Royal Flush Book Seven: ‘Danny McBride Is A Lazy Fucker’

Danny McBride: Thunder Struck

Danny McBride is a lazy fucker. He doesn’t go out, or work out, or work – unless there’s a pistol pointed at his brain. To put it a bit more politely, he doesn’t have much desire to make new friends, he’s not in great shape, and he’d probably prefer to do nothing over something.

His biggest career ambition?

“I’d like to be in a position where I can drink heavily the night before and still function at work the next day,” he says.

Living in L.A., he’s surrounded by starry-eyed aspiring actors who believe their unreasonable expectations of success will probably come true.

So how did Danny McBride, who couldn’t give a damn about acting, become one of Hollywood’s most improbable rising stars?

He’s got the thunder.

—–

It’s July 23, and unlike virtually ever other actor promoting an upcoming TV show or movie, Danny McBride is not at Comic-Con. He could be hyping the second season of his out-of-left-field baseball comedy, “Eastbound & Down,” or even “Your Highness,” the medieval comedy he has plotted for the spring.

Instead of San Diego, he’s 120 miles north, as he usually is these days. But today, McBride deserves some credit: He’s not just sitting around scratching his balls – he’s actually busting them. Beyond granting this interview, he’s been slaving over that second season of “Eastbound.”

“I think there’s a cardboard cutout of Kenny Powers down in Comic-Con,” he says. “I’m up here in L.A. now; we’re delivering the shows to HBO. We have a really accelerated post schedule. Wish I could party down there – with some armor and a sword on – but I have to stay here editing.”

An editing booth is probably the last place you’d expect to find the guy who Time magazine has suggested could be the next Will Ferrell. But actually, it makes a lot of sense: Not only is he very protective of his cottage show, wearing many hats behind the scenes, he is someone who set out to direct, not act.

“I don’t have any background, really, in acting or standup or even improv theater or anything,” the 33-year-old says. “I just kind of fumble my way through it. All my background is in the film world.”

Flashback to the late ’90s, when McBride – born in Georgia and bred in Virginia – was attending the North Carolina School of the Arts. An aspiring director, he buddied it up with other dudes who were living on his dorm-room floor, including Jody Hill and David Gordon Green. The musketeers began collaborating on various projects, and pretty soon McBride started filling acting roles out of financial necessity.

More than a decade later – and after relocating to L.A. – he’s appeared in more than a dozen flicks, which makes even less sense when you consider he still doesn’t have a head shot and blew the only acting audition he’s ever done. Sure, Green was responsible for casting McBride in his first role: In 2003’s overlooked indie romance “All the Real Girls,” he was Bust-Ass, one of a cadre of colorfully named characters he’d go on to play. Green also tapped him for 2008’s stoner-iffic “Pineapple Express,” but in between, McBride cropped up in six other movies, playing bit parts in “Superbad,” “Fanboys” and “Drillbit Taylor.”

Also in the mix was his first lead role, in 2006’s “The Foot Fist Way,” which he co-wrote with future “Eastbound” co-creators Hill and Ben Best. Thanks to that movie – and its screenings at Sundance and the Los Angeles Film Festival – Will Ferrell caught wind of McBride’s idiosyncratic, offbeat humor and got hooked. Ferrell and his writing partner, Adam McKay, tried to make “The Foot Fist Way” a runaway hit via stronger distribution efforts, but those failed efforts didn’t discourage them from paving the way for “Eastbound.”

Like “The Foot Fist Way” – which Patton Oswalt has called “a sui generis work on par with ‘The Big Lebowski’ ” – “Eastbound” was a hard sell, even with Ferrell on its side. Structured more as a long movie than a sitcom, if you’re looking for a laugh a minute, you’ll need to look somewhere else. Even if the show does star a chauvinistic, coke-addled, washed-up-ex-baseball-star-turned-spiteful-middle-school-gym-teacher who is the antithesis of a Southern gentleman.

“When we first started turning the episodes in to HBO, they definitely were not digging the show at all,” McBride admits. “It was a lot darker and the tone was a little more fucked-up than they were imagining it to be, and I think they had questions whether you could even capture an audience with a character that was so unlikable. We had been brow-beaten so much before this thing aired that I don’t think we had any clue what was going to happen. We were just praying that somebody would think it was funny.”

Well, somebody did. Lots of somebodies, in fact. Rolling Stone lapped up the Kenny Powers character, calling him the “all-American anti-hero the country has been waiting for.” And HBO came around to it too, picking up a second batch of episodes for this fall.

“Different people that come up on the streets about the show, and it covers the spectrum,” McBride says, “from young college kids to older people.”

And the hicks dig it too. Hollywood is rightly blamed for misrepresenting the South (and the Midwest … hell, anywhere that isn’t L.A. or New York, really). But the biggest achievement made by “Eastbound,” which has been largely shot in North Carolina, could be its raw-but-loving depiction of Southern sensibilities.

“Everyone from back at home seems to really dig it,” he says. “There’s a lot of inside jokes in there … [some] characters’ names are callbacks to people that I’ve known in my past. Also, we did some pickups in North Carolina for this season, and the response we had from the locals there was insane: Those people were really big fans of the show and big fans of what we had done there in their town.

“The difference between when we went to Wilmington this year and last year was night and day. I really couldn’t go out down there. You’re just getting bombarded; shots are being poured in your face. Maybe I’m just getting old and getting tired of that shit. But it’s OK, it’s flattering. You kind of have to pick your battles. You kind of have to avoid being out at bars near last call, when everyone is drunk and has courage and wants to come up and talk shit and get pictures.”

North Carolinians must have shed a tear when they saw the “Eastbound” trucks pack up and head south to Puerto Rico, where much of the second season was shot. The story revolves around Powers as he tries to revive his baseball career in Latin America – although McBride is keeping close guard over many of the other plot details.

“Not that this is ‘Lost’ … but it will make your watching experience a little more enjoyable if things aren’t blown for you. We really do approach [‘Eastbound’] like it’s one long movie, and then we figure out structurally how to break it up into 30-minute increments. So [spilling details about parts of the plot] would be like going out to a movie theater and just watching 15 minutes of a movie every week.

“We approached the first season that if it failed and no one watched it, that it could, weirdly, stand on its own. But if we were given an opportunity to do it again, we had an idea what we’d be doing. We wanted to tell a story that would take place over the course of three seasons, but all the seasons would be short – kind of how the first season was. And if we did another season, it’d probably be the same. So even this season, we kind of create them that if that’s it, it could be the end, but if we get the chance, we’d have an escape route for what we’d do for the next time.

“When HBO kinda dragged their feet to pick up the second season, I’d gone to do ‘Your Highness’ with David Green. We didn’t really want to hire a big writing staff, we really wanted to have our hands over every aspect of it. So, to find that time when everyone’s available and can do it, that was kind of the reason it took us so long to get back in here and get it done.”

Unlike season-two plot details, McBride is more liberal when it comes to spilling stories from behind the scenes.

“We all lived in a casino down there, which was hard-core. Everyone was super-exhausted the whole time. We did 210 pages of script in 37 days, which is insane,” he says, adding that writing only began in January. “We’d come home from work; it would be kind of hard to pass the hotel bar without getting at least one drink. And then getting one shot quickly turns into two to three to four, and the next thing you know, you’re down 500 bucks at the blackjack table. That was an average day.

“My game is blackjack,” McBride reveals (sorry, Royal Flush poker enthusiasts). “So it was very hard to resist the urge to play blackjack when the table’s literally right outside your door every single day.”

“It was just hot as hell down there, and long days. I did have to grow my hair out a bit, but I get some assistance in the mullet area. I put some extensions back there because a mullet is very hot, and in Puerto Rico, you don’t want to be rocking that shit all the time.”

“[Making the show is] a lot of work, but it’s always fun, even when it’s the most stressful day. When you’re just looking around with your buddies and you’re making it with them and you’re in some fucking crazy neighborhood in Puerto Rico, it brought a smile to our face. Like, ‘What the hell are we doing?’ “

—–

If it were just about any other person wearing Kenny Powers’ mullet, McBride’s rapidly building fame would probably go to his head. But that’s not what this actor – who is, unlike his characters, polite and humble – is all about. He insists that he’s “not going around trying to chase down girls,” and that he keeps a big buffer between his life and the ever-beckoning Tinsel Town. Also unlike Powers, he doesn’t hit the weight room: “I don’t need to bench anymore. I just pick up cans of beer and bongs. So that’s how I keep strong.

“I don’t really feel like I’m part of the Hollywood scene at all,” he says. “I never go out any of these clubs or bars or anything. I’m still drinking beers with the guys that I went to college with in ’95: In that sense, i don’t feel like my life has changed too much. But when I get hit with a parking ticket, I don’t get fuckin’ stress out how I’m going to pay for it now, that’s the main difference.”

With any luck, those paychecks should look even sweeter next year. The reluctant actor has “Your Highness” due in April, followed by “30 Minutes or Less” – co-starring fellow Southerner Aziz Ansari – and then eventually “L.A.P.I.,” a new Hill project that’s in production.

” ‘Your Highness’ is definitely a different role from what I’ve been playing: I have a really shitty British accent in it, and it’s a crazy fantasy movie, so it’s outside the realm of what I’ve been working on. ’30 Minutes or Less’ is also a different role than what I’ve been pounding on, so I’m just taking it day by day and choice by choice. I’m just surprised people are giving me roles at this point, so I’m just riding along under the radar.”

And could another TV role be in the works as well? When asked if he would ever consider filling Steve Carell’s seat in “The Office” (in August, rumors started breaking online), McBride says:

“I love that show. Man, that would be such hard shoes to fill. Even when Steve stepped in for Ricky Gervais, it always seemed like, ‘Wow, that’s going to be a tough role to fill.’ It’d be a feat to have someone else to step in there and do it again.”

Lazy fucker.

Possible sidebar: McBride’s Favorite McMusic

If you don’t believe that Danny McBride has his fingers in the holes of every aspects of “Eastbound & Down,” look no further than the killer music that he and co-creator Jody Hill pick for the show. We’re talking Early Man, the Black Keys, MC5 …

“Yeah, Jody and myself are music heads, we fuckin’ love music, so everything that’s in there is from our iTunes,” McBride says. “That’s something we’re really, really passionate about, and it kind of works into the tone of what we’re trying to do with the whole show, giving it a cinematic feel on a small screen. So the music is very important to us, and that’s all us.”

McBride shares a few new music recommendations: “Beach House, greatest hits of George Jones … he’s really found his way back into my heart.

He adds: “The new Black Keys album is the shit – I love it – and the new Dead Weather album is amazing. That’s probably the stuff that I’ve been listening to the most right now.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: