After decades of iconic roles in films like King of the Gypsies, Runaway Train and Star 80, actor Eric Roberts revealed that joining Season 2 of the HBO show The Righteous Gemstones (premiering Sunday, Jan. 9 at 10:00 p.m. ET on Crave in Canada), has been his most rewarding project to date with “genius” creator Danny McBride.
“It reminded me of my family, it reminded me of the family that I come from, of the family I fled, it was like it was like a cardboard cutout of my family,” Roberts revealed. “I really went after this part, I had to audition for it,...and I just got lucky.”
“I've never been involved in a working situation, both in front and behind the camera, that was as much fun or as rewarding as Righteous Gemstones, and I mean that.”
The first season of The Righteous Gemstones focused on establishing this world of a megachurch family, ultra-rich and powerful, under the patriarch Dr. Eli Gemstone (John Goodman), with his often bratty children, Jesse (Danny McBride), Judy (Edi Patterson) and Kelvin (Adam Devine), in tow.
In Season 2 the family has now started a streaming platform, but the focus largely shifts to providing more reflection on who Eli was before the glitz and the glam, and the churches, introducing us to his childhood friend from Memphis, Tennessee, the sly hustler Junior (Roberts). When this friend reappears in his life, Eli is cautious to try to keep secrets from his past, still in the past, primarily involving his previous wrestling career in the 1960s, under the guidance of Junior’s father.
Roberts called the show’s creator, and fellow actor, Danny McBride a “genius” for creating this world and these characters.
“These scripts are fantastic and every character is completely different from all the other characters, there are no repeats,” he said. “It’s the real deal.”
“I have never had a group in front of and behind the camera that was so perfect in my career.”
Roberts said he loves the entire cast of The Righteous Gemstones, but particularly loved working with John Goodman.
“At moments where we're at odds, we have to really act because I'm in love with him, I'm in love with that guy, he's the coolest cat, maybe, I've ever worked with as far as a guy who shows up, ready to rock,” Roberts said.
“Everybody is aces and John Goodman is just icing on the cake for me.”
No a—holes on 'The Righteous Gemstones' set helps to make this genius show
To steal a term from Roberts, The Righteous Gemstones really is a “genius” show, particularly when all the puzzle pieces of the characters come closer together in each episode of Season 2. It’s captivating, addictive and ridiculous in the most perfect way.
While The Righteous Gemstones isn’t based on a specific megachurch family or televangelist, Season 2 does take us into something particularly reminiscent of Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker territory with the introduction of Eric André’s character Lyle Lissons who, along with his wife Lindy (Jessica Lowe), want Jesse Gemstone (McBride) and his wife Amber (Cassidy Freeman) to invest in their Christian beach resort project.
Stepping into this world as a megachurch preacher, who makes millions of dollars, alongside the nuanced, dynamic and unique personalities of the Gemstone family members, André is a great fit in this dysfunctional set of characters. He perfectly executes the ebbs and flows of the story, including a particular twist that we won’t spoil at this point, but we will say it leans into the wackier side of André’s acting ability.
“Those guys just create a really great nurturing creative environment, there are no a—holes on set,” he said. “There are so many mean, sociopathic, nihilistic bullies in this industry that when there's not like a single office dickhead on set, it's such a breath of fresh air.”
Danny McBride continues to push himself
Just one example of these dynamic characters on display in The Righteous Gemstones is with the evolution of Cassidy Freeman’s character Amber, the eldest son Jesse Gemstone’s wife, who didn’t really have much substance in the first season, as a wife whose core role is to support her husband. In Season 2 she’s taking on more control, specifically after making the decision to stand by her husband after his documented indiscretions from Season 1.
“What I love about Season 2 is that after their static at the end of Season 1, Jesse and Amber have to figure out what their dynamic is going to be moving forward, because it can't be the same, trust was broken and I think Amber realized that she has values that she wants to stick by, but she also wants to win and she wants to do it with him, she wants to stand by her husband,” Freeman explained.
“Their alliance and their team-ness in Season 2 is what is pretty exciting, I think, for her character. Being able to be more involved, being a real partner in what's going to happen, I think is really exciting for her, rather than just sort of staying at home or being a pretty face.”
For The Righteous Gemstones creator Danny McBride, he and his team of collaborators, Jody Hill and David Gordon Green, who all went to college together, work to create stories that will constantly push them.
“It's fun as a writer to push yourself and to try new things,” McBride said.
“Every time we're able to get together for one of these shows, everyone is just taking the experiences that they've had individually, in their own career paths, and sort of coming back to the table.”
Gordon Green said that the “luxury” is that the trio work so well together, and are drawn to similar stories, which align them more personally and creatively.
“It's just an awesome collaboration to have a company with two of your best friends, you kind of have a motivation engine for each other,” he said.
“This is Danny's baby through and through. These are his ideas, characters he's embodied and invented, and for him to give Jody and I such amazing creative reigns to be able to take something that he's created and then to be able to collaborate alongside with him in the freedom he gives us, it's very empowering.”