Walton Goggins and Danny McBride in HBO's VICE PRINCIPALSFew TV shows arrive on with the kind of pedigree as "Vice Principals," which is clearly a direct descendant of "Eastbound & Down": same star (Danny McBride), same creative brain trust (including McBride, David Gordon Green, and Jody Hill), same network (HBO) and the same unfettered, creatively spun stream of profanity (all of the swears, and maybe some you've never heard before).

And this time it might be a little easier to really root for McBride's character, Neal Gamby, a divorced high school vice principal engaged in a war of internal politics, personal ambition and, yes, strategically deployed curse words with rival vice principal Lee Russell, played by Walton Goggins ("Justified").

"I think his heart is in the right place," says McBride. "He's a guy who's played by the rules and kind of thinks he should be rewarded for it, but learns that life doesn't really work that way."

"It was chance to tell a different type of story," he adds, noting the series is in the vein of some of the "weird dramatic stuff in 'Eastbound.' We weren't aware we were going to do stuff like that originally when we first started doing the show, but as the show developed, we started just taking it there. That was some of the stuff we liked the best in the show. It was the most challenging to make. So we really wanted a chance just to do another story where we could kind of surprise ourselves in all the weird detours we could take."

Adding to challenge: telling a complete story to unfold over the course two seasons. "We set it up as an 18-episode show," McBride reveals. "Not just like a pickup of 18 episodes. It was a complete story in 18 episodes. So the idea of hitting a story that way was kind of interesting, trying to crack the whole thing and sell it as a whole piece."

"Danny doesn't play the worst character in this," says co-creator Hill. "He really cares about his school, so there's a lot of differences between Neal and ['Eastbound's' central character] Kenny Powers, who's more like a narcissistic nihilist -- it was all about his ego. With this one, there's a bigger cause."

"I think this character was born with better intentions," agrees executive producer Green. "He's just like anybody that's susceptible to the power mindset and charisma of others. Maybe he's a little more openly vulnerable than Kenny. And he's got a family, he's got a child -- he has things that root in him a likable reality in a way that we're rooting for him. And Kenny, you kind of want him to get punched in the face."

The public school landscape is territory McBride is intimately familiar with. "I've been to high school as a student and as a substitute teacher, so I had seen both sides of the coin here," he says of witnessing the power struggles inherent in high school. "Maybe not to this extent, but power is a very dangerous thing. It can corrupt people. Big time."

Goggins says he simply couldn't miss the chance to cross swords on screen with McBride. "I genuinely have been a fan of his for so long, and I've just admired him from afar," says the actor, who was pleased to venture further into comedy territory than ever before. "I think that this opportunity has eluded me until I could get into the ring with somebody like Danny. And really, if you're going to go, go big or go home."

"We knew for the tone of the show we wanted somebody that wasn't just a comedian," says McBride. "We wanted someone that had dramatic chops because we knew that it was going to go to some places that was going to require that. And Walt was one of those great actors that is extremely funny and very talented and dramatic. He hadn't had a chance to really show a lot of that comedic side, so we were excited to give him the opportunity to."

Remembering the first fierce on-set showdown between the in-character actors still brings a wicked smile to the faces of the team. "I looked at him and he looked at me and it's like, 'Here we go man," grins Goggins.

Hill still marvels at the combustion: "Danny is the best when it comes to bad words and laying the smackdown," he says. "And Walton was on him so hard ... It was like two dogs fighting over a bone. It was amazing!"

Of course, the vitriolic spew of four-letter-word insults could potentially create awkward moments on a set populated by several teenage actors. "It was really nice to know they actually cared about that sort of thing," says Maya Love, who plays Janelle, the daughter of McBride's character. "They didn't really want to curse around me. In the show, obviously they were saying the F-bomb every which way, but off-camera they were censored, and there was less cursing and less sex talk."

"We were making very sure nobody was lured into something that was going to freak anybody out," chuckles Green. "It goes into the charisma of Danny and Walton. They're so likable as human beings and the vibe on set is so wonderful that you almost are seduced into the vulgar backdrop without realizing that you're walking into the nastiest, vulgar, naughty world in town."

And it's also not unexpected, adds Hill, who co-wrote and directed McBride's breakout film "Foot Fist Way" a decade ago. "We've been saying bad words in front of little kids since we started our career, so I think it's par for the course."

"Vice Principals" premieres Sunday, July 17th at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT.
Vice Principals
Based on 31 critics

"Eastbound & Down" creators Danny McBride and Jody Hill team again for a dark comedy series -- no surprise there! -- that may place high school administrators in a wholly... Read More

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