The Righteous Gemstones is back this Sunday (at 10 PM on HBO) with members of the megachurch made Gemstone family divided and Jesse (Danny McBride) firmly looking to upsize and let loose, playing with resorts, streaming services, and other things that typically stand out as the playthings of the elite. All that stands in his way are a few new threats, family infighting, and the need to steer clear of the claw of consequences that keeps grabbing at the whole family. No big deal, right?
According to McBride, (who we previously spoke with ahead of season one) this is “the richest world [he and his creative cohorts David Gordon Green and Jody Hill] have explored.” And though he always operates as though each season of every show will be its last (to push writers to “deliver something that feels whole”) there’s a desire to keep going with no cap on the ambition of what these characters can and will reach for. A fascinating position that feels incredibly ripe in these gluttonous times.
Ahead of this new season, we spoke with McBride and co-star Edi Patterson about that ambition, freeing John Goodman to throw some hands, the chemistry and power dynamic between the show’s central couples, Church power teams, ridiculous movie posters, and how Judy would torture her brother if she ever got to drive the family business.
Is there a cap on the ambition of the Gemstones?
Danny McBride: You know, I haven’t considered it. I feel like the Gemstones feel like the sky is the limit. You know, they feel like they have God on their side and that they can achieve whatever they want to set their minds to. And so I think it’s that boldness and that fearlessness that’s kind of weirdly noble about them, that they have this lack of self-image and they only see themselves as capable of whatever they want to put their minds to.
The production numbers, specifically when you’re singing, have been just great. What’s it like to just go all out with those?
Edi Patterson: Yeah, dude, it’s a blast because as we’re writing, we’ll sort of feel like when there should be something like that and sort of the vibe of what it should be. So sometimes it’s even from us writing the song that goes in there and then it starts to really get exciting then, or, we’ve got amazing musicians and composers that work with the show. And so sometimes it’s just like, “okay, we know Judy will do a great big gospel number here” and then we get this amazing song back. But every step of that process is really, really fun. I really like to sing and I really like to perform live. So it’s really fun for me to go on a Saturday when we aren’t filming, down to the studio and like record a thing for a bunch of hours and then come in and wear basically the outfit of an ice skater and have a bunch of girls dancing around me and like suddenly be in Vegas. I mean, it’s a blast dude.
What’s the relationship arc for BJ and Judy this season?
Edi Patterson: I think with Judy and BJ, I think we should talk about this, but I think that they’re made for each other and I think they’re, destined by God and the stars to be together. [Laughs] And I think that BJ understands Judy and knows that when she basically, fucking wilds out on him, I think he is maybe one of the only people on the earth that knows “oh, that’s not really at me. That’s just some weird stuff coming out.” So I think they get each other in a way that no one else would. And I think she probably adds some spice to his life that probably was not really there in previously. [Laughs]
Danny McBride: [Laughs] You made him hardcore.
Edi Patterson: Yeah. I made him hardcore.
Danny, the same question about Amber and Jesse and just where that relationship is right now. Power really seems to be unifying them.
Danny McBride: Yeah, you’re totally right. I mean, trust was broken last season and it was kind of up and questioned whether they were going to be able to make it. And so, coming into this season, they obviously made a choice to stay together and so what’s the first thing they do? They start being an example to other people of how perfect they are and how they’ve gotten through all this. And they’re trying to guide other people through the same shit. And it just seems so funny how people who could be so lacking in these basic things feel that they’re qualified to teach others, and that’s sort of just the glaring contradiction about the Gemstones. But the other thing that has aligned them is they found a sense of purpose in trying to kind of grab power to try to get the things that they want and the influence they want and that unites them. And I think when they work together, they actually prove to be a pretty good team together. And that’s kind of what we follow this season.
If Judy got the mantle and took power, what would she do to Jesse to exact revenge?
Edi Patterson: [Laughs] I think probably…
Danny McBride: [Laughs] C’mon, say it.
Edi Patterson: She would murder his wife. [Laughs]
Danny McBride: See, I was going to say she was going to stick something up his ass.
It could be both.
Edi Patterson: My first thought was she would do something to his ass or balls. [Laughs]
Danny, John Goodman is doing such great work this year, and we’re really getting to see an interesting bit of his backstory and see him get physical and kick some ass, breaking him out of the strictly paternal role and seeing him have a little fun. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Danny McBride: You know, my thought for Goodman was always that he had a more rough and tumble background than Amy Lee did. Amy Lee was like a child Christian singer. And so she had a more successful upbringing and I always liked the idea that Eli is new to money. Like it’s not something he’s grown up with. And so that’s part of what fuels his hunger for more and more is because he doesn’t want to be poor again. And so the idea that we get to see a little bit of that. We get to see about what he came from and it shows a nice image of where he’s landed and how different he is and how different he’s had to kind of disguise himself from what his roots are. It just felt like it was a cool playground for Goodman.
The church fitness crew idea… I don’t know if this was inflicted on you, but I have a faint memory, I may have blocked out a lot of it, but I was definitely exposed to something like that in school.
Danny McBride: Yes. [Laughs]
Like jumpsuits and everything. Is that where that came from?
Danny McBride: It did. Ripping up phone books… I saw that crew when I was a kid, and it really made an impression on me. I mean, I remember going home to my house and looking at the phone book and just being like “Jesus Christ this is very hard to rip this. These guys are so strong” and that idea was just always there about this power team. And we always played around with the idea in the first season that Kelvin sort of sees himself as this Christlike figure that, it’s really important to him to have apostles and have followers like Keith. And so it just seemed like a natural fit to put him with an army of muscular men.
The Romancing The Gemstones poster in the media room in episode two — can you break that down a little for me? Is that like a movie that was made or just a vanity poster?
Danny McBride: [Laughs] You know what’s funny is when we were scouting for the show in the pilot and we were looking at all these mansions around Charleston, South Carolina and trying to figure out the mansions for each of these characters… I went into one house and in their theater room, they had mocked up movie posters and put the faces of the families on the posters. [Laughs] And I was just like, “are you fucking kidding me? This is insane”. It seemed like such a silly thing to do, but then we had to log it into the memory bank and use it somehow.
‘Righteous Gemstones’ season two premieres Sunday on HBO at 10PM ET