Foul of mouth and glossy of mullet, Danny McBride’s baseball-hurling alter-ego Kenny Powers won us over instantly when he first swaggered on to our screens in Eastbound & Down’s debut series in 2009. As the addictive US sitcom enters its fourth – and final – season, we sat down with McBride to talk about comedy heroes, on-set accidents and why he’s killing off Kenny.
Kenny Powers is one of television’s great antiheroes. Who’s your favourite ever TV character?
Gosh, that’s a tough one. When I was a kid there was this action show about a stuntman called The Fall Guy. I loved him. There was also a show called Manimal, about a guy who turned into a panther and other different animals and solved crime – he was pretty iconic. But then, Alan Partridge and definitely David Brent – those are the more recent characters that have resonated with me.
You’re a big fan of British comedy. What is it you love about it?
The main characters are usually a little more skewed than what you get in US sitcoms. In anything from Fawlty Towers to The Office, you’re dealing with main characters that aren’t ‘clean’, per se. They act like assholes and they’re sort of aloof to the world around them, and that’s something that, comedically, I’ve always been attracted to. Trying to find weird laughs and sympathy with someone who, for all intents and purposes, is the bad guy.
Kenny is famed for being, shall we say, outspoken. Do audiences love him because he says what they’re thinking?
Maybe. I mean, a lot of times you’ll get behind characters because they act in ways you wish you could. I don’t know if I would want to act in the way that Kenny does, but he deals with things that everybody deals with. Whether it is rejection, getting older or pining for a lost love. And in a weird way you can kind of get lost in that a little bit. It’s kind of funny to forget your own problems and watch somebody just melt down and explode.
Does it wind you up when people assume you’re like Kenny? He’s not the nicest of guys, whereas we’re sure you’re lovely…
[Laughs] It doesn’t p*ss me off. Ultimately, it’s a compliment because they think the character’s so realistic that there’s no way it could be a performance. I can’t do anything to change that, unless I sign up for a nice Disney film and show I can be a loving, caring father as well.
Most US comedies seem to go on forever, but this is the show’s final season. Why stop now?
Jody [Hill, Eastbound & Down’s co-creator] and I really dig writing for the show and this character, but I think we’ve fulfilled what we wanted to do. Whether there’ll be a life for Kenny outside of the TV show, maybe a movie a few years from now, it’s something we haven’t really decided on, but for now we feel like we’ve accomplished what we wanted to do with him.
Given the show’s cast [Will Ferrell, Craig Robinson and John Hawkes all star], are we right in thinking the wrap parties are debauched?
We throw wrap parties during the entire shoot. It’s like: “Oh we finished the first day of filming, let’s throw a party at the bar tonight.” It adds to the spirit of the show. It would be kind of weird to make something as filthy and outrageous as Eastbound if everyone was all buttoned up and serious. Working on a hangover while you create this show is a necessity.
Is it true you were actually offered a minor league baseball contract as Kenny Powers?
Yeah, that was after the first season. [It was] the Pensacola Pelicans, a minor league team in Florida. They offered me a contract to be a pitcher, but at that time I was terrible, I couldn’t throw for sh*t. I have got slightly better, but I’m still not good enough to pitch on a minor league team, so I avoided the contract out of embarrassment.
A roller-skating accident saw you hospitalised while filming the new season of Eastbound & Down. How do you plan to stay out of trouble in future?
I just write myself out of things that could be dangerous. On the set of Your Highness, when I saw we had to ride horses, I went home and wrote the horses out of the script. That’s the beauty of creating something – if you identify danger early enough, you can just write it out, and then you have a scene when you’re sitting in a bar instead of hang-gliding.
You’re known as a poster boy for marijuana. Can that be a burden?
[Laughs] Well, from showing up in Pineapple Express to a movie like Your Highness, you know, weed is definitely something that people gravitate towards.
If you had to quit weed or sex, which would you pick?
I think I could find a way to get over weed. I’ll get high on life.
The final series of Eastbound & Down continues on Fox, Thursdays at 10.30pm
(Image: Rex Features)