Goggins Calls Vice Principals Costar McBride “Woody Allen For Blue-Collar America”

These Educators Have Lots of Vices, Few Principles.

Vice Principals Fred Norris
Danny McBride and Walton Goggins play very bad people on HBO's Vice Principals

“I’ll start the conversation by saying that I think Danny McBride is the Woody Allen for blue-collar America,” says actor Walton Goggins. It’s high praise from a man who has worked on multiple Emmy- and Oscar-nominated projects and stars with McBride in HBO’s deliciously dark Vice Principals. In the new comedy, Goggins and McBride elevate the dark-comedy genre into the stratosphere as rival administrators competing for the dream role of high-school principal. The power-hungry men yearn to rule their tiny fiefdom as its head honcho and will stoop to unimaginable depths to achieve their dreams. “I think Lee Russell and Neal Gamby are very uncool, but they think that they’re very cool,” explains Goggins, who says that coolness is in the eye of the beholder. “From Lee Russell and Neal Gamby’s point of view, they’re the coolest motherf#$%ers in North Jackson High School.”

Goggins hides Russell’s sadistic streak behind a dandy’s bow tie and a smile like a Cheshire cat; it’s not the first time that the star of The Hateful Eight, The Shield and Justified has slipped into a dark and complicated role. But Goggins reveals there’s something extra-depraved about his Vice Principals character. “I would say Lee Russell makes [Justified’s] Boyd Crowder look like Pa Ingalls,” he laughs. “I think that Lee Russell is so much more devious than any other character that I’ve ever been given an opportunity to play. … On a scale of one to 10, he’s a f#$%ing 20.”

Goggins gives credit for his role’s brilliance to the writing genius of McBride, who co-created and cowrote the series in addition to being its star. Goggins gushes that when McBride sent him the series’ first script, “It just was one of the best, maybe the best half-hour pilot that I’ve ever read in a 25-year career. Then I read the next episode and it was even better, and the next episode was even better.”

And he’s right — the cringe-worthy hilarity of the two men grows as each episode progresses. And the show aims high from the start, with Bill Murray appearing in the first few minutes of the pilot as the school’s outgoing principal. Goggins admits that he felt pressure appearing in the scene with Goggins and Murray, saying, “These are giants in that world. Their improvisational skills are on par with any great comedic actor out there.” The actor also admits, “The first couple of takes, I was f@#$ing them up because I was laughing. Then he was so cool with me, he was so patient.” Goggins even asked Murray for a bit of comedy advice; the legend’s reply? Goggins reveals, “He said, ‘Okay, here’s the golden rule: you don’t f@#$ up another person’s take by laughing.’ … That was the greatest lesson I learned throughout that whole experience and the hardest thing to do.”

The comedy has been picked up for 18 episodes, which will air over two seasons, and Goggins teases, “Season 1 is about who Neal Gamby and Lee Russell are, and Season 2 is about why Neal Gamby and Lee Russell are who they are.”

Vice Principals > HBO > Sundays at 10:30pm ET/ 9:30pm CT beginning July 17