Kenny Powers embodies the American Dream — gone entirely fucking wrong. On Eastbound & Down (HBO) Danny McBride (The Foot Fist Way, Tropic Thunder, Pineapple Express) plays Powers, a former Major League pitcher who, since leaving the mound and the fame that surrounded it, is (kind of) coming to terms with being a washed-up athlete. Depressed, broke and miserable (yet too cocky to admit to any of these), filthy-mouthed Powers is hung up on his glory days with a head full of insecurities topped with a brown mullet and sporty wraparound sunglasses. The out-of-shape former athlete also dabbles in drugs and refuses to let go of his prized jet ski charmingly nicknamed the "panty dropper." We caught up with writer/actor Danny McBride to get the scoop on Eastbound & Down Season Dos: Deep Inside Mexico premiering on HBO on 9/26.
Wait, What's An Eastbound & Down?
If the six episodes slipped by you, don't fret. You can catch up with the complete first season available now on DVD. That being said, when you hear someone say, "You're fuckin' out!" or "Honey, I love you, I think you're a terrific girl, but you have clothes like a fucking dickhead," you'll have the ability to identify the hilarious and always inappropriate Kenny Powers commentary. In Season One of the Will Ferrell and Adam McKay-produced series written by Jody Hill, Danny McBride, Ben Best and David Gordon Green, Powers returns to his old stomping grounds, Jefferson Davis Middle School in Shelby, North Carolina, to teach physical education. He reconnects with the love of his life, April Buchanon, a teacher who's now engaged to the stiff school principal. Powers is the kind of teacher that rips on students and takes pictures of his penis with cameras he finds in their lockers after rummaging through their brown bag lunches and taking money from their wallets. Powers jokes about seeing a young girl getting raped by two boys followed by a "Just kidding!" and solicits hookers over the phone while drinking beer on his brother's couch while his patient sister-in-law collects his empties. And somehow, someway, despite being the undisputed antihero of the show and villain amongst the blue-skied suburbia he's found himself back in, Kenny "Fucking" Powers has won over audiences of all sorts (from hipster girls to Marilyn Manson), even getting viewers to somewhat sympathize with his miserably overconfident, narcissistic, delusional chunky white sneakers-wearing self.
But ... How?
"That was interesting for us, letting the villain tell the story, but figuring out a way to get people to root for him," says Danny McBride. "I think we do that by showing his vulnerabilities. That was kind of our goal when we wrote the series — we wanted to tell a story from kind of a bad guy's point of view." And while the series is no doubt a comedy, it's got several darker elements woven into the script. "A lot of Kenny's behavior is just a mask for him just really feeling like shit. I think people can identify with people who feel shitty," McBride laughs. As fans of the mini-series style, McBride says the creators made the decision to write the show and film it like one broken-down movie, instead of separate, unrelated episodes. "We wanted to try that with comedy and we didn't want to make an hour-long episode. We wanted a movie vibe into a 30-minute show that unfolds each week. As a TV show, we can allow the story to be that long. It gives you more time to take it slow with Kenny and stretch out people's appreciation for him."
Season Dos: Deep Inside Mexico
When last we saw Powers, he'd abandoned April at a gas station with only her suitcase and a broken heart. He and his shattered hopes for a comeback were headed to a destination unknown in a new Denali with a dreamcatcher dangling from the rear-view mirror. The first two episodes of Season Dos reveal Powers in Mexico with cornrows, a scooter and what seems like a deeper depression. His passion for the pitch, however, is still strong and a local team, the Charros, catches his interest. "That's where we find Kenny at the beginning. He's dealing with the effects of what he's done and coming to terms with what he left behind in North Carolina," McBride says. Though we're sworn to secrecy regarding additional details, we asked McBride if the somber tone will continue throughout the season. "You're obviously picking him up in a place that he thinks is his darkest moment, a kind of 'all is lost' moment," McBride says. "The show stays pretty dark and stays true to that nature and it definitely starts out in a much darker place. Leaving April didn't have a positive toll on Kenny's life, so you're seeing the effects of that."
Rumor has it, Eastbound & Down Season Dos will push the envelope in terms of content even more than before and, honestly, fans probably wouldn't have it any other way. While McBride couldn't offer any spoilers, he assures the obvious: "Mine and Jody's sense of humor is so fucked up and distorted that I don't even get what's controversial sometimes, but I kind of step back after and say, 'Oh I can see why people think that's fucked up — that's terrible,'" McBride laughs. "We're in the zone on it and we have a very high bar for what personally offends us. We're fucked up."
Avoiding that awkward watching-a-dirty-movie-with-them-feeling, McBride admits he never showed the Season One pilot to his parents. They watched it on TV and, he says, have become fans. "They enjoyed it. They like the show so much that last time I was home [in Virginia], my mom proposed that we watch it with my grandmother. I had to put my foot down," he laughs. "That's the last thing I'd want to do. She's about 87-years-old."
Is Kenny Powers' character — the racist, coke-snorting, womanizing jerk — ever too much to play for McBride? "Kenny is a representation of what Jody, David and myself find humorous — it doesn't really represent us," he says. And with the comedic goldmine that is the cast and crew of writers and producers one might also wonder about the constant laughs that must ensue on set. McBride says Eastbound & Down is about a 75 to 25 script-to-improvisation ratio and they're usually "so behind they just have to get through it." As for advice for aspiring actors with a case of the giggles, McBride suggests (in true Kenny Powers form): "Just put a hand in your pocket and pinch a nut." | RDW
BOUNDLESS EASTBOUND• After what he considers "lack of success" in L.A., (before the Foot Fist Way), McBride returned to Virginia and worked as a substitute teacher. • Contrary to popular belief, Danny McBride says he's not behind the @KFUCKINGP Twitter account. "It's a fan; we're flattered," he says. And since we're talking Twitter, you might as well follow Stevie Janowski, too (@SFUCKINGJ). • Former Detroiter Wayne Kramer (of MC5) composed the musical score for the series. • McBride's mullet was made of extensions and hairpieces. • In addition to Eastbound & Down T-shirts, talking Kenny Powers bobbleheads can be purchased for $19.99 at store.hbo.com.