I overheard a woman describing how she could talk to animals, dead or alive. If they were dead it was easier if she had a photo, so someone was scrolling through their Facebook to find a picture of a deceased cat.
Edi Patterson and Danny McBride were ready to see me before this exchange reached its surely glorious conclusion, so I could only greet them with an apology for my distraction. But they were way ahead of me: they had already met the lady and Patterson was only sorry that time did not allow her to avail of the talents.
The afterlife of animals seems somehow appropriate for an interview about a family of evangelists. McBride and Patterson are discussing their hit HBO comedy The Righteous Gemstones which, after a very successful US run last autumn, is finally available to view this side of the Atlantic.
McBride, even if you can't instantly put a face to the name, has most likely either been in or written a film or TV series that you have seen, from Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder to Despicable Me and Kung Fu Panda 2. Patterson has written for Saturday Night Live, has appeared in many comedies and was most recently seen as Fran in Knives Out.
He and Patterson worked together in McBride's successful HBO comedy series Vice Principals, and in The Righteous Gemstones they play siblings, the older two children of TV evangelist and mega-church founder Eli Gemstone, played by John Goodman. They're both very engaged, and while people who pride themselves on being funny can be slow to laugh at other people's jokes, these two laugh enthusiastically and often.
The show opens with a marathon baptism ceremony in China, where it is evident that eldest brother Jesse (McBride) and youngest brother Kelvin (Adam DeVine) are strongly competitive about the right way to submerge the faithful. It is also swiftly evident that women are considered lesser, for their sister Judy (Patterson) is not allowed to minister; she is a secretary instead.
McBride also wrote the show and is very clear that the environment is secondary to the characters.
"This phenomenon of these mega-churches in America and what the optics of that are and the blatant hypocrisy of some of it… it just seemed like tonally it fit the kind of things we like to explore."
With a name like Danny McBride, one assumes he is an Irish Catholic, but while there is Irish heritage, he grew up Baptist in Georgia. The family were regular churchgoers but after his parents' divorce in the 1980s his mother felt less comfortable and while she still dropped him and his sister off to Sunday school, she stopped going to services. Shortly after that, the kids started to have doubts, and those persist for McBride today.
"When we were writing it we didn't have any interest in commenting on people's beliefs. You know, I don't know what I believe, [so I am in no] position to judge what other people do. Some people in my family are very religious - my aunt's a minister - so I was kind of wanting to write something that she could watch and see archetypes that she is familiar with from this world.
"So we very much had a mindset of not making the target of the comedy be people who believe in something."
Patterson, who grew up in Texas, adds that it is fundamentally about family. "It's largely about a family - a screwed-up family, like all families are - who happen to be in this world."
She plays the role of Judy with great relish and suggests there might be more to the suppression of her character's front-line family ambitions than just sexism,
"Probably that world in general does have a fair amount of sexism but I don't necessarily think the Gemstones have a ton of sexism. I think that Judy is a bit of a wild animal. If you look into their past, her mother ran the place with Eli. So it's not like they are trying to keep a woman out of the spotlight. It's just maybe they were afraid to let Judy be in it!"
The first series finds the family in the wake of the death of their wife, mother and real leader Aimee-Leigh (Jennifer Nettles). Throw in blackmail, murder, characters you love to hate, and Judy's murky past, and the sum total is a comedy you get properly invested in.
The Righteous Gemstones on Sky Comedy is available on NOW TV now
Sunday Indo Living