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Ed Begley Jr. & Hayden Begley Created Environment-Themed TikTok Videos

Ed Begley Jr. & Hayden Begley Created Environment-Themed TikTok Videos

Ed Begley Jr. has been Hollywood’s most famous environmentalist for nearly four decades, and now his daughter Hayden is helping him bring his message to Gen Z.

Starting in 2020, Hayden Begley began posting funny videos of her mom (actress Rachelle Carson-Begley) and dad on her TikTok account, which currently has more than 200,000 followers. In 2023, she posted a “seven days of only taking public transportation in Los Angeles” video series, which culminated in the father-daughter duo taking the Metro to the Oscars; that video surpassed 2 million views.

“Once I realized I had built somewhat of a platform, I wanted to use it for good and try to put a good message out there besides just my funny family’s antics,” Hayden, 24, says of the videos. Ed has famously taken the Metro to Hollywood events for years, along the way instilling the importance of public transportation in his daughter from a young age. “I was like, ‘What if I did a series on public transportation in Los Angeles?’ Because it’s something that I feel like a lot of people don’t talk about in L.A. Public transportation lowers your carbon footprint by around 45 percent if you take it regularly. It’s an immediate climate solution we have at our disposal.”

Hayden has frequently posted videos of her and her father riding the Metro in the year since, emphasizing the ease and benefit of public transportation; she even started working for Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins as a result.

She acknowledges that after the first Metro video, “I actually got some negative feedback from people who thought I was ‘playing poor,’ which I challenged by saying, ‘Why is there an association with someone’s income when this is a public good?’ It is a climate solution that is something that should be bolstered by everyone, so that everyone can take it no matter if they are dependent on it as their main source of transportation or not.”

Since then, though, she says, there’s “a very rare hate comment” and social media has largely rallied around the videos the two are doing together. “A lot of the younger demographic know my dad from Young Sheldon or from Better Call Saul or the Tim and Eric Awesome Show. They see my dad as this actor, and [only] some know” of his longtime climate activism, Hayden explains. “He’s a very humble man, so he will not self-promote in this way, but he is somebody who has really walked the walk all his life. He has stuck to what he believes is right, and has made choices, even if they were very inconvenient for him, to try and live within his morals. So I think people see that and they see that authenticity.”

For his part, Ed says that social media “has really been essential” to the environmental movement, pointing to the attention given to protests like that at Standing Rock. “People gather around and use the tools of social media to make it happen. It wouldn’t happen without it,” he adds. “It’s a wonderful time to use these tools for the best possible reason: to get people motivated, to get them informed and to get them to show up.”

The actor — who drives a Tesla when not taking public transportation — has had solar on his roof since 1990 and remains a climate optimist, as he now shares that hopefulness with TikTok.

“I know it gets bleak, and you go, ‘Why should I do anything? The coral reefs, the amphibians, the glaciers are melting, there’s nothing to be done,’” Ed says. “We’ve done some big, big things that seemed impossible to do; we’ve done them already. Let’s keep doing what we can. We may not save everything, but there’s still a lot that we can save. Let’s set about doing it.”

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As the two continue to collaborate on the environmental videos — “We have kind of just been throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks,” Hayden says — they also tease that they are in talks for upcoming projects “in the unscripted arena.” (Ed previously had a HGTV reality show, Living With Ed, that also documented his sustainable lifestyle.)

And when it comes to L.A.’s public transportation system — which is currently undergoing a major expansion ahead of the 2028 Olympics — Hayden also points out that “one of the biggest disparities we have between people in L.A. is [that] your ZIP code determines your health, and a lot of that has to do with pollution. A lot of freeways travel through communities of color that have been historically disenfranchised.”

She adds that for those who have a car and wouldn’t usually use public transport, “The focus that I would put on is A, you might be able to get there faster, and B, if you want to make a difference, if you want to even just put a drop in the bucket, I always say, take public transportation as a protest. I know a lot of my friends want to get out there and protest — you can take action by showing, even if it’s just for this one time, I’m not going to participate in a system that is hurting my neighbors.”

This story first appeared in the June 2024 Sustainability issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to see the rest of the issue.

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