Brothers" movie, which filmed in the Chicago area -- to the dispensary to celebrate the launch.
The 66-year-old performer recalls trying marijuana while attending Wheaton (Ill.) Central High School. "I actually got arrested in Wheaton for joints a couple times, but that was the extent of it. By the time I got to college, I got very serious about my craft as an actor," said Belushi, who attended College of DuPage and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale before training at Second City and joining "Saturday Night Live." "I never let alcohol, cannabis, anything get between me and my work."
These days, Belushi considers himself a "microdoser." He calls his favorite Cherry Pie strain the "marriage counselor" "because it just makes you really charming. You can sit there and listen to your wife yap yap yap yap and she sounds beautiful." He said he eats cannabis-infused chocolate at night to "have the best restful night of sleep, so I'm not really high. It's just a different zone."
Belushi touts the purported healing qualities of marijuana, especially for traumas such as death of a loved one and divorce. (Belushi has experienced both.) On the hourlong "Growing Belushi" premiere, Belushi touches on older brother John's 1982 drug overdose death and links it to his time playing middle linebacker for Wheaton Central. "I know he had damage to the brain. As soon as alcohol and drugs were available to him, I think he went right to medication."
Belushi seems to have a special bond with his plants. He names them, talks to them, plays the harmonica to them. He even has a particular playlist that involves "baby-making music" in the morning, reggae around noon and blues and funk later in the day. "And then when I harvest them, I play gospel music for them to let them know that they're going into the light to heal," he said.
Viewers will also get an eyeful of Belushi swimming naked in a river, but this is not the first time TV watchers have gotten a peek at Belushi's Oregon property. A six-episode series for the DIY Network, "Building Belushi," in 2015 followed him as he built a riverfront retreat cabin there. For "Growing Belushi," Belushi said Live Nation Entertainment President and CEO Michael Rapino agreed to finance the project after an "eight-minute pitch." Rapino is an executive producer.
Besides showcasing Belushi's Farm products, Belushi is using the show to draw attention to the Last Prisoner Project, which advocates for the release of nonviolent cannabis prisoners. A second season of "Growing Belushi" has not been announced, and Belushi said a decision will probably be made in September. He said he could make 100 episodes exploring the cannabis business, and he'd like to go to Israel, South Africa, Canada, Chicago and other spots for the show. He visited Colombia on the first season to search for unique cannabis strains.
"There's so much science involved, and the business is moving so rapidly and expanding in a global manner that it should be documented, and I'm going to do it," Belushi said.