Danny McBride has spent large chunks of the past decade as HBO’s counterpoint.
Other shows, from “Sopranos” to “Game of Thrones,” had epic scope. His focused on one angry guy.
McBride created and starred in “Eastbound & Down” and “Vice Principals,” played fuming hulks. “They believe they were owed something more than what they got in life,” he said.
Now “Righteous Gemstones” goes the opposite way. Eli Gemstone (John Goodman, shown here) and his kids (McBride, Edi Patterson and Adam Devine) have it all – jet, mansion, money, more.
“The Gemstones have exactly what they’ve always wanted in life,” McBride said. “We wanted to show how corrosive and damaged you could still be.”
The family business is a mega-church; McBride said this isn’t meant to lampoon religion, only hypocrisy. Eli is a true believer, but he’s strayed a bit since his wife died; his kids stray a lot.
The setting allows everything to be bigger – visuals, sight gags and soap-style twists, with a hint of murder. “We’ve always wanted to kill more people in our shows,” McBride joked.
A church is familiar turf for him. He grew up in Virginia – near the Marine base in Quantico, where his mother and stepfather worked – and was immersed in the Baptist religion.
“My mom did puppet ministry …. I spent every Sunday, every Wednesday, every Saturday night at church and my family is still very involved with the church. My aunt is a minister.”
That’s his mom’s sister, who’s at a mainstream church in Atlanta. Castmates also bring religious roots:
— “I grew up in the Southern Baptist church,” Goodman said, “and it was very emotionally involving …. It was a lot of splendor and screaming (from) the pulpit and the rhythms of speech.”
— “We went every Sunday, for sure,” Patterson said. That was an Episcopal church that also had activities during the week. “Religion in general is all about family and feeling like you fit in.”
— At least, some people fit in. Devine went to a Catholic church and envied the Protestants who “would go to a mega-church. It semed way more fun. There was like rock-climbing walls and video games to play. We just had a hard, wooden bench to sit on and to kneel.”
The Gemstones have all the right toys, plus a spectacular, multi-media church building. That was created in the Charleston, S.C., area, where McBride lives and the show is filmed.
“I guess summer is the down time for the North Charleston Coliseum,” he said. “They had nothing going on, so we were allowed to build a mega-church inside.”
Then came the disturbing news that the Charleston Stingrays, a minor-league hockey team, had made the playoffs and might oust them. The Stingrays lost in the first round, 4-games-to-1 and all was well. “We were really rooting against them,” director David Gordon Green said.
But, perhaps, not praying against them. That would have been rude.
— “The Righteous Gemstones,” 10 p.m. Sundays, HBO
— Opener, Aug. 18, reruns at 12:30 and 3 a.m.; also at 9:35 p.m. Thursday (Aug. 22) and 10:10 p.m. Saturday (Aug. 24).
— Also, latenight shows Tuesday night at midnight and Wednesday night at 12:25 a.m.; technically, that’s 12 a.m. Wednesday and 12:25 a.m. Thursday