McBride, Gog­gins re­turn as class act of Vice Prin­ci­pals

Times Colonist - - Television -

NEW YORK — At the end of last sea­son’s fiercely ab­sorb­ing Vice Prin­ci­pals, ad­min­is­tra­tor Neal Gamby was left sprawled on the pave­ment of the North Jack­son High park­ing lot in a pool of blood, gunned down by an un­known as­sailant.

Could this be pay­back from Dr. Belinda Brown, the for­mer North Jack­son prin­ci­pal who was over­thrown by Gamby in ca­hoots with his some­time-ally Lee Rus­sell (even as they stayed bit­ter ri­vals, both vy­ing for Brown’s job)?

Noth­ing is so sim­ple on Vice Prin­ci­pals.

“It’s not like there’s just one per­son Gamby can point to who could have done it,” says Danny McBride, who plays him, and can’t help but chuckle. What’s so funny about at­tempted mur­der? For starters, Gamby is such an in­dis­crim­i­nate jerk! “It’s like he’s rubbed EVERY­BODY he’s ever en­coun­tered so wrong that ANY­ONE could have done it.”

Upon his re­cov­ery, Neal will spend this sec­ond and con­clud­ing nine-episode sea­son, which pre­mières tonight on HBO, try­ing to flush out, and wreak vengeance on, whomever it was who tried to off him.

He will also re­sume his dogged cam­paign (in part­ner­ship with Lee when they’re not in cut­throat com­pe­ti­tion) to land the grand prize: his name on the North Jack­son prin­ci­pal’s of­fice door.

Among the many things that make Vice Prin­ci­pals so funny, yet so poignant: No one could be less fit for the job than this mis­an­thropic lout — un­less it is Lee, a Machi­avel­lian dandy.

“Con­sid­er­ing those guys’ men­tal state, some of the stu­dents are prob­a­bly more ad­vanced than ei­ther of them,” says McBride.

“I’d say MOST,” says Wal­ton Gog­gins, who plays Lee, and busts out laugh­ing.

“Al­most ALL of them,” McBride hastily agrees.

A cre­ator and writer of Vice Prin­ci­pals, McBride (East­bound & Down, This is the End) has joined co-star Gog­gins (The Shield, Jus­ti­fied, Six) to report on get­ting back to school for this se­ries, and to ac­count for how the show is in a class by it­self.

For in­stance: The half-hour for­mat and its reign­ing pair of knuck­le­heads sug­gest that Vice Prin­ci­pals is a com­edy. Which it is. But isn’t.

For all its out­ra­geous­ness, the se­ries is solidly grounded, and pop­u­lated with de­cep­tively well-rounded char­ac­ters played by a solid cast in­clud­ing Busy Phillips, Shea Whigham, Kim­berly He­bert Gre­gory, Ge­or­gia King, Sheaun McKin­ney and Dale Dickey, along with the su­perb McBride and Gog­gins.

“This is a com­plex char­ac­ter study of two morally ob­tuse hu­man be­ings,” Gog­gins sums up.

“We use the broad com­edy just to trick the au­di­ence,” says McBride, “to make the view­ers think they’re go­ing to get the usual run-of-the-mill com­edy — and then we sucker punch them with some real drama. Sud­denly, they have no idea what the show’s go­ing to take se­ri­ously and what it’s NOT go­ing to take se­ri­ously.

“Once we get the au­di­ence there, they’re just putty in our hands, and we can take them any­where.”

Gog­gins says “any­where” also ap­plies to him as an ac­tor in­hab­it­ing a char­ac­ter he doesn’t need to pi­geon­hole.

“You can go any­where with the role and not judge the out­come. It’s no more com­pli­cated than that.

“But I don’t like the word ‘ac­tor,’ to be hon­est,” he con­fides. “All of a sud­den it means an oc­cu­pa­tion and that’s a whole set of is­sues I think ‘sto­ry­teller’ is more ap­pro­pri­ate and ac­cu­rate.”

“I never look at any­thing I write in terms of a genre,” McBride said. “I just don’t think life is that way. Some of the fun­ni­est stuff can hap­pen in the mo­ments of great­est tragedy.

“Lee and Neal are morally rep­re­hen­si­ble,” Gog­gins de­clares. “But where they will get to on the other side of this jour­ney is sub­lime.”

HBO

Wal­ton Gog­gins, left, and Danny McBride in Vice Prin­ci­pals.

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