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43 Things We Learned from the Vice Principals — Season One Commentary

“There was too much real poop on the set.”
Vice Principals Season Commentary
By  · Published on February 8th, 2017

Welcome to Commentary Commentary, our long-running series of articles exploring the things we can learn from the most interesting filmmaker commentaries available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Vice Principals – Season One (2016)

Commentator: Various members of the cast and crew

Episode 1 “The Principal”

1. Danny McBride and Jody Hill were flying back from a scouting trip to Charleston, SC in an effort to see whether they should shoot the show there, and they met Bill Murray on the plane. He talked them into filming in Charleston, and they agreed mostly in an effort to become better friends with the legend. At one point Murray asked Hill to swap seats and sweet-talked him by saying “I never met a Jody I didn’t like.”

2. The opening scene at the flagpole was taken directly from the feature script they wrote which became a series instead. It was initially meant as a follow-up to The Foot Fist Way. “It didn’t quite work as a feature,” says Hill, “so after many, many years of trying to figure out what to do with this we turned it into a TV show.”

3. They originally pitched it to HBO as three seasons, six episodes each.

4. Walton Goggins isn’t typically starstruck, but his one exception was Murray to the point that he even had photos taken of the two of them together.

5. The only note Murray gave them was that his character’s dying wife needed to be on the stage with him during the assembly. He positioned the actress exactly how he wanted.

6. McBride first met Shea Whigham on the set of All the Real Girls, McBride’s first film – he plays a character named Bust-Ass – and they’ve been friends ever since.

7. Gamby’s (McBride) car is modeled after Dirty Harry’s in The Enforcer.

8. McBride lets loose a bit of HBO marketing when Brian Howe appears saying “He’s been in everything… I saw him in Westworld.”

9. The very last person they auditioned for the role of Principal Brown was Kimberly Hebert Gregory. She got the job, obviously.

10. Jennifer Gatti, who plays Mrs. Deets, was apparently the lead in an Aerosmith video in her younger days. This revelation sends half the folks in the room scrambling for their phones to confirm and watch. They discover it was actually a video for Bon Jovi’s “Runaway.”

11. Everyone is impressed by McBride’s ability to act with a toothpick in his mouth.

12. They filmed in an actual school, but they also used a multi-purpose set for multiple scenes and in case circumstances left them locked out of the real school.

Episode 2 “A Trusty Steed”

13. The ep originally opened with Gamby driving with a Student Driver and causing an accident that bloodies a mother and her infant. It’s available in the deleted scenes.

14. The scene where they destroy Brown’s house includes the sounds of helicopters accompanying Gamby’s enraged face. “At one point we had a backstory about Gamby in the service, but through shooting it kind of got trimmed out.”

15. Only a few of the props in the “breaking” scene were designed as breakaways. Real glass was flying about the room as they smashed things to pieces.

16. It’s not visible to viewers, but they shot the scene where Gamby first visits Russell’s (Goggins) home in their socks as is custom in a Korean home.

17. Hill is doing the 15-point turn with the car at the stables. The teen driver they had in the car wasn’t able to do it.

Episode 3 “The Field Trip”

18. The meatloaf missed McBride several times before a shot from Hill finally landed perfectly on his forehead.

19. The field trip was supposed to be shot at a plantation, but the owners got cold feet after seeing episodes of Eastbound & Down. “They were like, ‘what you guys are doing is off mission for us,’ so they pulled off.” McBride takes them to task though saying “You’re a plantation that used to own slaves…” They filmed at Charlestown Landing instead.

20. They cast the two young actors that are caught having sex in the hotel specifically knowing they’d be doing so, but when it came time to film the boy was apparently extremely nervous. The women in the room don’t quite say it, but it’s clear they’re making fun that the boy was embarrassed while the girl is the one showing nudity. Hill had to give him specific instructions on how to thrust.

Episode 4 “Run for the Money”

21. They locked in RJ Cyler immediately after seeing him at Sundance in Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl.

22. The name on the Rams jersey is a nod to their friend Scott Clackum who played Scott on Eastbound & Down.

23. They looked for but were unable to find a school with open bleachers – open space beneath the seats like you see in every movie with cool kids smoking under the bleachers. A shot late in the ep required they reconfigure a small part of the bleachers to create the appearance of an opening.

Episode 5 “Circles”

24. The painting above Russell’s bed is one that Goggins took for his own after the season wrapped, but he ran out of wall space and gave it to Johnny Galecki who now has it hanging in his screening room.

25. David Gordon Green visited the set during this episode’s filming and after watching them berate the kids during the fire drill he said “Good, this is exactly what I would hope it was going to be.”

26. Goggins ate a lot of kimchi onscreen during the season.

27. The scene where Russell fully confronts his obnoxious neighbor features clear inspirations from Bad Boys (the Sean Penn one) and Three O’Clock High.

Episode 6 “The Foundation of Learning”

28. The scene in the warehouse was filmed on one of the hottest filming days. Hill’s parents visited, and his father had to leave for health reasons. They even had to split the day because the sweat became to impossible to ignore.

29. The used visual fx to fix a sweat stain on the stunt rider doubling for McBride on the motorcycle. “It was just a big, wet stain on the butt. My ass never sweats, not like that. I’m a pits and front of the chest kind of guy.”

30. They point out the show’s strength of shifting tones from character highs to their inevitable lows, and all of them go “aww” in the ep’s final scene of Gamby and Snodgrass (Georgia King) touching hands in the car.

31. Goggins wants to sing a track on the show’s soundtrack, and he’s reminded that YouTube has a video of his character rapping.

Episode 7 “The Good Book”

32. They toured closed-down schools in the hopes of finding one they could simply apply a face-lift to for the show, “but you realize why they take them offline, because they’re like old and scary.”

33. The same stuntwoman doubled both Gregory and her character’s son played by DJ Rivers.

34. McBride says they bought the domain name for the porn site that Russell is showing the kids – ratchetasshoes.com or something along those lines – but he’s willing to sell it though if someone pitches an interesting intent.

Episode 8 “Gin”

35. They cut a sex scene on a bus and instead we only see Gamby and Snodgrass exit the vehicle with a smile.

36. Gregory claims she’s never been drunk before, but no one believes her. “What kind of person do you think I am?”

37. This is apparently supposed to be a Christmas-set episode, but McBride thinks they messed up by not decorating Ray’s (Whigham) and Gale’s (Busy Philips) home.

38. Gregory hasn’t watched this ep since the first cast screening as she’s not comfortable with her performance. She’s not doubting her skills, but she wasn’t sure about portraying an alcoholic’s loss of sobriety.

39. Brown peeing on the police car was in the original script all those years ago, and McBride’s jaw still drops every time he sees it. “I can’t believe we actually shot it,” adds Hill.

Episode 9 “End of the Line”

40. They’re all impressed with the fisticuffs between Brown and the two vice principals. “I’ve thrown a lot of punches over the course of my career,” says Goggins, “but I have never looked as cool as you Kimberly.”

41. The group is unanimous in their praise for Whigham throughout the show but especially during the scene where Ray reacts quietly to Gamby giving his daughter the motorbike. Their love is understandable.

42. The second season has already been filmed. They shot both together and then split them into two seasons.

43. The end credits song is from Lord of the Flies.

Best in Context-Free Commentary

“I like vintage stuff except for furniture, because I don’t want to sit in a seat somebody’s farted in for twenty years.”

“I was nervous as a motherfucker.”

“If you’re weak of heart maybe watch something else.”

“All the kids in the background are CGI by the way.”

“I actually don’t know where Colorado is.”

“There’s not a lot of subtle stuff going on here.”

“There’s not too many victories in this show, so you have to hold onto them.”

“This is a classic break-up scene but with a man and his daughter.”

“You only got thirty minutes. Sometimes you gotta spell this shit out.”

“It’s all downhill from here.”

Final Thoughts

This show is by far by favorite of Jody Hill’s effort as I think he and Danny McBride have finally mastered the tonal balance needed to pull off the kind of characters they create. It’s both extremely funny and incredibly affecting on the emotional front, and these two extremes are beautifully intertwined with a sharp script that explores humanity’s many complications. The idea of good and bad goes out the window thanks to characters who exhibit both, neither, and everything in between, and the result is a show I can’t wait to pick up again when season two premieres sometime this year.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.