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Danny McBride on the Future of Eastbound & Down, His Accidental Acting Career, and 30 Minutes or Less

Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Danny McBride. Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

In 30 Minutes or Less, Danny McBride plays Dwayne, a guy who dreams of starting his own full-service tanning salon complete with “happy endings.” But he needs seed money. So does he hit up his friends? Apply for a bank loan? Rob a bank? No, no, and — not exactly. Dwayne and his dim-bulb buddy Travis (Nick Swardson) cook up a scheme to strap a bomb onto the bony chest of a pizza deliveryman (Jesse Eisenberg) and force him to rob the bank. This is clearly an ideal role for an actor of McBride’s improvisational snark mastery. So Vulture sat him down for further off-the-cuff enlightenment, as well as a few words about smelly diapers and the fate of his HBO series, Eastbound & Down.

Do you feel like Dwayne connects to the characters you’ve played before? There seems to be a recurrent theme of anger issues.
Yeah, aggro assholes: I have the market cornered on that! [Laughs.] But here’s the thing: Until The Foot Fist Way, I had never really acted before, except for All the Real Girls. My background was writing. I went to film school to learn to direct, and I had no idea I would be acting in films outside of The Foot Fist Way, which we just cast me in because we didn’t know any real actors! [Laughs.] So when I started getting offers, it was all that same sort of thing: “All right, here’s another villainous asshole we have to find some redeeming qualities to.”

If you just heard the title 30 Minutes or Less for the first time and someone asked you to come up with a concept for it, do you think you would have thought up this movie plot?
No. Pizza would definitely have come to mind, though.

As outlandish as the heist in this movie is, it’s loosely based on a real case. [Erie, Pennsylvania, pizza deliveryman Brian Wells robbed a bank with a bomb strapped to his neck in 2003.]
You know, I had heard about that case. I just really wanted to do a comedy where watermelons explode.

It seems like you do a lot of improv in this film. Like, “Remember when we worshipped the devil for two weeks?”
Yeah! And the voice-mail message to Juicy, and the tanning jokes — that was all improv. [Director] Ruben [Fleischer] encouraged us to improv a lot. It makes you look forward to every single day, because you don’t know what’s going to make it in there from all the jokes you spit out. And it’s also a relief, because you can just trust the director and producers to decide, and choose wisely. With Eastbound, since I’m involved with it from the beginning, I have to sit in the editing room and examine every single joke.

Which almost kills it. It’s like having to explain a joke or a magic trick …
Right! You start to lose what the punch line is.

Kenny Powers faces impending fatherhood on the next season of Eastbound. You’re facing impending fatherhood in real life. Any crossovers?
If we were smart, we would have waited to write this season until after I had this baby — we’re going to have it at the end of September — so we would actually have insight into what having a baby is all about. Because a lot of our jokes are just like, “Uh, his diaper smells like shit.” We don’t have a lot of nuance! It would have been smarter to wait.

This was supposed to be the final season. But then HBO said they were open to more. So will Eastbound & Down have a future?
We imagined each season being an act, part of a three-act story, so we’re definitely going to complete that goal, tell that story. If there’s a life for Kenny outside the TV show, or another chapter, we haven’t decided yet. The thing is, we grew up in towns where there were guys like this. We weren’t those guys. Those guys would fuck with us, and we were into movies. So through this, we find humor in that alpha male who has all the confidence in the world for no reason. It’s a shouting board for us to fuck with all the people who used to mess with us when we were kids.

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Eastbound & Down to End Next Season
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Danny McBride on the Future of Eastbound & Down, His Accidental Acting Career, and 30 Minutes or Less