Danny McBride

On this date in 1976, actor-writer-filmmaker Daniel Richard McBride was born in Statesboro, Ga., to Kathleen (Chaby) and Richard McBride. His father worked for the Federal Bureau of Prisons and McBride grew up in Fredericksburg, Va., before attending the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem to learn the business of moviemaking.

Hollywood eventually beckoned, where his acting and writing chops soon blossomed, often in collaboration with fellow UNC film school alums Jody Hill, David Green and Ben Best. He also worked as a night manager at a Holiday Inn in Burbank. “The Foot Fist Way,” their 2006 martial arts comedy, financed on credit cards for $80,000, earned plaudits at Sundance.

His next movies were “Hot Rod” (2007), “Pineapple Express” (2008), “Tropic Thunder” (2008) and “Up in the Air” (2009). Four seasons on HBO-TV’s “Eastbound & Down” (2009-10, 2012-13) playing a washed-up major league pitcher reduced to physical education teacher brought him wide exposure as the star, executive producer, co-creator and co-writer of all 29 episodes.

His character Kenny Powers longs to return to the big leagues: “There have been many great leaders throughout history,” Kenny declaims. “Jesus was dead, but then came back as an all-powerful god-zombie.” (Rolling Stone, March 1, 2012) He was also a jack-of-all-trades on HBO’s dark comedy “Vice Principals” in 2016-17 for two seasons and 18 episodes.

“The Righteous Gemstones,” another dark comedy McBride created for HBO, premiered in 2019 and was renewed in 2022 for a third season. It follows the Gemstone family of megachurch pastors and televangelists, including McBride and John Goodman as the patriarch. Deviant behavior, murder and financial corruption abound, set amid opulent lifestyles.

“We’re not trying to comment on the bible,” McBride said. “We’re commenting on these hypocrites who are basically fronting this operation and basing all their values on these morals and these ideals but then not adhering to any of them themselves.” (Armchair Expert With Dax Shepard and Monica Padman podcast, Aug. 19, 2019)

Goodman, asked about his own religious background, said, “I would go to church with my mom and my sister, and she was Southern Baptist, so there was a lot of hollering going on. But we’d go to Vacation Bible School. A little later on, I started going Wednesday nights. And then I didn’t. (Vox, Aug. 16, 2019)

McBride’s religious animus stems from how their Baptist church tried to shame his mother after his father left the family. They divorced when he was in sixth grade. She’d had a puppet ministry for children and taught Sunday school for years. “We expected the church would help us out. Instead, it was people wanting dirt on my mom and talking about the divorce. She stopped going and was like, ‘I’ll still take you and your sister.’ For a few months, she would drop us off. Then finally, it was like, ‘What are we doing? Fuck church!’ ” (Rolling Stone, Jan. 17, 2018)

McBride married Gia Marina Ruiz in 2010 after an eight-year relationship. Cheech Marin of Cheech and Chong comedy fame is her uncle. They have a son Declan (b. 2011) and a daughter Ava (b. 2015) and as of this writing live in Charleston, S.C., where McBride’s film studio Rough House Pictures is based. They were honored in 2020 for their $45,000 donation to the Medical University of South Carolina Children’s Hospital.

PHOTO: McBride at “The Righteous Gemstones” Hollywood premiere in 2019; Paul Smith/Featureflash Photo Agency

Freedom From Religion Foundation