Hollywood gets its geek on

Stephen Hawking asks, "Did God create the universe?" in the series premiere of "Curiosity," airing Sunday at 8 p.m. on Discovery.

More often than not, science and nature programs released through major studios in the last decade have associated themselves with celebrity narrators. But not all A-listers are content with educating audiences from behind a microphone.

On “Curiosity,” a new science anthology series tackling some of mankind’s biggest questions, the celebrity host of each episode dives into the subject matter rather than explaining it in the typical “voice of God” narration style. The series — set to air more than 60 episodes over five years — kicks off with Professor Stephen Hawking asking, “Did God create the universe?”. Future episodes include Maggie Gyllenhaal pondering “why sex is fun” and Morgan Freeman investigating the possibility of parallel universes.

Eli Roth was asked to host an episode because he embodies “that mix of charisma and passion” inherent to the series, says executive producer Simon Andreae. Roth is known for his exploration of the dark corners of the human psyche as a director/producer of horror films; in “Curiosity” he asks, “Does evil exist?”.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the nature of fear,” Roth says. “Even in my films, the ‘Hostel’ movies, I was always much more interested in why somebody would do such a terrible thing versus the act itself,” he adds. “The act, to me, was secondary.”

To tackle such a deep question, Roth and his team took a closer look at the Milgram experiments, social psychology tests measuring the willingness of participants to defy their morals when asked to contradict their conscience by an authority figure.

“Something like 65 percent of the people would go to the point where they actually killed a person,” Roth says of the results of the original experiments, which took place in 1961. “We thought, ‘Let’s recreate them.’ There is something in everybody that, if they feel they’re right, that allows us to disconnect. And we really wanted to explore that.”

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