Danny McBride may not be the first name to come to mind when thinking of the “Alien” franchise, but the man of many talents is ready to change that with the latest sequel.
In Ridley Scott’s “Alien: Covenant,” McBride plays Tennessee, a member of the titular colony ship, the latest group of space travelers to be terrorized by the classic extra-terrestrial monsters.
As one of the few members of the “The Four Guild Club” (DGA, SAG, WGA, and PGA), among company including Seth Rogen, Ben Stiller, and Jordan Peele, the multi-hyphenate is not only busy in front of the screen, but behind it as well. In an interview with Variety, McBride talked about landing the role of Tennessee, the final season of “Vice Principals,” and where his new take on the “Halloween” franchise stands.
How did you go about pursuing the role of Tennessee in “Covenant”?
To be honest, I was not the first person that came to my mind with the thought of the film, but it was actually Ridley who reached out to me and talked about this role, and I was just shocked that he even knew my body of work. But one I got the role, I was extremely honored and excited for the opportunity to play the part.
Tennessee kind of reminded me of some characters from previous “Alien” films, like Harry Dean Stanton’s and Idris Elba’s. Were you trying to emulate any one of these characters or trying to give the role your own spin?
I think Tennessee has a different story from those other guys, and I think, if anything, you just try to come up with someone who’s just as realistic and believable as possible for that world. Tennessee is coming from a different time period and era, but I could see how people could see similarities to those characters in Tennessee.
For how old Ridley is, I’ve heard his energy is like that of someone half his age. Were you surprised by his energy level as he was giving direction on set?
Oh yeah, he had the stamina of a 15-year-old. It was mind-blowing — he had so much energy and so much passion and, also, he was so excited about creatures and blood effects. Just seeing him still have that level of pride and that level of excitement in what we’re doing and how much energy he puts into it is really inspiring to everyone down the line and is really contagious.
Were you impressed with the scale of this world?
I was completely impressed. I had no idea what it would be like, you know — would we be in front of a green screen the whole time, or what? But then you get to the set and the production size was incredible. Even the design of something like the bridge of the Covenant looks so much like something out of an “Alien” film and had that distinguished look. You know, every few days you were front of some new set or new spaceship and it was awesome what they were cooking up next.
You had a couple scenes with the actual alien. What were those scenes like?
I have done stuff with visual effects before, but Ridley really tries to avoid that as much as possible. He puts like a 6’5 contortionist inside this alien costume and sets the guy lose on you, so your imagination embraces the reality as it is happening to you quickly. It is surprisingly horrifying.
You have so many different projects that you are juggling, including writing, directing, and producing material. Is there a certain platform you like using more than the other?
For me, I always imagined I’d have a career behind the camera, so anything in front of the camera is above and beyond anything I ever imagined. So I really try to use my acting career to get next to directors I admire and see how they work and see how they operated. Being able to watch first-hand how Ridley Scott works is like a masterclass and it’s an incredible experience, but I also have always enjoyed creating a world myself and helping guide it to a degree. And writing, they each have their benefits, so it’s kind of hard to pick which one I enjoy more. They all offer something unique.
What can we expect from the next season of “Vice Principals”?
We shot the whole thing at once and broke it into two sections so there would be a first semester and a second semester. We approached each season very differently. Jody Hill directed most of the episodes for Season 1 and David Green did a lot of Season 2, both using different DPs, and we wanted both of these seasons to stand on their own and feel unique and at the same time tell one complete story. I think the audience is definitely in for a wild ride and things are about to get turned up in a big way, and I’m just glad I got the opportunity to do this and am looking forward to seeing what people think.
Any updates on the “Halloween” reboot you are working on with Green?
We are writing pretty furiously right now and we’re trying to shoot it this fall. We want to try and get it out for the 40th anniversary next year, so we are deep in the trenches of the script and hammering away.
If Kenny Powers replaced Tennessee in this film, does he survive?
This is a mission to colonize another planet and I just think Kenny would feel more comfortable staying home and colonizing earth.