Created, written, and executive produced by Danny McBride, the HBO series The Righteous Gemstones continues to follow the televangelist Gemstone family and their internal struggle over which of them will get to take over the megachurch from family patriarch Eli (John Goodman). Always under threat by outsiders who wish to destroy their empire, a mysterious figure from Eli’s past (Eric Roberts) with clearly questionable motives shows up, making the Gemstones wonder whether he’s friend or foe.
During this interview with Collider, Adam Devine, who plays youngest son Kelvin Gemstone, talked about how he feels season two is even stronger than the first season, getting back into the Gemstone groove again after a long break from shooting due to COVID, what he most enjoys about playing his character, Kelvin’s unique fashion sense, working with so many muscular men, the Kelvin-Keefe (Tony Cavalero) dynamic, and how they try to keep the comedy from going completely off the rails. He also talked about the upcoming Pitch Perfect TV series that will center around his character from the franchise.
Collider: Especially after such a long break between seasons, what are you most excited about fans getting to see with season two?
ADAM DEVINE: I’m just so excited to be back. It was such a long break. We were about to start shooting season two, and then the pandemic happens. And then, they were like, “We’ll come back in three weeks.” Obviously, no one came back in three weeks. It was about a year before we actually were able to start shooting the second season. It’s been a long time and I think Danny [McBride] did a great job of really spending that time to punch up the scripts and to make this season shine. I think this season is even stronger than season one, and I love season one.
When everything shut down filming, things were in limbo for a bit and for a while people weren’t sure if anything would actually be able to film again.
DEVINE: At the beginning, it was like, “It’ll blow over. Don’t worry about it.” And then, a few weeks later, it was like, “It’s not blowing over. The world’s ending. Buy the toilet paper.” Luckily, we got past that part. It feels good to be back.
What was that first day back like? Did you have a moment of panic that you wouldn’t remember how to act or who the character is?
DEVINE: I definitely had to go watch the season again. I’m not from the south, so I didn’t have the accent. I was like, “How do I sound again? I know that I have an accent, but what is it?” So, initially, there was a little bit of, “Do I know how to memorize lines?” It had been so long. Acting is like a muscle, where the more you do it, the better you get at it, and I’d never taken a year off before. It was weird, but it all came back. It was like riding a bike. It came back pretty quick.
So, when you finally did get back on set and into this wardrobe and back with these actors, did it then become immediate and click right away?
DEVINE: Yeah, it clicked pretty much right away. Danny is just a fantastic boss. The tone that he sets on set is that you can fuck up, and it’s okay, and we’ll get it. He’s not precious in a way that some people are. It’s just a really fun vibe on set. Just coming back and it being that once again, you’re like, “Okay, we’re gonna find our legs, and we’ll be fine.”
What do you most enjoy about playing this character and his relationships? Kelvin Gemstone is definitely a unique guy.
DEVINE: Well said. Yes, he is unique. For me, it’s the hair and the clothes, all day long. I love him. It seems like he’s the true believer in the family, him and Eli. For him, he really wants things to go well and has the right intentions, but does not know how to execute those intentions. He wants to gain the respect of his family, and the way he does that is by forming the Kelvin Gemstone God Squad of muscular, buff men covered in oil, doing power-lifting routines in front of elementary school kids at church functions. That’s how he thinks he’s gonna get the respect of his family. He’s misguided, but he’s a good guy at his core.
Kelvin is someone who has a very specific wardrobe and fashion sense. What do you think of his style? Because his style is so specific to him, is it something where you immediately know if you put something on that doesn’t feel like him?
DEVINE: Yeah. His style is out of control. Sarah Trost is our costume designer, and she does an amazing job. She pushes me. I dress in t-shirts and polos, and just normal stuff. I don’t take many huge swings when it comes to my fashions. With Kelvin, that’s all he takes. He’s trying to hit a grand slam, every time he walks out the door. I’m like, “I don’t know. Is this too much?” And she’s like, “It absolutely isn’t.” To her credit, when I watch it on TV, it’s so funny. He’s a guy who has so much money that maybe he does buy a leopard print beret and wear that around and act like an Army man for the day. It’s really fun to play a character that is that insane, when it comes to his fashion choices.
What do you think it says about his level of insecurity in this family that he feels the need to start what I refer to as the Muscle Man Farm? Obviously, he wants to feel like he’s in charge of something, but what does it say that that’s what he feels he needs to do?
DEVINE: He’s wildly insecure, and that’s what I love playing most about him. Really, really insecure people are inherently funny because they don’t know how transparent it is. Everyone is going, “Obviously, he’s a really insecure person and that’s why he’s doing this.” And he’s like, “I’m tricking them all. Look at me go. They think I’m so cool.” Meanwhile, he just has muscular dudes in his yard, farming and doing pull-ups, as if that’s a cool thing.
What was it like to work with all of those guys and to have such very manly men around? Was that just insane?
DEVINE: Oh, yeah. It was just insane. It was mostly just me being like, “I should have worked out more during the pandemic.” I had time to prep my body, to maybe get in better shape, so I wouldn’t look so out of place, but I think that’s part of what’s so funny about Kelvin. He thinks he’s this bodybuilder, tough, muscle guy when he’s not really that at all. He’s the worst version of that.
What is the deal between Kelvin and Keefe? I love that we get to see more of them and more of an evolution between them this season, but does he have an official title and duty, at this point?
DEVINE: I don’t know if he has a title. I think he’s just my best friend. Kelvin is the type of guy that doesn’t have many close friends, or any close friends. Keefe will follow him to the ends of the world, so he keeps him close. Is there a lot of sexual tension there? It certainly seems like it. And I don’t know if that’s me and Tony Cavalero, just being two hot, sexy hunks, or if that’s in the script, but I think it’s in the script. I really enjoy those scenes. It’s a weird will they or won’t they thing to play that is just inherently very funny.
What have you enjoyed about working with Tony Cavalero? You guys have one of the strangest dynamics on TV. Do you improvise a lot? Is all of that scripted?
DEVINE: Yes, a lot of it is scripted. Danny and the whole writing team do such a great job of having a very tight, well-crafted script as a jumping off point. That’s how they treat it. We make sure we get it how they like it from the script, and then it’s a loose set, and we can improv different things and go down different roads. On other shows, they’re like, “Just stick to the page,” but Danny is pretty cool about letting us try to find it in our own way. And Tony is a super funny, very, very talented guy. He was at Groundlings in L.A., and he’s been a pleasure to work with. He’s become a really good buddy of mine.
It’s one of those dynamics that you have to fully go all-in on because there really is just no halfway with it.
DEVINE: Oh, no, you’ve gotta fully commit to that relationship, or else it just doesn’t work.
Everyone sees Kelvin as a joke and this season, he seems to be aware of that fact. What is it like for him to have that realization? How does that affect him, and how is he handling that?
DEVINE: He’s not handling it well, I’ll say that. He’s not handling it well at all. He wants the respect of his dad so much, but when he doesn’t get it and his dad is poo-pooing his idea of taking his men on these missions, like taking the jet to the Judean desert to walk 40 days and 40 nights through the desert, his dad is like, “No, you’re not gonna take your muscle boys to the desert, so you can walk around and pretend you’re doing something.” Admittedly, that is probably pretty good advice because that does seem like a dumb idea, but it was just the way he did it. He embarrassed Kelvin, and Kelvin has so much animosity towards Eli now, that they have it out.
You work with a lot of really funny people on this show, and you’re also a really funny person yourself. When you’re working with people like that, and you’re in the moment, does it feel like everyone is coming at it from the same place, or does it feel like everyone approaches comedy a little bit differently?
DEVINE: It seems like how comedy works is that you’re working at the top of your intelligence, using all the resources that you have, meaning everything that’s happened to you in your life, so everyone’s gonna come at it with a little different angle. That’s why it’s important to have a steady hand at the helm, like Danny McBride and David Gordon Green and Jody Hill. These guys are incredible. It’s cool for us to come at it from every which way and have them be steering the ship and making sure that we’re not going off the rails because, speaking for myself, I will.
Back in September 2021, it was announced that you’d be starring in and producing a Pitch Perfect TV series for your character, Bumper. How are things going with that? Could you ever have imagined, when you first started playing that role, that not only would there be this trilogy, but that you’d have a TV show out of it?
DEVINE: No way in hell did I think this was gonna be a thing that was gonna happen. I wouldn’t have thought of it, in a million years, but I always loved playing that character. I never shot down or poo-pooed the idea. So, when that opportunity came around, I was like, “I think this could be a really fun thing to try.” And so, we’re already deep in the process. We have scripts coming out. At the top of the New Year, I’m gonna ahead off to Germany and become Bumper Allen once again.
What are you most looking forward doing with that, getting to explore that character deeper? We obviously don’t get enough of any of the characters in those movies because there are so many characters, so what are you looking forward to?
DEVINE: I’m excited to see him grow a little bit. Bumper was pretty one-dimensional. He was just a maniac. And then, in the second movie, you see a little crack in the facade of a guy that is just so insecure that he has to put on this little Butterball of braggadocio. He’s this little guy who’s just singing and dancing and is way too intense for his own good, and obviously there’s some underlying insecurity there. So, I’m excited to watch him. What happened in those seven or eight years between the last time we saw him to now. I’m assuming quite a bit. I’m really excited that the scripts are coming in great. Megan Amram, who was a producer on The Good Place and Parks and Rec, is showrunning the show, and she’s doing an amazing job. I’m excited to shoot that.
The Righteous Gemstones airs on Sunday nights on HBO.
They also talk about who the most insecure Gemstone is.
About The Author