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Eastbound & Down’s Danny McBride on the Thrill of Meeting Marilyn Manson, the Agony of Cornrows

In the first season of HBO's Eastbound & Down, disgraced former major-leaguer Kenny Powers framed his assistant for drunk driving, snorted cocaine in a middle-school cafeteria, and abandoned his one true love at a gas station. Already in the show's current, south-of-the-border second season, he's shot his assistant, mounted a comeback pitching for Mexican team the Charros, and found new romance with a Bob Seger–appreciating stripper. So where to from here? We spoke with Eastbound star and co-creator Danny McBride last Thursday about those K-Swiss ads and Kenny Powers' new hairstyle.

Is there anything that's off-limits for Kenny Powers? Have you ever talked with [co-creator] Jody Hill about drawing foul lines? Could Kenny kill a guy?
We honestly let Kenny Powers lead. We don't have any sort of boundaries. Jody and I have a very fucked-up sense of humor, so it takes a lot for us to feel like something is too far. We don't really set out to try to make things that are fucked up, but Kenny Powers can do pretty much anything he wants, so that entails everything that becomes fucked up.

Have you ever filmed anything and cut it because it felt like too much?
We haven't. The things that we ever cut out of the show have never been content. It's only been, like, because the episode's too long and we need to trim it down. Yeah.

TV is filled with antiheroes right now, but most of them are in dramas. As an actor, do you think it's harder or easier to play an unlikable character in a comedy, which viewers can laugh at instead of just be repulsed by?
Honestly, I think drama is harder, because in a comedy it's like if somebody can make somebody laugh then there's an instant level of likability, you know. But I do think it's interesting that that is happening in TV and, honestly, I feel like that's because in films it's, you know, so much is dependent on that opening weekend. With the development process of studios and stuff, you test a movie and the first things people will say is they don't like the main character. You can't take those sort of risks in films these days, especially if you want to have some money behind it. And in TV, for whatever reason right now, you can.

The show's fan base seems to have exploded since the end of the first season. What's been the most intense fan experience you've had so far?
It was pretty insane that Marilyn Manson was a fan of the show. He came to the season-two premiere. Jody and I are both fans of his and it was just nuts that he would watch. For some reason, I don't imagine Marilyn Manson sitting on a couch watching TV. I picture him hanging out in a torture chamber or something. We were definitely flattered and creeped out and felt great that he liked the show.

What was it like getting cornrows?
I recommend it to everyone. It was pretty insane. A lot of the times when we write for the show, I don't really think about how I'm eventually going to have to do that stuff. So even the cornrows was something that I didn't even really think about until about a week before I had to get them. And it was like, "Aw shit, we got to schedule them. I got to get cornrows. I'm gonna have to have these for real." Cornrows blow. They suck. I don't understand why people wear them. You can't get them wet. You have to wear a shower cap when you shower. It feels weird when you sleep. There's always like a dull headache.

How long did you have to have them for?
I think I had them for like nine days. Yeah. Long enough to realize that I didn't want to ever have them ever again.

You're pitching on the show more this season than last. How tough is that?
I'm a very nonathletic person, so it definitely takes its toll on me, but at the end of last season Kenny got his pitch back, so it only felt natural that this season would focus a little bit more on baseball. We kind of always knew going into this that I'd have to be a little bit more athletic. I never trained. I should have, I should've iced for the show. Yeah, I mean, it's tough. I can't throw for shit. I have a very big respect for guys who can.

How did the K-Swiss ad happen? It seems like Kenny Powers is an unlikely character for a brand to align itself with.
He really is. K-Swiss came to Jody and I and proposed this idea and honestly, at first, we turned them down. We were just, kind of like, we're flattered and shocked that you guys would think about us, but we're not interested and we want to stay true to what our show is, and we're not that sure how that fits in. And then they came back to us pretty hard and showed us their scripts and what their approach was, and it was really in line with what we were doing with the show. Jody and I, as we shot the commercial, we're shocked, we're like, this is insane that these guys are going to use Kenny Powers to promote their line.

Photo: HBO