If you’re a fan of Vice Principals, Danny McBride and Jody Hill’s slice of high school chaos and power lust, you might be a little pissed off about the fact that the show is heading toward its self-imposed end after just nine more episodes (the first of which premieres Sunday, September 17th). TV audiences are so rarely denied the chance to grow tired of a show and its characters, but McBride and Hill clearly aren’t interested in running this thing into the ground. The question is: Why?
We had the chance to sit down with McBride (who plays Neal Gamby) and his Vice Principals co-star, Walton Goggins (Lee Russell), in Manhattan this week and the conversation naturally turned to the decision to cap Vice Principals at two seasons and the benefits, drawbacks, and temptations that sparked as a result. Before that, however, we discussed the ways the characters have changed following the shocking season one finale that found Gamby bleeding out in the parking lot after getting shot, egocentric interior design, the origins of “Busted By Lee Russell,” dumb English jokes, and the “punishment” side of this two part story.
How have Lee Russell and Neal Gamby been changed by last season’s finale?
Danny McBride: When we started writing this series, we really looked at the first half as “crime” and the second half was “punishment.” So, it’s like these guys… they push themselves beyond what their own personal moral codes are to achieve this goal. They achieved it, and now it’s sort of the fallout from that. They got what they always wanted. And now, is what they wanted really the answer to what they needed? That’s what the exploration of the second season is.
What do you think, Walton?
Walton Goggins: Well, I mean, I think that I have a much bigger office. [Laughs]
Much nicer, too.
McBride: Nice decor. Business cards.
Lovely artwork. [The office now includes a looming painting of Goggins’ character].
Goggins: Yeah, that’s right.
Did you take that home with you?
Goggins: I took a couple of pieces. Yeah, I sure did.
Hang that over the fireplace. It’s a good look. A good look.
Goggins: [Laughs.] It could be or it could be, “What an asshole! What a fucking asshole. Have you been over to Walton’s house?”
McBride: [Laughs.] Portraits of himself!
Goggins: “Have you seen there’s like three paintings of himself? What an ass!”
But it’s so tasteful, I think it would be allowed.
Goggins: Yeah, thank you.
You said that there was going to be a different vibe between Jody Hill (the season one director and co-creator) and David Gordon Green (who directed the season two episodes). What has been that difference?
McBride: I love both of those guys as directors. They both have incredible strengths and it’s hard to even put into words how they approach it differently. I remember being surprised when we were filming the first season of Eastbound. That was originally just going to be Jody directing that whole season and he was editing Observe and Report. The schedule wasn’t going to work out. So, I needed to fill a hole for a few episodes, and so I reached out to David to see if he’d want to come direct.
I remember when we were shooting that first episode that David did, that second episode. It was pretty crazy to be like, “This is crazy.” This character amongst all these different dudes. All these different things that I wasn’t anticipating. I think it became what was cool about Eastbound. Even for a viewer, if you’re watching those shows, I think you try to guess whose name is going to appear at the end of that episode. Which director was this? I liked the idea of doing that with these seasons here, of letting each of these guys just own a season and have their tone and their process be at work. I’m desensitized because I just know these guys so well. [To Goggins.] It’s probably easier for you to identify how these guys are different.
Goggins: Yeah, I think Jody has this real cerebral quality to him. What I mean by that is this real specificity, visually speaking, and he sees things and he breaks them down. From all of these detailed shots that Jody is pretty famous for… I think, anyway. And the way he tells a story: in parts and in a whole. With David, it’s just a little different. His is more visceral, you know? He just kind of finds his way around something before he finally goes into it. Jody knows exactly what he wants. David finds what he wants within the exploration of the scene.
As an actor, do you have a preference?
Goggins: Oh God, I love both of them. I’m not just saying that because I’m friends with both of them. I genuinely like both approaches. I like someone who comes in and knows exactly what it is that they want. And I like someone who comes in and knows what they want when they see it. For me, as an actor, I like to touch every wall in a room. But it’s alive.