PaleyFest 2011: EASTBOUND & DOWN Recap

     March 11, 2011

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Eastbound & Down panel at the 28th annual PaleyFest in Los Angeles. Since filming hasn’t started on the show’s third season, I wasn’t sure how much the cast would say about what’s coming up. Thankfully, they dropped a few clues and I also got to hear some great behind the scenes stories about one of TV’s best comedies.

The panel featured star/creator Danny McBride, director/creator Jody Hill, executive producer Chris Henchy and stars Ana de la Reguera, Katy Mixon, Steve Little and Michael Pena. Hit the jump for a full recap of the night’s events.

eastbound-and-down-cast-paleyfestAfter a few minutes of clips to warm up the crowd, the panel began. The cast and crew talked about how all of them got involved in the show.

— After failed attempts at making it big in Hollywood in the early 2000s, Danny McBride and Jody Hill moved back to their native North Carolina and moved in with their parents. McBride became a middle school teacher, the first source of inspiration for Kenny Powers. Hill and McBride made the low-budget The Foot-Fist Way together, which garnered the attention of Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and their Gary Sanchez Productions. Ferrell, McKay and their producing partner Chris Henchy told McBride and Hill that they would back whatever their next venture was and, drawing on McBride’s work at a middle school, Kenny Powers was born.
— Steve Little, who plays Kenny Powers super fan Stevie Janowski, auditioned for the role just like anyone else. Originally the role was a lot smaller and a lot less wacky then the character has become, but the role was expanded specifically for Little.
— In her original audition, Katy Mixon, who plays Kenny’s love interest April, originally played the part as “Jessica Rabbit” as she described it, drawing huge laughs from the crowd as everyone noticed simultaneously that she’s basically the human personification of Jessica Rabbit.

eastbound-and-down-ana-de-la-riguera-paleyfest— Ana de la Reguera thought she was only auditioning for one episode and was cast because she was the opposition of Mixon, physically and personality-wise.
— Michael Pena actually joined the show in the second season without reading any script or knowing his character. He was asked by Jody Hill, who directed him in 2009’s Observe and Report.

When asked why there are so few episodes, Danny said that the goal was always to keep the seasons short. The plan was always to do just a few seasons so that the show never got burnt out. They were inspired by British comedies like The Office or Alan Partridge that always kept the audience wanting more.

Each season is written, shot and edited as if it were one long movie. The very last step in their process is cutting the final “film” into short episodes, but each season is treated like a movie from the start.

The creators were hesitant to say much about next season but they did admit that Katy Mixon’s character April will return as will Stevie’s wife. Season 3 is still being written, but the ending has basically been finalized. They will shoot this summer and it will be in all likelihood their last season. The show will be at least partly returning to North Carolina.

Since the show is shot in North Carolina, McBride and Hill’s moms are regularly on set. Both Hill and McBride mentioned the importance of filming in the south where they group up. It was important to both of them that the south be presented with a little more respect then it is typically portrayed. Much time is spent on attention to detail on all the southern sets, making sure everything is authentic.

Contrary to popular belief, Kenny Powers is not based on any real baseball players. In fact, both McBride and Hill said several times that they “don’t know shit about baseball”. They said the closest athlete to Powers that they know of is Jeremy Shockey, who they shot a K-Swiss commercial with. McBride said Shockey thought he really was Kenny Powers and that the crew of the commercial feared Shockey. McBride said that K-Swiss actually wrote most of the commercials.

The panel’s moderator, a writer for Entertainment Weekly, said that the first screener she received of the show’s pilot was sent in the DVD box of a Kevin Bacon movie.