How ‘The Righteous Gemstones’ Captured the Year 2000 Panic

How ‘The Righteous Gemstones’ Captured the Year 2000 Panic

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SPOILER ALERT: This story contains spoilers for “Interlude III,” the fifth episode of “The Righteous Gemstones” Season 3, now airing on Max.

HBO’s “The Righteous Gemstones” follows a rowdy family of Charleston, SC-based televangelists who anticipate the impending departure of their patriarch, Dr. Eli Gemstone (John Goodman). Throughout all three seasons, outside figures work to take down the Gemstone family, as the adult children, Jesse (Danny McBride), Judy (Edi Patterson) and Kelvin (Adam DeVine), fight and try to prove their worth to their father and community.

The third season picks up after the Gemstones have retained complete financial control of the Christian-themed resort, Zion’s Landing, as the three Gemstone children compete to replace their father. But in the fifth season episode, “Interlude III,” the series returns to 2000, just after the year 2000, and offers another look at the Gemstones’ tension with the Montgomery family.

The previous period features the crucial moments that contributed to the demise of Eli’s strained relationship with his younger sister May-May Montgomery (née Gemstone), played by Kristen Johnston. As the episode begins, the audience quickly learns that the Gemstones attempted to “rescue” the faithful from the impending emergency of the year 2000 – and as a result made a profit selling “survival buckets of The year 2000”. As Eli and his wife, Aimee-Leigh (Jennifer Nettles) reap the benefits, Eli’s brother-in-law, Peter (Steve Zahn), deals with the consequences of buying $25,000 worth of buckets at the unbeknownst to his wife May-May. After the episode ends, Peter takes extreme measures to remedy his disastrous investment.

Talk with Varietydirector David Gordon Green, costume designer Christina Flannery, VFX supervisor Bruce Branit and casting directors Sherry Thomas and Lisa Mae Fincannon explained how they collaborated on the epistle to transport audiences to the year 2000, in the series comic from creator and star Danny McBride.

David Gordon Green, director and executive producer

Director David Green Gordon with John Goodman, J. Gaven Wilde and Keely Marshall.

David Green Gordon returned to direct the series’ third flashback episode and once again took audiences back in time as the Gemstones entered the new millennium. As the episode is set in 2000, Gordon Green explained how he and McBride tried to reference film and TV from the 1980s and 1990s.

As the show’s director and one of its executive producers, Gordon Green said he’s looking at merging genres and called out the episode’s pop culture references – allusions to “Carrie” by Brian De Palma, Olivia Newton-John in “Grease” and “Halloween,” both the original John Carpenter movies and his revival.

“We’re not shooting it as a comedy,” Gordon Green said. “I think part of what gives it a bit of scope and unlikely interest is because it’s not just about putting the camera in the place of the comedy and telling the joke.

“It allows something to be unexpectedly exciting or dramatic, and not fall into genre tropes,” he continued. “And then being able to take inspiration from all the genres and bring it in there, [rather than] make a show that could be stereotyped and that could be technically, traditionally performed.

Director David Green Gordon with Emma Shannon (young Judy).

The final revision to typical Gordon Green tropes occurs in the episode’s final scene, when Peter attempts to rob a bank. Rather than follow him into the bank, Gordon Green positioned the camera in the restaurant booth where Peter had sat moments before. With a barrier protected, the audience watches as Peter unsuccessfully, and almost fatally, attempts to rob the bank to recover the funds he had misinvested. Gordon Green explained how this final sequence involved Zahn, a stuntman and personal friend, to make sure the “Texas change” went off without a hitch.

“We’re just trying to raise the bar and do something different,” Gordon Green said. “It was something you had to plan, choreograph and do safely, so no one got run over. Then you hope the lighting stays the same so you can do it all in one take.

He added: “It was cool to end it [that way]. We always try to build it up so that there’s a bit of a kickoff and a jump at the end of an episode, so there’s a bit of opera.

Christine Flannery, costume design

Jennifer Nettles as Aimee-Leigh Gemstone.

Costume designer Christina Flannery wanted to pay homage to her Southern upbringing, as well as the fashions of her teenage years at the turn of the century. “If I’m going to do something that’s a period [piece] he To be the period. said Flannery. “You have to do a lot of research, even down to the waistline. So everything is mostly authentically vintage.

Flannery sifted through costume warehouses, army surplus stores, country house catalogs and Urban Outfitters’ limited collections – as well as searching thrift stores in Southpole, FUBU and JNKO to find pieces that would invoke 2000s nostalgia.

Scouring physical stores, online and print catalogs, Flannery had pop culture inspiration for each character: she modeled Jesse after Justin Timberlake, Judy after Britney Spears, and Gemstone matriarch Aimee. -Leigh, based on Tammy Faye Bakker.

Creating a preteen girl who strived to be like Britney allowed Flannery to create custom pieces, including the entire opening scene of young Judy. While Flannery needed to find several of Judy’s teal metallic pants, she customized the character’s bandana top and created little details that paid homage to “that era,” she said: “There’s the suspenders. of sticky bras that go with it.You would match the strap of your bra to your thongs and belt.

Emma Shannon as young Judy.

While Judy and the Gemstone family were based on recognizable characters – and were the focal point of every flashback episode – Flannery insisted that those in the orbit of the Gemstones maintain the integrity of their characters, their level of class and period. While exploring Amber’s (Keely Marshall) past, Flannery said, “She comes from a poor background. But what’s great about Amber’s character is that she has this country upbringing – but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have that special upbringing yet. punch.”

Bruce Branit, visual effects

John Goodman as Eli Gemstone.

Turning back time 23 years meant Eli Gemstone had to appear as a father to two teenagers. From the show’s inception and constant use of flashbacks, VFX supervisor Bruce Branit worked with Gordon Green to age John Goodman to transport audiences back in time.

A seasoned visual effects specialist, but first-time contributor to comedy, Branit noted how “aging is almost more important for a comedy than a sci-fi show – because if it gets in the way, it breaks the show. “.

Branit explained that creating this “subtle and realistic” effect typically takes eight to 12 weeks, and said the VFX team asks to shoot the flashback episodes first in preparation for the tedious process. “Fortunately, we have a team that understands why we’re asking these things. Because it gets better the more time you put into it.

Adding to the lengthy process, Branit said, “You have John Goodman on camera, a national treasure, and the last thing you want to do is alter his performance in any way.”

Branit quoted a crucial close-up from Goodman, in which Peter asks Eli if he lied to him. “It’s so close, and Goodman’s performance is so perfectly nuanced. He wouldn’t lie. He’s that preacher, and he’s totally trustworthy – but he doesn’t answer the question. He doesn’t give anything away. He’s got that little twinkle in his eye.

Branit continued, “I knew it was going to be very tricky, but it’s one of the best shots I think I’ve ever seen. It’s not just because [the team’s] the work is wonderful: they hold every pore in her face and her skin tightens and her eyes sparkle. That’s because we didn’t change his performance at all – we just made him look a little younger.

Sherry Thomas and Lisa Mae Fincannon, foundry

J. Gaven Wilde as young Jesse.

The pilot for “The Righteous Gemstones” had McBride and Goodman attached before its series order, and Sherry Thomas and Lisa Mae Fincannon were the heads of the casting team that landed the four main Gemstones. But once they realized younger versions would be needed, Thomas and Fincannon were tasked with scouring the southwest and southeast to find the characters’ younger counterparts.

Along with California-based Thomas and North Carolina-based Fincannon, they worked with McBride, Gordon Green, and executive producer Jody Hill to delegate the characters they would research and choose, including young Jesse, Judy, Kelvin, and Amber.

Thomas explained how casting children differs from casting adults. “Obviously you want a likeness, but it’s more the nuance and the spirit of who the character is,” she said.

Goodman, Wilde, Shannon, Marshall, Nettles and Tristan Borders (young Kelvin).

“The fun thing about casting kids, especially with Danny, Jody and David, is that it’s not so much about the performance as it’s about the essence of the kid,” Fincannon added. , which found young Jesse (J. Gaven Wilde) and young Amber (Marshall).

She continued, “The minute Gaven walked in, I screamed when I saw him. I literally screamed because he had [Danny’s] same curly hair. But it was also his essence when he was doing his interview and the way he spoke, with his hands. I was like, does he know Dany ?

Thomas explained that due to the adult-themed nature of “The Righteous Gemstones”, the team is having conversations with agents and managers to ensure there is a transparent conversation with the parents of the actors. Thomas said the crew confirms children’s understanding of what being in a Danny McBride production entails.

And while casting the kids involves a longer process, “Danny doesn’t care,” Thomas said. “He just wants the best actor for the role.”