Danny McBride on the Return of ‘The Righteous Gemstones’ and His Love for ’90 Day Fiancé’

I love 90 Day Fiancé. I cannot get enough of it. It’s on all the time in my house. But then the narrative stuff that I’ve watched that I really liked a lot was I went through all the seasons of The Crown last year and loved that. I feel like that was one of the best things I’ve seen in years. White Lotus, I thought, was awesome. I just kind of feel overwhelmed sometimes. Whenever I turn on any of these streaming apps and there’s so many fucking shows and they’re all five and six seasons deep, I get intimidated.

Well, you’re set with 90 Day Fiancé, because there are thousands of episodes.

So many spinoffs. That’s the thing is, I didn’t understand how to enter 90 Day Fiancé and so earlier this year, I think I started by that version that’s Happily Ever After where it’s people who’ve been on the show and they’re married now. And then I got really into that and then as I got that Discovery Plus app, I started seeing that like, “Oh, shit. There’s like Pre-90 Day Fiancé, 90 Day Fiancé: The Single Life, The Vacation Life.” And so that’s all that’s been on in my house the last few months.

Do you have a favorite couple?

There’s so many of them. I feel like I’ve been watching all of the Pre-90 Day Fiancé [’90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days] and Paul and Karine, that got me into that season. I’m also a big Bravo reality fan too, but I feel like the more those people are on the shows, the richer they become and then the less like real people they are. 90 Day Fiancé is awesome because you just drop in with these people from all over the world. It’s almost like a character study.

You are a documented fan of The Real Housewives. There does seem to be a real parallel between how the cadence of how people fight on that and how they fight on your shows. 

I know. We need to do more throwing wine in people’s faces. We haven’t done enough of that in the show.

There is a really quintessential type of Danny McBride character. You’ve called Kenny Powers, Neil Gamby, and Jesse Gemstone your “misunderstood angry man trilogy.” They’re all arrogant, selfish, they lack self awareness. Do you think you’re done with this kind of character with this trilogy or are there any other settings where you’d want to explore him?

You know, I’m not really sure. When we first started with Eastbound & Down, I remember we had sold [our movie] The Foot Fist Way and we sat down with Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. They bought it and they wanted to know what we wanted to do and we pitched that we wanted to go make a TV show. They were shocked about that because everybody was trying to make TV shows [in order] to make movies. And now it feels like TV is so saturated and there’s just so much of it. But I feel like when I turn on iTunes or pick up the paper to see what’s playing in the theaters, I’m not seeing the kind of stuff I would want to see. Part of me wants to just shift back into that again.

What’s your secret to writing characters that are inherently very unlikable, but still getting the audience to like them?

I don’t think it’s trying to humanize somebody that’s vile, but I do feel like humans have a great, great capacity for empathy. It doesn’t take much to see in another person your own struggles. At the end of the day, we all tick in very similar ways. We want to be accepted. We want to find love. We want to have a life that we feel like we’ve earned or deserved. And so I think when you see characters struggle with that, even if it’s somebody that’s vile, it’s very hard for humans to not understand what that strife is all about. And then I think when you show them sort of deal with the same things you deal with, but they deal with it in such an outlandish, fucked up way, I think it puts it back on the audience to maybe understand their own journey.

This interview has been edited and condensed.


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