Your first feature, "The Foot Fist Way," garnered cult status and won you acclaim from Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, which paved the way for the bigger projects you've taken on since then. Did you face any sort of new pressure once you were involved with a TV show with a significant following?
I can confidently say no on that one. We really set out for a three-season story, basically a trilogy. It's like our redneck "Godfather." Me and Danny were shaking hands about this the other day -- it's been a struggle, knowing we have an audience, not to change our game plan. But I think it was important from the very beginning for us to execute what we set out to do. Back in the day, we talked about how if we could make the show on our own terms, and somehow we were able to pull it off, it would be something we would be proud of. And we were definitely able to do that.
But even though we were able to do that, it's definitely sad for us. We love the character and we love our jobs. Don't get me wrong: I think there are some people who just want to hear Kenny Powers say dick jokes and stuff. But I also think there are a lot of people who get the show out there. That's important. I know that a lot of people struggle with their work to find that, and we have it with "Eastbound." So there are definitely mixed emotions, but we set out to execute a plan of three seasons to tell a complete story and I'm proud that we did that.
It's telling to compare the response you received for "Observe and Report," your sole studio movie, with "Eastbound." While the movie had its defenders, a lot of people just didn't get it, and media was largely hijacked by an ongoing discussion of whether or not one scene constituted date rape. "Eastbound" has had more time to grow an audience for its offbeat humor.
"Observe and Report" is a movie I'm really proud of, but yeah, when it came out, there was all this backlash and it struggled with ticket sales. With studio movies, it's like you're watching a boxing match. That was just a weird thing to me. Right now, it's been out for a couple of years, and the people who like it really like it; the people who don't never will. Certainly, there isn't that immediacy to their reactions the way there was opening weekend. That's a really cool feeling -- the small amount of time that's passed since it came out has been really kind to that movie.
With "Eastbound," nobody really watched the first season. It wasn't until the show was off the air for almost a year and a half that whoever liked it starting telling other people about it. Then they stole it online or whatever -- it just spread. Now people are able to digest what we're doing each week.
I think if you come into "Eastbound" cold, it might take you a second and you might not get it. But I think TV takes some of the importance off of the one chance the way it is with movies. I can think of that with other shows. "Mad Men" might make a terrible movie, but I love that fucking show. You have to digest it and learn to like the characters before they feel like people you know. That format is really cool, especially when you get to work with a network like HBO, which lets you do what you want creatively.
The implication of what you're saying is that you want to make Kenny Powers a likable guy -- not the easiest task with a character who says pretty arrogant things more often than anything else. I can't think of another show with a main character so hard to like.
It's like taking a road trip with somebody you don't like, but the longer you drive on that trip, the more you understand them. He might be an asshole, but at the end of the day, there's something you kind of like about him and what he's about. I have friends like that -- when people meet them, they just hate them, but I've known these guys for 10 years and understand what makes them tic: "Yeah, he's an asshole but he's funny and nice sometimes."
Danny is now so closely associated with Kenny Powers that it's hard to watch him in anything else without thinking about that character. What do you think distinguishes Kenny from other characters Danny has played?
I would say that, with all the bravado that Kenny has, he's also sensitive. I know that sounds dumb, but he's like a cry baby. He's easily offended, easily hurt. We actually feel bad for him. He does so much shitty stuff to everybody else, but I still think that you forget about it because you know him so well and feel bad for him. Maybe it's his vulnerability. Danny's great at that, by the way. I don't know anyone else who can take a blowhard and make you like him.