Kelvin Gemstone, the youngest son in “The Righteous Gemstones,” is the first TV role that Adam Devine’s had in a while where he’s solely acting. The producer, writer and “Workaholics” creator couldn’t say no when Danny McBride invited him to join his HBO televangelist comedy (Sundays at 10 p.m.).
“I like to have a lot of creative say, but I was such a fan of Danny,” says Devine, 35. “We speak the same comedic language. I’ve loved everything he’s done. So when he asked me, I geeked out like a little kid.”
Set and filmed in Charleston, South Carolina, the half-hour series follows the Gemstones, a family of megachurch pastors: patriarch Eli (John Goodman), oldest son Jesse (McBride), daughter Judy (Edi Patterson) and Kelvin. The show depicts the family’s opulent lifestyle that includes mansions and private jets, and the kids’ struggles to win their father’s approval. Think “Billions” or “Succession” mixed with religious satire.
Opening with nearly 1 million viewers, “Gemstones” had the biggest audience for an HBO comedy premiere since McBride’s previous venture, “Vice Principals” in 2016.
Devine’s Kelvin is constantly squabbling with Jesse, and styles himself in fashionable clothes. In Devine’s words, Kelvin is inspired by the “cool-guy youth ministers the Justin Biebers of the world go to.”
Devine, who rose to prominence in Comedy Central’s “Workaholics,” grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. This gave him a moderate exposure to the megachurch culture the show pokes fun at.
“It’s not that big in the Midwest, I think it’s mostly a Southern thing,” he says. “But the idea of the megachurches was definitely starting to take hold when I was a kid. I was Catholic, but some of my Christian friends would invite me to go to church with them. And I was excited, like, ‘You have a rock climbing wall, a bounce house, a mini-arcade — I’d rather go do that than sit on a wooden bench and have to kneel 35 times!’ So I understand the appeal of these megachurches for sure.”
As he grew up, Devine says his awareness of their hypocrisy grew.
“As I got older, I remember the church asked for something like $50,000 for a crystal goblet, and my mom was like, ‘This is insane, we need to get out of here.’ It goes back to the greed of some of these churches. Anyone can believe anything they like, but everyone should be in agreement that hypocrisy at the highest level should be made fun of. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Of course, aside from McBride, Devine was also eager to work with John Goodman. He says he didn’t ask him for any advice, however, because watching him act was enough.
“He has what I would think is the perfect career,” Devine says. “He’s a big TV star, then went [on] to be the lead [in] movies. Then as he got older, he segued into doing more character-driven stuff. He truly got to do everything an actor wants to do. Just watching him is all the advice I need. Seeing him go into that next gear you’re like, ‘Oh, I guess I need to develop another gear!’”
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