‘Misbehavin’ is a song that sounds like a show was built around it, but as Danny McBride revealed it was far more an afterthought than it seems. The Righteous Gemstones star and creator recently revealed that the song was far from central to the show, even though it’s become an instant classic in its own right.
The Hollywood Reporter interviewed Danny McBride and series composer Joseph Stevens about the music of the show. Of course, the interview largely focused on the earworm of a song that has become a cult favorite of sorts. McBride said the song wasn’t a necessity for the show, but something that evolved as part of a process that came with fleshing out the family history.
He described an album cover with a song called ‘Misbehavin” in the background as a stage direction that he took, then shaped into an entire flashback episode that involved actually creating the song that went with the title.
“We were never originally planning on doing that flashback episode [episode five, “Interlude”]. And about halfway through the season, I got to the point where I wanted to see what this [family] used to be when Aimee-Leigh was [alive],” McBride said. “So almost as an exercise, I wrote that [episode] just to know what the beef was with everyone so we can see it for ourselves. And in the script it seemed to make sense, like, “That song that we tipped in that third episode, we should just deal with that.””
The result was calling Stephens, who listened to Edi Patterson, who plays Judy Gemstone, singing some lines of what became the central theme of ‘Misbehavin” And as with many things in the “misunderstood angry man” trilogy McBride has assembled on HBO, the best line of the song came from a moment where the writing went just a bit outside of what’s comfortable.
MCBRIDE You added the best lyric: “Runnin’ through the house with a pickle in my mouth.” I knew we had hit something when you came back with that.
STEPHENS I was super pleased that you were down with that. Because when I sent it, I was like, “I don’t know what this means. It’s cute and innocent, but it’s pretty weird. Fuck it, I’m going to put it in there.”
MCBRIDE It sounds like something you could get in trouble for in a very religious household.
The line was instantly memorable and made the flashback episode a success, as well as set up the later parts of the season where the Gemstones try to reinvent the wheel with the in-universe classic. Stephens said he studied the Carter Family when trying to recreate the period-specific sound of the song, and the rest of the interview has a lot of fun tidbits about the writing process and how the song made an episode that was a departure for the already short series — a flashback episode missing a number of other characters central to the show — into an essential part of the Gemstones experience.