The Righteous Gemstones is incredibly funny — let’s just get that out of the way right away. Created and written by one of the funniest men on the planet, Danny McBride, The Righteous Gemstones follows a megachurch-owning family of evangelists. The satirical series constantly pokes fun at the hypocrisy of religion, particularly these mega-church owning families who sit on their high horses. The comedy series is anchored by a talented bunch of actors including Adam Devine (Pitch Perfect), Edi Patterson (Vice Principals), Danny McBride (The Disaster Artist) and the legendary John Goodman.
Recently, Lowyat.net (and a few other journalists from around the SEA region) got the opportunity to have a conference call interview with Adam Devine. Devine, who comes off as a genuinely nice guy, had a lot of share about the series, among other stuff as well.
Religion is always a tricky topic to navigate. How do you think the show gets away with mocking the hypocrisy of these megachurches without alienating certain portions of the audiences?
No one likes hypocrites, I think that’s a pretty universal truth across the board that no one likes when people are saying one thing and doing another. Especially people that are taking advantage of other people on such a grand scale like some of this megachurch pastors are.
How do you think audiences in Asia will relate to the show?
You know, I think they’re really gonna love it. It’s fun and it’s something everyone can relate to. It’s about this family that runs a giant megachurch, which like any family that runs a giant conglomerate, there’s a lot of greed, there’s a lot of in-fighting… and it’s also very funny. So, I think people are going to dig it!
I read a story about you bumping into Danny McBride while partying with Seth Rogen. How did it go from that to being cast in the show?
[LAUGHS] I had a small part in the movie neighbours. The premiere had just happened and this was at an after-party in some hotel room. We’re all partying and having a good time and Danny McBride comes up behind me — and I’m such a fan — and grabs me by the shoulder and says, ‘oh, I know this little man.’ And I turn around and go, ‘you’re Danny McBride!’ And he goes, ‘Yeah, I know.’ And then I go, ‘You’re a bright shooting star’ which is an embarrassing thing to tell someone. Then I immediately grabbed my girlfriend and said, ‘we have to get out of here.’
Luckily when he thought of me for this role, he did not remember that at all. And when I brought it up to him, he was like, ‘Thank God, I was partying too cause I don’t remember that even a little bit.’ So I think Danny just thought of me for it [the role] and thank God because it’s such a fun show to work on.
What attracted to you do this show, apart from admiring Danny [Macbride]?
Well, that’s first and foremost. I’ve admired Danny for so long. But it was the idea for the show. It was something I haven’t seen before and as soon as he said, ‘this family of evangelical preachers who run a megachurch,’ I was like, ‘oh! I’m in.’
You see these people throughout the years that are embezzling money, getting caught doing cocaine, getting caught with hookers, and the fact that nobody has done a show about these maniacs (he clarifies that not all of them are maniacs, a lot of them are great people, but there’s definitely some maniacs in the bunch) and I think that this was the perfect show to bring that to light.
Were/are you religious and how much of those experiences did you bring into your character, Kelvin Gemstone?
I mean yeah, I grew up in the Catholic church. I went to Catholic elementary school and I went to church every Sunday and a lot of Wednesdays, so I was definitely raised in the church. I was actually jealous of my friends that went to these big megachurches because the Catholic religion is very traditional and these Christian megachurches were awesome. They had rock climbing walls for the kids, they had a popcorn machine, it seemed like every day was a party for these kids. And I was just kneeling on wooden panels. So it was way less fun for me.
When thinking about the character of Kelvin, I looked at some of these Megachurch pastors, especially the youth pastors and how they’re desperately trying to cling on to being cool and hip, even if it comes across as a little forced. Kelvin is doing his best job to be cool and hip when in fact, he’s not. He’s been born into this life of privilege and that doesn’t lend itself to being the coolest person.
How did you build your chemistry with the other cast members?
You know, I think it came pretty easy. It was different on Workaholics because I created that show and those were my best friends, so I knew I was gonna have great chemistry with them. But for this one, I just knew that Danny and I had very similar comic sensibilities and I knew that we would click comedically and we did right off the bat. And also, I got to know him very well and he’s truly just a great guy. Beyond him being lights out funny, he’s a really good person.
And Patterson, who plays my sister on the show, I’ve been a fan of hers for a while since watching Vice Principals and I love seeing her at the Groundlings, which is a comedy school here in Los Angeles and she is magnificent, she’s on the mainstage, she’s so funny. And of course, John Goodman is just a legend and is just such a great actor and it’s been a total honour and privilege to watch him work and get to know him as a person, study him and see what he does on set every day and try to rip a page out of his playbook.
What sorta different headspace did you need to be in when playing Kelvin Gemstone, when compared to your characters in say, Modern Family or Workaholics?
Well, although Kelvin’s wardrobe is obviously insane, he’s kinda the straight man as far as the siblings go. The audience sorta sees the show through his eyes. My character in Workaholics was such a maniac and it was kinda anything goes, but for Kelvin, I’m definitely more subdued and is sorta a voice of reason.
What did you do to prepare for the role?
I ended up watching a lot of YouTube videos on these megachurch pastors and just see how they dressed, see how they talk, see how they walk on stage and took a lot of things from them. On top of that, I’m a standup comedian so as far as having the stage presence to be on top of that stage and be in front of that crowd when preaching, that came kinda naturally to me and I really found myself having a great time especially during those giant church scenes.
What was it like working with John Goodman?
Oh, are you kidding me? It was awesome! You know, I said this before I even got the show, that he has one of the best careers of all time. He got to be a huge sitcom star, then he got to be a movie star for a long while and then he’s now sorta segued into being a sort of character actor that has such gravitas to him that you can’t help but stare at him when he’s on-screen.
He’s truly amazing. And working with him, you truly see him just pop into this next gear, when the camera comes around on him and it’s just close-up. You see him reach down and come up with a take that you’ve never seen before. It’s really impressive and I really hope I learn something from this guy.
How much freedom did you have in making this character your own?
A lot. Danny works super hard on the script and gets it to a place where it’s almost hard to fail and then he lets you do what you want to do. I never had an idea that he shot down. Every time you wanted to try something, we did another take and tried something. As far as being an actor goes, you can’t ask for a better job and a better boss.
You voiced The Flash in The Lego Batman Movie. What comic book character would you like to play in a live-action setting?
You know, I had my eyes set on Deadpool, but Ryan Reynolds beat me to it… that handsome man. You know, I don’t really know. That’s a really great question. I think The Flash would be great. Also, I feel like playing The Riddler or The Joker would be fun. Something darker!
Catch The Righteous Gemstones same time as the U.S. every Monday at 10 am exclusively on HBO GO and HBO (Astro Ch 411/431 HD). The episode encores on the same day at 11 pm on HBO.