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I am never playing poker with Danny McBride.
I was just in New Orleans for a quick visit to the set of "End Of The World," a truly deranged comedy written and directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and while I was there, I saw Danny, and we talked for a moment about the final season of "Eastbound and Down." At that point, nothing he said or did indicated that he was considering returning for another season, and I walked away secure in the knowledge that I had said goodbye to Kenny Powers.
But that just plain isn't true, is it?
This morning, because of yesterday's announcement that there will be another season of the show, I got on the phone to talk to Danny again and to ask him what motivated the decision. Also, I just plain wanted to yell at him for playing coy less than 15 days ago, which made him laugh and laugh.
"Yeah, it looks like the fans are going to get a bonus round with Kenny Powers," he said, entertained at my obvious exasperation.
I told him that when I was being sent episodes of season three by HBO and I put up reviews of what I kept calling "the final season," HBO repeatedly asked me to de-emphasize that idea, that they were keeping all options open, and that they wanted more from the guys.
"Well, their hunger for it kept me and Jody thinking about it," McBride said. " And, look, in this day and age, whenever you have an opportunity to have creative freedom, to tell a story you want to tell, and to do it the way you want to do it, it seems like that's definitely a situation you don't want to take lightly. With this show, it's always been something where, you know, we always just counted our blessings that we could make each season. We really just wanted to bring Kenny to April's doorstep after he walked away from baseball, and we felt like we did what we wanted to achieve. We definitely got there and we did it, and I think Jody and I both felt very creatively fulfilled by it, by pulling it off and by sort of doing it our way and having a short episode number. Every step of the way, we've done things in a way that creatively served the show, you know? We never did what would normally be expected of a TV show. To us, we were like, 'Well, that's that.'"
Certainly that was the plan, but he went on to explain how this new season evolved, both creatively and as a business deal. He continued, "It's just one of those things where every time we film a season, we'd start to think about, 'Well, if we did get another season, what would that season be?' That's what you bullshit about on the set the whole time you're shooting. So even as we were shooting the third season and Jody and I were like, 'This is it,' we still sort of were thinking 'If we did do one more, this is sort of where it could go.' And at that point, it was all still just talking and sort of hashing it out. That's just what we do. We joke around and we pitch each other bits, and that's sort of all the development we had ever thought of for a season four. And now a little bit of time has passed and it feels like there's still a hunger for more out there, and Jody and I looked at each other and like… see, we did have an idea for a sort of an epilogue to the show. We had sort of seen this as like what 'The Office' did with its Christmas special. And for a while, we thought of this epilogue as something that was maybe like an hour and a half special, and the more we talked about it, the more we thought it could be one more season."
Asked about what this final season would deal with, McBride was surprisingly forthcoming.
"Something we never really got to explore with the show that we always wanted to was what life would be like once April and Kenny were together," McBride said. "Katy Mixon was on a hit television show, and her schedule with that show didn't really allow her to be involved with the show as much as Jody and I would have loved for her to be. So we came up with solutions to get around that, and we sort of kept her character as the carrot at the end of the stick. So that was a real stumbling block. We knew if we were going to tell one more story with Kenny, we would need to have full access to Mixon to tell that story that we always kind of wanted to. That's when HBO came in, and they're going to work with the schedule to make sure we do have access to Katy Mixon, and that creatively, to us, allows us to finish off the story the way we initially would have done it. I think it's exciting, and it's something that we're… we wouldn't have signed up for it if we weren't confident about being able to deliver something that won't take away from what we've done, that will add to it and give us one last encore performance of this disgusting man."
In the third season, April was largely off-screen, and the entire season was built around Kenny having to take care of his son when April took off, so it will be nice to see what happens after the happy ending that threw many fans for a loop when the third season ended.
McBride admitted, "And honestly, that was one of our initial concepts from the very beginning. That's what the third season was going to be. He was going to go to Mexico and then get the girl, and then the third season would be the reality of what that was like. What would that be like for Kenny Powers to finally get what he always wanted? In the very initial stages of the show, that's what we always thought the third season would be. When we didn't have access to Katy, we had to come up with a different idea, and that's when we decided to have her drop off the kid. Creatively, that ended up well, and we ended up really loving how the third season turned out. But in the back of our heads, we had so much material and so many thoughts of what that would be like when those two were together, and you only really got to see a glimpse of it in that first episode of the third season. Jody and I resigned ourselves to the idea, though, that her show was really successful, and it just wasn't going to be in the cards for us to have access to her like we did in the first season. So that was the one story arc we felt like we were unable to finish the way we imagined, and so that's what this epilogue does for us."
When I brought up the way HBO acted every time I referred to "the last season," Danny laughed, but noted "HBO has been very supportive of the show, and even when we launched into this season and Jody and I would talk about 'the last season,' they would be like 'Please don't do that. We want you to come back. We want you to do another one.' This is something they've been telling us since the season began, and for me and Jody, we love making this show. We would love to keep making the show, but Kenny Powers isn't the sort of character where you can easily make 100 episodes and just keep it going forever. At some point, he becomes a charicature of himself and you lose the heart and the emotion of it. For us to ever do anything more with this, we had to feel like there was something else to tell and it wasn't just going to be tacked on."
No word yet on when production will begin or when we'll see the episodes, but it sounds like they're starting from a very good place, and I look forward to one last time at bat with Kenny. Thanks to Danny for taking time out of a holiday week to get on the phone about this one.
And just wait till we get to start talking about "End Of The World." You have no idea.