Adam DeVine is thankful to the Hollywood Gods for The Righteous Gemstones.
After spending seven seasons as co-creator, executive producer, writer, director, and star on Workaholics, the Pitch Perfect alum is back on the small screen, relishing his role solely as an actor on HBO’s new comedy. Created by and co-starring Danny McBride, who DeVine once called a “shooting star” (full weird context below), Gemstones centers on a world famous family of televangelists who seem more interested in making money and hiding their secrets than serving the lord. DeVine portrays youngest brother Kelvin, who is trying to prove himself as the cool, hip youth pastor.
Ahead of Gemstones‘ Sunday premiere, EW talked to DeVine about his first ever encounter with McBride, his inspiration for Kelvin, and why John Goodman playing his father finally made his own father proud.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: After recently wrapping up a long-running series, what appealed to you about jumping back in for Righteous Gemstones?
ADAM DEVINE: I’ve been such a fan of McBride, [Gemstones executive producers] Jody Hill, and David Gordon Green for so long; I’ve loved all their stuff and how they still find a way to make things relatable for everyone no matter how edgy they sometimes get. To me, I feel like with what I’ve done with Workaholics, they felt like kindred spirits. I remember way back in the day, before we got Workaholics and were just making web videos, Anders [Holm] had a friend who worked at an agency and got us an advanced copy of [Hill and McBride’s] Foot Fist Way and we lost our minds. We watched the whole thing — and then we played it again. So as soon as Danny was interested in me playing his brother, I was like, “I’m in, I’ll do whatever I have to do.”
I remember the first time I met Danny was at a party for Neighbors and we were in this hotel room and Danny comes up behind me and is like, “Oh hey, I know you,” and I melted as if I’m a little girl and I just saw Justin Bieber. I looked at him and go, “You’re Danny McBride!” And he’s like, “Yeah, I know,” and I go, “You’re a bright shooting star.” I really said, “You’re a bright shooting star” to him. He’s like, “Oh, okay, man,” like, what a weirdo. And I grabbed my girlfriend and was like, “I just called Danny McBride a bright shooting star, we have to leave.”
Have you reminded him of it since you started working together?
I brought it up to him. Luckily, he has no recollection of that memory. I think we were all partying pretty hard so I think the memory is pretty hazy for that interaction.
Going in, how much did you know about this world of megachurches and televangelism?
I grew up in the Midwest and I’ve been to a few of these megachurches. It wasn’t to the extent that it’s really taken hold in the South, but we definitely had churches that were pretty gigantic and they just seemed like so much more fun than just my regular ass boring Catholic church with wooden benches and wooden pews and wooden stools to kneel on. I was like, “Dang, at least make this a little comfortable. My butt cheeks are all sore; over at the megachurch your butt cheeks will be very comfortable as you praise the lord.” So I knew a little bit about this world. What I like so much about the show is that it’s not taking shots at people who are religious, it’s taking shots at people who are greedy, and I think it’s pretty universal that people don’t like when certain people are opportunists and taking advantage of people, especially when it comes to their faith. So I thought Danny and everyone did a really great job of not falling into the trap of making fun of people for their religious beliefs, because who are we to know what happens when you die? I know I sure as hell don’t.
What was it about Kelvin that you liked?
I was really excited when Danny first told me about the role; he’s the youngest brother, the youth pastor, the one who is really trying hard to connect with the kids. I see that all the time with the pastors who are like best friends with Justin Bieber, and one of my favorite Instagram accounts is Preachers N Sneakers and it just shows all these preachers and the $1,000 tennis shoes that they always wear. [Laughs] It’s just these preachers trying to be so cool and hip, and I just thought that would be a fun character to play. I watched a lot of YouTube videos and a lot of clips of these pastors. Also, trying to bring my own spin to it, like how I would go about this if I was going to be a youth pastor. That’s why my hair stands straight up because I think my hair should be as close to God as possible. It’s such a fun character to play because it’s not me at all. Every time I put on these clothes, I’m like, “Yuck. I hate this guy, he’s trying so hard.”
You mentioned your affinity for Danny, so what was it like working with him and finding that big brother-little brother dynamic?
I think it was pretty natural for the two of us. Like I said, I kind of always saw our comedic styles as kindred spirits, so it really sort of clicked from day one on. I think we both come from the same school of comedy, where we created our own stuff and aren’t precious with the material. They worked really hard on the scripts but then he allows me to bring what I do to the role. And I think we clicked really easily. There wasn’t ever a moment where Danny and I would be like, “Let’s hang out more because it’s not working out.” We hang out because we’ve become friends and it is clicking. It’s been really fun. They say don’t meet your heroes, but, in the case of Danny, he’s been cooler than I could have even imagined.
And as if Danny being your brother wasn’t enough, you get to have John Goodman as your dad.
Well, I feel like John Goodman already has been my TV dad for my entire life, so now we’re just making it real. He’s the man. I mean, he’s so cool; what a living legend. To be able to work with him, it makes my parents appreciate what I do, honestly. [Laughs] Danny, they kind of know a little bit about what he’s done, but with John Goodman, they’re like, “Oh my god, so this is like a real show?” And I’m like, “What do you think I’ve been doing? Just because the other shows I’ve done have just been me and my friends that it’s not real?” They’re like, “You know what I mean.” Well, okay, I’m choosing not to take offense to that because he is a legend.
How nice was it being just an actor here after having your hands in everything for seven seasons on Workaholics?
It was fun and super freeing. It made me realize that when you see actors be able to tap dance and play the guitar and piano and also speak three languages it’s because there’s so much down time when you’re just an actor. Like, next season I’m for sure going to learn how to play the piano and speak German. I’m just going to pick up two weird things that I’ve always wanted to do to master them with the amount of down time. This season, I was just sort of sitting on my hands, going, “Should I be doing more stuff? Do you guys need me to problem solve anything or work with the script?” And they’re like, “No, we’ve got it.” So there was a bizarre amount of down time that I definitely wasn’t used to.
So then should we expect Kelvin to play piano and speak German in season 2?
He’s going to be a master of Chinese and an accomplished pianist by season 2.
What would be your sales pitch of why people should give Gemstones a chance?
Obviously, it’s going to be super funny, but there’s an element of heart to it that I don’t think people are going to necessarily know coming in. This is a family that has been through a lot and you find yourself rooting for them, even though they are pretty corrupt and scumbags in a lot of ways. So I think it’s going to be a fun show for people that want to laugh but also want something beyond just a lite laugh — there’s a real story here.
The Righteous Gemstones premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.