Danny McBride interview: ‘The Righteous Gemstones’

Right from the beginning of creating “The Righteous Gemstones,” Danny McBride knew that he wanted Edi Patterson to be a part of it before casting her as Judy. “I first worked with her on ‘Vice Principals’ and just had an absolute blast with her. It was just someone who no matter what they say just makes me laugh and their sensibilities run similar to what I like,” he reveals to Gold Derby during our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video interview above). When he first came up with the idea for the show, it was originally going to center on a minister and his wife, which Patterson would play, but he didn’t feel like it allowed her to go as far comedically as he wanted. “I wanted to find something that she could sort of go nuts on and so the idea of us being siblings just started making laugh more and more at the idea that we could go hard at each other.”

“The Righteous Gemstones,” which can be streamed on HBO Max, centers on the morally questionable Gemstone family who run a highly influential evangelical megachurch in South Carolina. The family is anchored by the widower patriarch, Eli (John Goodman), and his three adult children: Jesse (McBride), Judy (Patterson) and Kelvin (Adam DeVine). In addition to being known for his performances in films like “Pineapple Express,” “Up in the Air” and “The Mitchells vs. the Machines,” McBride previously created and starred two other HBO shows that gained a huge cult audience with “Eastbound & Down” and “Vice Principals.”

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The show also gave McBride a chance to work again with Walton Goggins who plays Baby Billy, Eli’s estranged brother-in-law. The two first met when Goggins auditioned for a role on “Eastbound & Down” that eventually went to Jason Sudeikis. This led him to send Goggins the script for “Vice Principals” several years later. “He called me back a few hours later and just started talking to me on the phone as if he were Lee Russell and he just was making instantly laugh.” He knew right away that Goggins was the perfect man for the job. “It just makes writing for them a lot of fun. It’s just sort of nice to be able to create and see what the hell they’re going to do with it at the end of the day.”

McBride was also very conscious of not wanting to embrace cliches in how he portrayed the South or Southern church culture on the show as well. “We’re not trying to make it offensive where someone in North Carolina wouldn’t want to watch it. Hopefully someone would identify it as like, that feels regional, and it feels authentic.” Having grown up in that area of the country, he emphasizes that he never wanted to make something where someone who may be religious wouldn’t want to watch because it would make them feel like they’re the butt of the joke. “We want it to feel like it’s set in a world that they would recognize. I think that way you don’t isolate your audience and it invites the people that know these kinds of churches to come and sit down and have a watch.”

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UPLOADED Jun 6, 2022 12:25 pm