15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘The Righteous Gemstones’
In 2019, a black comedy created by Danny McBride hit HBO Max and had us all rolling as we watched McBride, Edi Patterson, and Adam DeVine play the three Gemstone siblings vying for a seat at the table of their father’s megachurch empire. It was Succession but with Jesus and, by Season Two, wrestling — all intertwined with some good ol’ Southern crime.
With the third season of The Righteous Gemstones finally out, we’ve got a collection plate of trivia about the show that goes hard on the worst kind of televangelists...
McBride Always Wanted to Include the Wrestling Angle
In Season Two, we learn about patriarch Eli Gemstone (John Goodman) and his sordid days as both a pro wrestler and a thug before he eventually became an Evangelical mogul. McBride revealed that he had wanted to use the wrestling angle from the very beginning of the show. “It was always a concept that I had flirted with that I thought was part of (Eli’s) story,” McBride told Paste. “I feel like the union of Aimee Leigh and Eli, Eli comes from kind of a more rough-and-tumble background. Didn’t have a lot of resources and had to do what he had to do to get by. And Aimee Leigh came from an area where she was a child star, and she had things that Eli didn’t, and it was the union of those two backgrounds that created this world. So we always had an idea that Eli, in his past, was kind of a gangster. And that’s how he runs his operation, too.”
The Line Too Filthy for Edi Patterson
Judy Gemstone is known for her, uh, colorful utterances — “Guess I’ll just get someone from the crowd to finger me” — but there was one line the brave actress Edi Patterson just couldn’t say. It happened in Season Two as Judy’s taking care of her Aunt Tiffany. At one point, while drawing Aunt Tiff a bath, Judy was supposed to say, “You need to make sure you scrape the white stuff out of your coochie.” Patterson said she simply couldn’t do it. Instead, she ended up reminding her aunt to wash her “ABCs”: “Ankles, butthole, coochie.”
McBride and Patterson Wrote the ‘Misbehavin'’ Song
McBride revealed that he and Patterson came up with and wrote the entire song and that folks on set didn’t know it and were all trying to look it up on Shazam.
Walton Goggins Was As Surprised at Macaulay Culkin’s Cameo as Everyone Else
Goggins (who plays Baby Billy Freeman) revealed that he had no idea Culkin was cast as the adult son his character abandoned as a child. “He’s a national treasure, man,” Goggins told The Ringer. “When I found out, I was like, ‘Are you fucking kidding me right now?’”
How They Did That Bee Scene
The cold opening of the final episode of Season One saw the Gemstones lose their mother, only for the scene to devolve into the absurd, thanks to a single bee. McBride came up with the idea of using a bee to ensue chaos, and director Jody Hill said that the scene kind of played out itself. “At the beginning, it was very planned out, with Eli swatting the bee and Jesse smashing the first monitor,” Hill told Fast Company. “This sort of set the tone. After that, it was up to the actors. They really deserve the credit for bringing that level of detail to the performance. By this time in the shooting process, they had been living as these characters for quite a while. It seemed they all knew specifically how each of them would respond. The overall direction of the scene was in the script, so everybody kind of knew the dramatic arc, but a lot of the things they were saying when the bee comes into it just came from the actors in the moment.”
The Original Concept Wasn’t Going to Be About the Gemstone Family
While speaking to GoldDerby about casing Patterson in The Righteous Gemstones, McBride said that he originally thought of bringing her on as his wife and that the show would be about this one minister (his character, Jesse) and his wife instead of a family of televangelists. McBride (who had worked with Patterson on Vice Principals) said that when he started writing the pilot, he felt that the role wasn’t funny enough for the actress, and that is what led him to come up with the family dynamic instead.
Kelvin’s ‘God Squad’ Is Based on McBride’s Childhood Experience
“I went to church growing up as a kid,” McBride explained. “And yeah, there was this touring muscle man group in the 1980s that basically would rip phone books and stuff and show you what the power of Christ could do for you. And it always made an impression on me. I always thought that it was just kind of incredible.”
Coincidentally, Adam DeVine explored a similar concept in the “Lord’s Force” episode of his previous series, Workaholics.
The Gemstone Siblings Did a Holiday Sketch for HBO
As part of a promo for its second season that dropped in January 2022, HBO Max (as it was known) released a Christmas Greetings sketch featuring the three siblings doing take after take to try and get it right.
John Goodman Got Hurt Doing His Own Stunt
While Goodman said he’s had a lot of fun playing Daddy Gemstone, he got hurt during one of his on-screen fights. “Ego, my ego,” Goodman explained when asked how he ended up as a casualty. “They wanted to stick in a stuntman, and they did at a couple of points. But I was like, ‘No, I want to do this.’ End of the evening, I was so tired, the fight was perfectly safe, but I slipped in the gravel, and I couldn’t get my balance, and I wound up headfirst in the back of a truck. Went to a hospital to get a brain scan and all that stuff. I was fairly proud of it.”
McBride Has Compared Churches to Hollywood
In an interview with GQ, McBride explained: “In Hollywood, you constantly see that storytelling has to evolve in order to keep pace with the audience. It’s interesting to see that something like church has to do the same thing. Churches have rock climbing walls and concerts and all this stuff, and you’re like, well yeah, of course, because you’re appealing to people who are my age now, and my memory of church is that it’s boring.
“Some of the churches I would see would strip out religious symbols and stuff like the cross because they didn’t want to offend people or turn them off. That also seems interesting to me, something getting so big that it has to strip away some of the essentials of what it’s there for to be more palatable for people. I feel like a lot of the characters we explore do similar things, and there’s a similar irony there in some of the stuff we’ve explored.”
There’s Not a Lot of Improv in the Show
McBride told CNN that, of all his shows, The Righteous Gemstones has the least amount of improvisation going on. “I don’t know if it’s because there’s just so much going on and there’s so many spinning plates that there’s an efficiency sometimes to the scenes, but everything is on the page,” he explained. “The scenes that we probably end up riffing the most are the church lunch scenes, because you’ll have the whole entire cast there, and it’s kind of hard to not get people riled up.”
McBride Said That He Got a Lot of Support from Churches Following the Show’s Debut
“It’s funny. Any type of response I’ve gotten from the religious community has been supportive of it,” the actor said when asked about folks’ opinions of the show. “They’ve been of the mindset that they like that the show doesn’t take potshots at religion, but these assholes are the butt of the joke. And I think if you’re a religious person, you don’t like to see a megachurch pastor profit off of the good word.”
McBride Visited a Bunch of Megachurches to Learn More About Their Inner-Workings
The creator said he visited a bunch of churches and megachurches to get more information about them. “I did go to a few megachurches, and I talked to a few different pastors. My aunt is a minister in a big church. I don’t think it’s really a megachurch, but it’s a pretty massive church in Atlanta. And so I did get a little behind the scenes on that and just sort of talking to them about what they think about the state of the business and all that.”
He also found out how these big churches keep themselves afloat: “I asked them, ‘Well, how do you know whether a church is successful or not?’ It’s all about the numbers of how many people they get, and the numbers need to go up every year. And I was like, ‘Well, what happens if the numbers don’t?’ Well, you just replace who’s leading the church. I’d never thought about church as a business that way, but I’m sure it’s the same rules that a Starbucks has to abide by.”
The Canceling of ‘Roseanne’ Led to Goodman Joining the Show
If it weren’t for ABC canceling Roseanne, Goodman might never have played the Gemstones patriarch. “About two days after ABC shut Roseanne down, Danny called,” Goodman has explained. “I’d seen him and just admired him. I read the script. I said, ‘Yeah, I’m down.’ There’s a lot of Eli I didn’t like. He’s sanctimonious, and he’s closed down, but I enjoyed the atmosphere.”
McBride Loves Creating Shows About Individuals with an Inflated Sense of Self
“A lot of the shows that I’ve dealt with before, Eastbound or Vice Principals, that’s very much in line with the type of characters we’ve explored, these characters who have an inflated sense of self,” the actor once explained. “That particular type of person, I find, is fascinating, the idea of a pastor who sees themself as a rock star. Like a pastor that sees themself as bigger than the message they’re trying to sell. It seems like such a contradiction to what the basic principles of what they’re spouting are.”