Why 'Vice Principals' gave Walton Goggins an existential crisis

Mandi Bierly
Deputy Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

It’s been a year since fans of HBO’s Vice Principals saw Neal Gamby (Danny McBride) shot by a masked man (or woman) in the high school parking lot. This Sunday, when the dark comedy returns for its second and final season, we’ll finally see how Gamby — and his nemesis-turned-ally, Lee Russell (Walton Goggins) — have recovered.

The mystery of who shot Gamby will play out during the season as Gamby launches his own investigation and Russell struggles with the new dynamics at North Jackson High. Viewers will recall that Gamby and Russell had just been promoted to co-principals after they successfully blackmailed Dr. Belinda Brown (Kimberly Hebert Gregory) into resigning the post. The Season 1 finale scene on the train tracks, when they threatened to release the video they’d shot of her public intoxication (after they’d helped the recovering alcoholic fall off the wagon), is one both McBride and Goggins admit made them question whether the show crossed a line.

“It breaks your heart, it was so mean,” Goggins says of the moment when Lee asked Belinda if she wanted her shoe back and then tossed it behind him so she would have to fetch it. “[Danny and show co-creator Jody Hill] had a screening of just friends and family, and we all sat and watched the first nine [episodes] over two days, and I had an existential crisis when I left. When I saw it the first time, I went home — I wouldn’t let my wife even go with me to see it — and she said, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ I said, ‘I think I’m done. I think my career’s over. I think I’m pretty much the most horrible person I’ve ever met in my life.’ Really. But luckily, with Season 2, you get to understand [why Lee Russell is the way he is], and it’s fun to kind of explore him in that way. But that was a particularly tough day [of filming].”

In addition to learning more of Lee’s disturbing backstory, fans can also expect to see some truly amazing artwork that Lee has commissioned for the school and his home. Goggins tells us he took home two paintings. “I have one, and then the other one I gave to a friend of mine. He’s gonna kill me if I say this, but Johnny Galecki is a very close friend of mine, and he loves the show, and I said, ‘Look, man, I don’t have the space in my house. Do you want to keep this on your wall, but it’s mine?’ And he said, ‘Oh, yeah. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I know exactly where I’m gonna put this.’ And it’s pretty cool,” he says. “I can’t tell you [where]. It’s a secret.”

“I’m imagining in the bathroom somewhere,” McBride offers.

Season 2 of Vice Principals premieres Sept. 17 at 10:30 p.m. on HBO.

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