Generally it’s the goal of TV show creators to have a long series run. But the guys behind HBO’s Vice Principals — Danny McBride and Jody Hill — knew their show would be a short-lived one, just two seasons and done. So this might be their one and only trip to Comic-Con to build some hype for the dark comedy.
With the original concept taking shape as a feature film, “It just felt like the meat of it, we weren’t even being able to explore,” McBride said in the EW studio at San Diego Comic-Con. “So opening it up [into a series] and trying to tell it over the course of nine hours gave us a real opportunity to kinda shift the point of view and follow all these different characters and just take the audience into a place I think that they’re not going to expect to go.”
McBride and Walton Goggins star as the two titular characters — Neal Gamby and Lee Russell, respectively — both vying for the principal’s job after the current one (Bill Murray) announces he’s retiring. It’s a seemingly simple concept, but one that opens the doors for a lot of possibilities.
“I think this is our answer to how bored we are with broad comedies. The idea that there could be a show as simple as two vice principals who want the principal job, this is the answer to how you take a simple concept like that and make it entirely strange, weird, and create total anarchy,” McBride said. “Blow it out the window.”
“I don’t know that there is a door that these guys — and they’ve invited me through — a room that they don’t enter over the course of this show. And I think as funny and as absurd as it seems from the outside, once you really kinda get into the heads of these guys and you see really where it goes and you see what happens with season 2 in conjunction with the experience you have in season 1,” Goggins explained, “all of a sudden you’re going to be sitting in a chair either alone or around a lot of people going, like, ‘How did I get here? What is happening right now?’ It’s really special, man, what these guys have built. It’s very cool.”
Playing out over 18 half-hour episodes, all taking place over the course of one school year, the two have a new boss to contend with, and it doesn’t exactly bring the best out of them.
“[Neal] looks at life the same way he looks at discipline, which is you just have to beat into someone to get change, and it’s not really a way to make good relationships, or a way to make good change,” McBride said. “I think that his heart is pure. He really thinks what he is doing is for the best, and he’s just sort of misguided. So I think there could be redemption for him for sure.”
“It all depends on what you consider redemption,” Goggins added. “I think people will be surprised at the culmination of this show and the culmination of the relationship between these two men and what profoundly it has to say about the dysfunctionality of people in general. At the end of the day, I think most of us are lonely on some level, and a lot of us to a lesser degree. But there are the marginalized among us who feel like they have no one to connect to, and these are two of those guys, and they connect. And maybe they’ll find peace because of it.”
“How about that?!” Goggins concluded. “Boom!”
Watch the full interview above, and see Vice Principals when it airs on HBO Saturdays at 10:30 p.m. ET
Entertainment Weekly is on the scene at San Diego Comic-Con. Go inside with all our coverage, available here.