The Five Spot: Danny McBride, Creator/Star, ‘The Righteous Gemstones’

Danny McBride in HBO's 'The Righteous Gemstones'
Danny McBride in HBO's 'The Righteous Gemstones' (Image credit: Ryan Green/HBO)

Danny McBride is the creator of The Righteous Gemstones, and plays Jesse Gemstone as well. Season two of the dark comedy, about a famous family of not-so-pious televangelists, begins on HBO Sunday, January 9. 

John Goodman, Edi Patterson and Adam Devine also play Gemstone family members. 

The Righteous Gemstones represents McBride’s third comedy on HBO, along with Eastbound & Down and Vice Principals. He spoke with B+C/Multichannel News, and sat for the podcast Series Business, discussing what viewers can expect in the new season, where his ideas come from, and his obsession with TV and film as a kid, which saw him accompany his parents to the cable company storefront to pay the bill, thinking he might get to see some TV being made. 

“I was always fascinated by movies and television,” McBride said. 

A lightly edited transcript follows. 

How much research do you do into the whole televangelist thing to get that right? We definitely do our research. One way I’ve found that has been an interesting way to do research, whether it’s writing about vice principals or mega-pastors, is to look for message boards that are moderated by, and have people participating in them, that actually work in that industry. I can find out what people get annoyed about in that industry. What are the trivial things that wouldn’t make a headline, but would ring as authentic to people in that field? That’s a fun way to get into the mindset of it a little bit. 

Danny McBride’s Likes, Dislikes

Olivia Colman in The Crown

(Image credit: Netflix)

It’s about a very different kind of regal family than the one seen on The Righteous Gemstones, but McBride adores The Crown (pictured) on Netflix. “The last thing I binged and raved about was The Crown,” he said. “I loved it, I thought it was incredible. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve seen in years. I really dug it.”

McBride is less enthusiastic about social media. “I dipped my toes into it and I didn’t like it,” he shared. “I didn’t feel like it was a positive for me. I feel like I want to make my impressions about people [based on] how I interact with them in person. I don’t really give a shit what everyone’s eating or the little mantra they’ve found that day that they need to share. It turns me off.” — MM

Where did the initial idea for the show come from? I grew up going to church and my family is very involved in church. I moved to Charleston, South Carolina, and was just driving around and saw how many churches were here. That got me thinking, ‘What is church like now? It’s been a while since I’ve been, how has it changed?‘ I started to do dives on megachurch pastors and saw what a business this stuff had become, and it just felt interesting to me. It’s nothing really against religion at all, but just this idea of when capitalism meets religion and how sometimes the growth of things can outweigh what the original intention was. It just felt like that was a cool place to tell a story, about a family who had a mission, and now the growth has superseded everything they stand for and believe in. 

Have you gotten much pushback from the uber-religious community? I haven’t really. That could just be because I don’t think religious people watch the shit that I make. My aunt is a minister and my parents still participate with church. They don’t like these kinds of grifters either. It’s a very sacred thing. I think it turns off anybody who is religious, when they see people who use their beliefs to enrich their personal finances. 

How did you get John Goodman on board? We sent him the script and I had no idea that he would respond to it, but I thought, why not? Who’s better than John Goodman? I got a call back that said he was interested in doing it. 

It’s been a complete treat to not only get to work with someone like him but to get to know him as a friend. He’s someone whose career I’ve always admired and it's awesome to have him as part of the show. 

What can viewers expect in the new season? We do a deep dive on [Goodman character] Eli and show where Eli came from and, most importantly, how far he’s willing to go. We get to know a little bit more about this family history — where they came from and how they got here. It’s still a front-row seat to the dysfunction that is front and center with this family.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.