We know you’re aware already, but it bears repeating — television is producing some of the more ambitious projects these days than their Hollywood movie studio counterparts. HBO in particular has been on the receiving end of much of the praise of late and one has to look no further than Todd Haynes‘ five-part “Mildred Pierce” (which ends this Sunday, tune in!) — a sweeping, character driven period drama about a fractious mother/daughter relationship set against the backdrop of the Great Depression and the Jazz Age. Now try walking onto a studio lot and pitching that. But it’s not just dramas that have fared well, but comedies too. “Bored to Death,” the underrated “How To Make It In America” and the animated “The Ricky Gervais Show” are just a few of the laff-filled highlights at HBO, but their crowning jewel is “Eastbound & Down.” The irreverent show stars Danny McBride, an arrogant baseball player on the skids who heads back to his hometown. Even in its brief run — two seasons of six episodes each — the show has found a strong following undoubtedly aided by the networks’ nurturing attitude.
We recently chatted with Danny McBride as he did rounds for “Your Highness” and he expressed his delight at the freedom he is afforded at HBO and the haven it is for creative talent looking to tell original stories.
What’s your preference for TV or film, they must provide different opportunities.
Well the stuff that we do with HBO, it feels as pure as the stuff we were doing for $15,000 dollars. HBO is an incredible place, they give you a lot of creative freedom and there’s not the same concerns — if the movie happens to open on the right weekend and everyone goes to see your film. You’re given more leeway and it’s honestly, I don’t know I feel like it’s a better atmosphere creatively. I love making films and that’s what it’s all about, but just the landscape of it. There’s not really any correlation between a movie being good and people going to see that movie and that’s a tricky game when you start playing with bigger budgets, so there’s pluses and minuses to both I guess.
A lot of people are moving towards HBO. Todd Haynes, Martin Scorsese, Michael Mann, it seems like a haven in a way.
It is and I’ve got to say, I feel like on TV it seems like people are almost making things more daring then you’re even seeing in the cinemas. I mean everything from “Mad Men” to “Breaking Bad” to “Boardwalk Empire,” you’re not seeing things like that in the theater at all, things that are exploring those dark dramatic themes and it kind of feels like in television people are doing what they were doing with cinema in the ‘70s.
So are we going to see you continue to work in TV?
For sure. We’ve set up a few projects at HBO where I’ll be involved as a producer and on the writing end. We set up a Sundance documentary we acquired at Rough House called “Knuckled,” it’s about bare knuckle gypsy fighters and that is something that we’re developing. I’m not going to be in that but we’re going to be heading up the producing of that and developing it and giving it to HBO. And we have another show that’s called “The Magician” about an Australian hit man and something else that we’re developing with them to get going. I love it, I think it’s great and the good thing with TV is everything just moves so fast. You write the script then you’re shooting it and it’s on the air. It just gives people less time to pick it apart and to fuck with you and to compromise it. When you’re making a movie, so much money goes into it and so many people have to approve every little step of it that it can get boring being involved with something creatively for two years. With television it just moves so much faster.
There must be freedom because the writing room is just you and Jody, that’s kind of unheard of.
Yeah, that’s why we don’t do the big season [arc] because we’re not interested in turning [“Eastbound & Down] into this huge business where we have a big staff and all of these people that we have to figure out what business to give them. To us it’s like you keep those small seasons, we can have our hands in every single episode and we can creatively be behind every frame of the show and that’s what excites us the most about doing that show.
Are you guys going to be sad to see Eastbound & Down go?
You know when we set this up it as always going to be as a three season arc and I think we jut feel that we’ve been given the opportunity to complete that dream and we do have a great time doing it, so who knows what will happen after this — if it’s something that maybe we’ll come back to one day or maybe we wont. But…at this point, we’re surprised that this kernel of an idea that we had several years ago when nothing was going on, we’ve actually been able to execute it and do it the way we wanted to do it.
The third and final season of “Eastbound & Down” will shoot this summer and likely will hit HBO sometime in 2012. McBride’s “Your Highness” is in theaters now. — Additional reporting by RP.