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Last year, Eastbound & Down's Danny McBride and Jody Hill stuck with HBO for the comedy-until-it's-not Vice Principals, which focused on two ego-driven monsters trying to destroy their boss by any means necessary. And while most critics agreed on how insane and funny Season 1 was, some of the unflattering stereotypes used to demonize McBride and co-star Walton Goggins' lead characters attracted some negativity. CinemaBlend spoke with McBride about the recently released Season 1 Blu-ray, and when I asked if that reaction would affect how the already filmed Season 2 is handled, here's what he said:
You know, it didn't really. I think that was also part of the reason why we wanted to just do [Season 1 and 2] both at the same time. You know, we wrote them both and shot them both before it aired, which was a way to like...we know what we're doing is raw, and we want to never get scared to take things where we feel the story should take things. I think by just doing it all at once, we kind of protected ourselves from being influenced by any negative comments or anything. But we've also not had careers where we've been embraced by critics, so I think critics not getting what we're doing or dismissing it is not really a new concept for us. We got tough skin.
A lovely side of humility coming from the man who is also Kenny Powers. Vice Principals already isn't a show that's going to be for everyone, given its profane and ribald nature, and free from narrative context, it's not so surprising that a TV show about two Southern white men trying to ruin the life of a black woman would make people fussy. But as Danny McBride has pointed out, he and Jody Hill knew what they were doing when they wrote Vice Principals, and everything that happens works to serve the point that Gamby and Russell are terrible people - one far more so than the other - that no one should really be rooting for; they're just the ones carrying the story. That's not the most common way to craft a TV show, so an uncommon way to put it together makes sense.
By knocking out the entirety of both Vice Principals seasons at once, Danny McBride and Jody Hill were able to go full speed ahead with all of the turbulent mayhem that Gamby and Russell invoke into the lives of everyone they know, particularly Kimberly Herbert Gregory's Dr. Belinda Brown, without having to stop and think about what people are saying about the show. That's always a good headspace to be in.
And, when I asked about how filming Vice Principals compared to how Eastbound & Down went, he again brought up the advantages and positive aspects of doing a dual-season production.
We had all 18 of those episodes - we shot them all at once - and as soon as the cameras started rolling, any unexpected twist or turn that you would get from, maybe, an actor crushing it more than you thought they would, or a character being more interesting than you originally thought, we were just happy to constantly make all those changes on the fly and adapt the script, and adapt the storyline to take advantage of what we were seeing from day to day. That was definitely different from Eastbound. It was living on the edge for sure, but I felt like it was fun, like we were coming up with ideas and being able to implement them real time, and I think it made the whole piece feel more organic.
It certainly does feel like a series that was created by jumping from one landmine of comedy to the next. On the downside, Danny McBride did bemusedly tell me he had to take a little time off after filming Vice Principals, as he had a constant feeling like he needed to be stressed out about something. Hanging out with Walton Goggins' Lee Russell for that long will do that to anyone.
Vice Principals doesn't yet have a Season 2 premiere date set for HBO's permanent record, but you can relive Season 1 with the Blu-ray set that was released earlier this week, which features everything you would want from a cast and crew as hilarious as this: bonus scenes, outtakes and commentaries. And while we're waiting to hear more about Season 2, head here to see what the actor told me about his and David Gordon Green's new Halloween flick, and then skip over to our midseason premiere schedule to see what else is hitting the small screen soon.