Jade Bremner chats to lead man and series writer Danny McBride
You may recognise Danny McBride from hit comedy Pineapple Express, in which he played the middleman in a drug deal who ended up on the run from a gang of hitmen. His role in Eastbound & Down, produced by comedy legends Will Ferrell [Blades of Glory, Anchorman] and Adam McKay [Saturday Night Live], is equally as curt, vulgar and entertaining – imagine Jackass meets Superbad meets Knocked Up.
McBride’s character is the frustrated, ego-fuelled Kenny Powers, a former baseball pitcher extraordinaire – ‘former’ being the operative word. He finds himself back in his home town, having blown all his cash and lost his job; in the first season he resorts to teaching physical education at his old school. He manages to insult everyone around him, while maintaining a loveable quality that usually stops his friends disowning him completely. This season, the show moves to Mexico (though shot in Puerto Rico), where Kenny thinks he’s living a renegade lifestyle, and has a stab at baseball again. With season two premiering on UAE screens next week, we caught up with creator, lead actor and writer McBride for more on the show.
Where did the idea for Eastbound & Down come from? I can remember the day we came up with it. It was a long, long time ago, right after we had done [2003 romantic drama] All The Real Girls; me, Jody Hill and Ben Best were sitting in a baby pool in our buddy’s backyard, drinking. We were just trying to toss around ideas and we’d come up with this idea about this kind of washed-up ball player, the anti-hero, the guy who’s succumbed to the steroids and the cheating and all that. We thought it would be funny, someone like that coming back to the town they came from. That was the initial idea, and we pocketed it for a while. After we met Will Ferrell and Adam McKay through The Foot Fist Way, they asked us what other stuff we wanted to do, and we said we were interested in doing a story that didn’t necessarily have to fit into that hour-and-a-half format of a movie comedy. We could stretch the comedy out and go into areas that you wouldn’t expect.
Were you thinking of TV all along? We love things like The Office and Spaced and a lot of British comedies in general – Alan Partridge, all that stuff. They could just take their time with the comedy and do funny stuff that wasn’t expected, and we wanted to play around with that. We weren’t interested in doing anything that was 24 episodes in a season. We wanted to keep it small, like those shows do. It makes it seem more special and there is no formula. We wanted to always do it on HBO, because we felt like it could be as nasty and dirty as we wanted it to be there.
The cast is all small names – the most familiar face in there besides you is Deadwood’s John Hawkes. Did you do that intentionally? We did. One thing on Foot Fist that helped the odd humour was that it had this sort of dirty feel to it. I think the fact that it was all unknowns adds to that realism. So having a bunch of big names in there was never something we really set out to do. We didn’t try to land anybody big. That said, Will Ferrell does show up in this thing, so we blur those lines.
You’ve said you always intended to write and direct, so you came into acting reluctantly. Did you feel unprepared for the demands of it once you started getting these roles? If I’d ever stopped to think about what I was doing when I was stepping into the ring with these humongous hitters, I think I would’ve just pooed my pants and gone home. It was one of those things: the opportunity is there, there’s no time to get nervous or to freak out about it. You have to either rise to the occasion, or that’s that. So I just jumped into it and did what I’d been doing with my friends – I realised it really wasn’t much different.
In season two, Kenny has moved to Mexico. Why Mexico? At the start of the season, we find Kenny living a whole new life, with cornrows. He thinks he’s living the life of an outlaw. Where do outlaws go? To Mexico. Kenny envisions himself as Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven, a gunslinger who’s hung up his guns. He put his old life behind him, yet the old life comes calling to him.
It’s safe to say Eastbound & Down is not for everyone. Who do you think is watching? When you’re writing, who do you think is enjoying it? When we made the first season, we had no idea if anyone would watch it. We made it for ourselves and for our friends. It was stuff we thought was twisted and funny. So we were shocked when it found a following. The people who have followed it are across the spectrum. Last week, we found out that Marilyn Manson is apparently a fan, and then there’s Don Johnson.
Are you a 9am-to-5pm writer, or does inspiration strike whenever? When I wasn’t getting paid to do it, I would just write whenever I found the chance. But now that it’s… you know Jody and the guys, we just got back from Big Bear Lake [in California]. We rented a cabin for a few weeks and just worked on Eastbound…. I get distracted too much, so I have to dedicate myself to it or else I’ll get pulled away and be like: Oh, I should play this video game, or maybe I should go buy a cool book instead of writing right now. It’s easy for me to get distracted, so I have to lock up and focus on it.
Eastbound & Down season two premieres on December 23 at 10pm on OSN Comedy.