"The Righteous Gemstones"

From left, Adam DeVine, John Goodman, Edi Patterson and Danny McBride return in “The Righteous Gemstones.”

The trick to the ridiculousness of HBO’s “The Righteous Gemstones,” the cast says, is to play it straight.

And that may seem tough to fans of the comedy series about a famous over-the-top televangelist family, which began its second season Sunday,

“The key is to never, as the characters, be aware that anything is ridiculous or larger than life, to think that everything just is true and everything just is,” said Edi Patterson, who plays middle child Judy Gemstone in the show. “Then you have the benefit of it landing in a ridiculous way.

“If all we know is that we just mean what we say ... then we can say and do the most ridiculous, asinine things and it will, hopefully, come off as really funny. But our job is just to mean what we say.”


When the second season picks up, the Gemstone family has settled back into their old habits after last year’s blackmail scandal threatened to blow up their megachurch and their legacy. Patriarch and widower Eli Gemstone, played by John Goodman, is trying to keep everyone together.

His daughter Judy and BJ (Tim Baltz) are in newlywed bliss. Eli’s oldest son Jesse (show creator Danny McBride) and wife Amber (Cassidy Freeman) are picking up the pieces after their son’s betrayal. And Kelvin (Adam DeVine), Eli’s youngest son, is fighting for his father’s love.

“He, in his warped mind, thinks that if he has a group of muscular men follow him around and form the Kelvin Gemstone God Squad, where he does powerlifting routines in front of elementary school children at church functions, that will gain the respect of his family,” DeVine said.

This season, the chaotic forces come from the outside. Eli’s old friend Junior, played by Eric Roberts, has a money grab on the mind. A reporter (Jason Schwartzman) is looking to stir up trouble. And a megachurch power couple (Eric Andre and Jessica Lowe) is trying to raise $10 million to start a Christian resort.

Andre agrees that the goal is to play it straight while the world around them gets bigger and more ridiculous.

“I think if you’re hamming it up and winking at the camera, this thing would unravel quickly,” he said. “The more heightened and insane the premise, the more you have to hunker down and really play it genuinely and earnestly.”

Sometimes that’s harder than it sounds, like when Kelvin’s friend Keefe (Tony Cavalero) rips off his shirt to bear a giant “666” tattoo from his days as a satanist, or when Eli’s brother-in-law “Baby” Billy (Walton Goggins) does pretty much anything. In real life, Cavalero said he once forgot to scrub off the “666” makeup before taking a job on the South Carolina beach near their set, scaring the locals.


At the heart of “The Righteous Gemstones,” though, is a father and his three children, just trying to get by.

“You could turn it 15 degrees this way and it’s a pretty sad drama,” DeVine said.

Junior, who Roberts described as “a country bumpkin who got tall,” represents what could have been for the Gemstones if they hadn’t struck it rich with God.

“What you see is what you get with Junior. Junior has no panache, he has no finesse, has no style,” Roberts said. “Everything is about money, where this whole world is concerned. It’s about money. It’s about security. It’s about valuable knowledge about other people.”

Just like you cannot separate the Gemstones from the church, you cannot separate them from their money either.

“As long as our touchstone is the truth of these people, then I don’t know (if there can be) too much,” Patterson said.“The kernel of it all has to come from the truth of the characters.”

Copyright 2022 Tribune Content Agency.


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