Sundance 2015: Danny McBride Talks Life After ‘Eastbound and Down’

By  · Published on February 1st, 2015

HBO

Eastbound and Down is one of the few comedic shows to actually stick its landing. That very, very loose autobiography Powers wrote? Spot on. That show has given us plenty of unforgettable lines and moments. The four seasons were consistent with the laughs and, best of all, never softened Kenny Powers. At the end of the final season, Powers is still the same oblivious foul-mouthed doofus, it’s just that he’s finally learned a terribly simple life lesson, which only took him four seasons to get to.

Co-creators Jody Hill and Danny McBride need to keep working together, and thankfully, that’s the plan. After the premiere of McBride’s latest film, Jared Hess’s (Napoleon Dynamite) Don Verdean, we caught up with the actor at the film’s after party. Time was short and we both had had a few drinks ‐ or maybe just me and I presume he had as well ‐ but we discussed Eastbound and Down, David Gordon Green, some fixxxxxxins, and plenty more.

Here’s what Danny McBride had to tell us us.

How often do you get asked about fixxxxxins?

[Laughs] Fixxxxins comes up a lot. It’s so great, because that show draws such a diverse crowd. You really get all sorts of shit thrown at you. The drunk frat guy will usually mess up saying, “You’re fucking out!” They’ll mess that up. I like the deep pools, though. I like the fixxxxxins.

On that show, you played a character with no filter. Here, the humor comes out of your character’s niceness. What’s more difficult: finding comedy in meanness or kindness?

You know, I don’t know if it comes down to if a person is nice or not. From a writing standpoint, I feel like I’ve seen so many shows, stories and movies about good guys, and it’s hard to invent new things for good guys to go through. On Eastbound and Down, if we wrote him as an honorable guy, you would’ve had already seen that show before. When you start with them in a more morally questionable zone, it gives you new ground to go through.

Was there ever a place with that character you guys wouldn’t go to? Anything that would’ve made you lose empathy for him?

We never really got to that point with it. I think with the first season we experienced that more, because we were trying to introduce people to that character. I think HBO was really concerned if people would identify with this guy or want to watch him or not. At first, we were more careful with that character. We just knew that whatever we did to take him down we figured out ways not to have people totally tune out. I see comedies with anti-heroes popup more and more now, and I think the trick with that is… it’s easy to make a character an asshole, but it’s kind of hard to still want what they want for them.

I don’t know a single person who watched that show and rooted against him.

But if you met him on the street, you’d hate him! [Laughs] He’d be a good time at this party, though.

[Laughs] Creatively, you were such a big part of that show. What’s it like working on project like Don Verdean, where your only job is to act?

It feels easy. It’s nice, really. Your mind is on one thing, not a million things. David [Gordon Green] has been buddies with Jared Hess for a while. I knew a few people who had worked with Jared before, and they sang his praises. I was just stoked to come on to do this and trust the person behind the wheel. This is a totally different type of humor for me.

Are Green and Hess similar directors?

They’re similar directors in that they are not intense guys. They’re just goofballs. Jared started his speech [at the film’s premiere] tonight talking about diarrhea in his pants. These dudes are super intelligent but have the sense of humor of seventh graders, and I love that.

I’ve spoken with David Gordon Green a few times. If you typecast, you wouldn’t guess he’s the guy behind Snow Angels.

That’s the beauty of it. When we were in school with David, he’d make these crazy, nuts, and oddball movies. When he started making these serious movies, it was funny to us. We knew people would say, “Oh, he’s a certain type of guy.” It was funny for those of us who knew David that he was completely pegged wrong, but that he could trick everyone into thinking that.

It’s frustrating when people say he sold out making Pineapple Express and Your Highness, because if you talk to him for five minutes, you see his taste is just all over the place.

You know, I think there was one time… I never really read anything anybody writes [on the Internet], but there was one time someone forwarded me this website’s open letter to me about my buddy David Gordon Green, that I should tell him he’s making bad choices. For me, David is the kind of director I wish all directors were like. It’s so easy in this business just to do one thing, and to get paid over and over to do that one thing until it’s completely fucking boring, you know? David is a brave filmmaker, because he has the interest in making all sorts of things. Whether those films hit or they don’t, I just admire the idea of not trying to do the same thing. I think if you are a fan of his work, you should embrace all the odd detours.

I’m curious, years after its release, how do you feel about Your Highness?

Honestly, I never have not liked that movie [Laughs]. David and I made the exact movie we wanted to make. We’re both guys who grew up on cable television, watching dirty movies with the scrambled signal on the TV. When we set that movie up we knew we wanted to make an R-rated movie for 12 year olds. I feel that’s what we did [Laughs].

[Laughs] What’d you think of Joe?

Oh, I loved Joe. That’s the thing, when he goes super dark, it fucks me up. I love it. With Snow Angels and Joe, he’s just incredible. I thought Joe was magnificent. Prince Avalanche is awesome. His new film, Manglehorn, is great. You know, he just wrapped a new film with Sandra Bullock I’m excited to see. David, Jody [Hill], and I are getting ready to do this new series called Vice Principles, which we’ve been writing for the last year. It’s an 18 episode miniseries for HBO. It will be told in two parts: fall term and spring term at this High School. I’m stoked to get back in the ring with those guys, to make something fucking weird and strange.

I’m disappointed Jody Hill hasn’t made a movie since Observe & Report. Weren’t you two working on a Southern crime family movie together?

You know, it happened, but he didn’t direct it. Jared [Hess] directed it, actually. It’s called Masterminds, which he just made. Jody and I are executive producers on it, but we’re both making a film this Fall, as soon as we wrap the show.

Can you say what it is?

I don’t know if he’s made a public announcement, so I’ll let him do that [Laughs].

Read more from Sundance 2015

Longtime FSR contributor Jack Giroux likes movies. He thinks they're swell.