Danny McBride’s HBO series The Righteous Gemstones is back with Season 2 (streaming Sundays at 10:00 p.m. ET on Crave in Canada), which introduces a brilliantly funny storyline - Adam Devine’s character Kelvin and his God Squad of musclemen for Christ.
Trying to advance his youth pastor role, the youngest Gemstone son has acquire a sort of group of apostles that he trains and homes on the Gemstone property, managing the men with his best friend and pseudo-assistant Keefe (Tony Cavalero).
“Stick to the salad, we swim laps after lunch,” Kelvin tells his crew of men in the first episode before a post-church lunch. “We nourish our bodies for Him.”
“We lift, we pray and we are mindful of our diets,” Kelvin goes on to say later in the season.
But these groups of buff, athletic Christian men actually exist.
McBride revealed that he based this part of the story on a travelling group of “religious musclemen” that came to his church when he was a kid.
“They literally would go up there and they'd rip phonebooks, and they would show you what you can do with the power of Christ, and even as a kid, I thought it was so funny and like, kind of awesome too,” McBride explained. “I never forgot it, so it worked, it had an influence on me.”
“So when we were coming up with what Kelvin is into now this season, he has these sort of delusions that he is some kind of Christ figure, so it made sense that he would have assembled like a band of apostles, and that it would all be based on physical strength. It just wrote itself from there, you just put some muscles in and then everything takes care of itself.”
For Adam Devine, he was “crying laughing” when he first saw the God Squad in the script.
“You just know exactly what it's gonna be, as soon as you hear that I have a Kelvin Gemstone God Squad,” Devine said. “It was very fun shooting with all those guys, everybody was great.”
“The amount of oil that we used was, I mean we must have had to ship extra oil in from elsewhere, because I don't think we had that much oil in Charleston, South Carolina, because we sure did use a lot of it.”
Tony Cavalero said that getting to dive into something that sounds so “absurd,” but is actually based on something very real, was a highlight for the actor.
“I think when I first read it, I was like, ‘Ooh, Keefe is going to be really jealous of this group of bigger, buffer, sexier men than himself,’” Tony Cavalero said. “Obviously it's hilarious.”
“To get to see the behind the scenes backstabbing and inner workings of it, and all the weird rules they have, and power struggles, it's just, Oh my god it's so fun this season with that group of guys,” Cavalero said.
Kelvin and Keefe's relationship transcends any labels
While we definitely get to see how Kelvin and Keefe’s relationship grows and develops, it’s still not entirely clear what that dynamic really is, and truly, that just makes this part of the story even funnier and unique.
“For me, the dynamic of Keefe and Kelvin is so fun and romantic, but brotherly,….we don't know what it is, communally,” Cavalero said.
“The weird sort of sexual tension that is between these guys,...[Kelvin] is too deep in [the church] to ever act on those feelings, but he still, obviously, has some kind of feelings, or else there wouldn't be that weird tension that we've established,” Devine added. “Plus, Tony's a beefcake, it's not hard for me.”
This God Squad is just one amplified example of what makes the concept of a megachurch family just the perfect setting for a TV show, which, as McBride describes, is just “inherently interesting.”
“It's kind of wild to see this spectacle and this sort of showmanship and celebrity, paired with something as ancient and old as religion,” McBride said. “Sometimes I can't get my head around it and I guess that's what attracted me to it, was this idea of pastors seeing themselves as a celebrity.”
“A lot of the characters that I've worked on before, they always have this inflated sense of themselves. A megachurch pastor who sees themselves as a rockstar is sort of like the epitome of that sort of flawed ego.”
Character to watch in Season 2 in story that has 'no borders'
One character to watch as Season 2 unfolds is BJ, played by Tim Baltz, now husband of Judy Gemstone (Edi Patterson) after they got married at Disney World.
As the season progresses, BJ becomes more engrained in the family and, surprisingly, even calls them out of their dysfunction, after basically being a punching bag for Judy throughout Season 1.
“In Season 2, that confidence is going to kind of hit the brick wall that is the rest of Judy's family,” Baltz explained. “So you're rooting for him while knowing that collision courses have been set in motion.”
“It was really fun to know that I'm puffing my chest out a little bit and some of the results are going to be the same, but I have an opportunity to win over the family… He's still doubting himself a little bit, not as much as Season 1, and he takes a few risks, and some of them payoff and some of them don't.”
Season 2 of The Righteous Gemstones certainly gets even better, and even more absurd (in the best way) as the season progresses.
Edi Patterson, who not only plays Judy Gemstone but writes on the show as well, says there are times when there are “literally no borders” in terms of where the story can go, which we see more of as the story progresses through Season 2.
“If [Danny McBride] tells me there's no borders on this, I really will take it to where no fences are up,” Patterson explained. “I think that's part of why we end up with such wild things is we sort of try to forget that there are rules, and we try to forget that humans have to follow any rules in life.”
“If you go without borders like that, and then you remember that the people in these roles are going to be playing it really real, then it makes this interesting alchemy of people earnestly and for real doing crazy things, but they just mean it and that's just their life.”