Yesterday, we checked in with "Eastbound & Down" co-creator Jody Hill to discuss the progress of his HBO show, which concludes its third -- and possibly last -- season on Sunday night. While Hill and Ben Best did a lot of the behind-the-scenes work that gives the dark comedy-drama its strange, raunchy and oddly touching qualities, nobody has done more to distinguish "Eastbound" than Danny McBride, now widely known for his leading role as the foul-mouthed pitcher Kenny Powers. McBride, who went to film school with his colleagues, created the show with them and also co-wrote it.
While he's clearly comfortable (some might even say too comfortable) in front of the camera, McBride has plenty of ambitions behind it, having recently announced plans to direct an adaptation of the Danish comedy "Clown." He's also got a number of upcoming roles in the pipeline, reason enough to assume that more seasons of "Eastbound" aren't in the immediate future. McBride spoke with us about how the show has fulfilled his expectations and what he hopes to do next.
Do you get to take a vacation now?
I should. No, I'm gearing up to go down to New Orleans to do "The Apocalypse" movie with Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, all those guys. I'm looking forward to some time in the French Quarter with all those nerds.
When "Eastbound" started, it wasn't a major hit, and you weren't a huge star. By the second season, you were appearing as Kenny Powers in commercials for K-Swiss. Was the eruption of attention toward the show a surprise for you?
The whole experience of "Eastbound" has been completely unexpected and super-surprising every step of the way. We've operated from the get-go like we'd never have the opportunity to see it all the way through. Even when we put the pilot together, at that point the opportunity to shoot something on film was cool to us. We were just coming off of "Foot Fist Way," and thought this was a cool way to get someone to pay for us to make something else we can shoot on film. This was just us getting the chance to make a 30-minute mini-movie.
When it got picked up as a series, we figured we wouldn't get picked up beyond the first season so we had to make this one count and have it, at the end of the day, just make for a really weird movie if you watched them all together. So we've always come at it from the angle of people not getting it and we wouldn't be able to continue doing it. Being at the place right now where we've wrapped up the third season and told the story we only imagined we'd be able to tell, and even had these endorsements with K-Swiss, it just blow my mind and Jody's.
Did the influx of fans have any impact on your perception of the character?
It's weird. A season is about a year out of our lives -- from the time we start writing to shooting and editing it. That's a year where we stay pretty much in an office. So even when the first season was over, I don't think Jody and I caught on that there were so many people into the show until the second season started to come around. Then we started hearing about these different bands and other people who were into the show. Jody and I aren't really present on Facebook or Twitter, so we didn't know that it was something that was catching on the way that it did.
So it never really affected us creatively. We were always holed up doing what we wanted to do. I think it gets tricky when you start following what the fans expect. That's the one thing about television: With a movie, it's a fully realized thing that you can experience in an hour and a half.
With a TV show -- especially with this, where we really wanted each season to be an act in the story -- you really have to stick to your guns with the story you want to tell. If you see it on an individual basis, you're like, "Oh, people are responding to this, we should do more of this next time." It's a good way to lose the essence of what you're trying to do.
People must come up to you on the street and say, "Fuck you, Kenny Powers."
All the time. [laughs]
Do you remember when that started happening?
It would happen once in a blue moon during the first season. Then after the second season, I remember me and some friends went to Vegas, and I was definitely getting recognized a bunch. That was the first time when I thought, "Oh, fuck, this is nuts. These people have all seen this show." That was mind-blowing. At this point, it's just flattering; talk to me in 10 years and if people are still saying "Fuck you, Kenny Powers," I might say something different. But we worked so hard on this show that when you meet people who watch the show, it's just exciting and feels like we're reaching people.