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'Righteous Gemstones' lampoons megachurch family

Luaine Lee, Tribune News Service on

Published in Entertainment News

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Fans have watched John Goodman manage the goofy tribulations of the Conner family for 30 years -- first on "Roseanne," then on "The Conners." And while he's played everything from the King of England to a drug dealer, viewers have never seen Goodman's latest incarnation.

The 67-year-old actor portrays a millionaire evangelist who doesn't see the difference between greed and grace in "The Righteous Gemstones," premiering on HBO Sunday.

The Gemstones are a family of televangelists who reign over a megachurch and attract money like locusts in a wheat field. The show stars Goodman as the family patriarch, Danny McBride (who is also producer-writer-director) as Goodman's elder son, Edi Patterson as his daughter, and Adam Devine as his younger son.

Goodman says he understands the fascination for such religious adoration. "When I was a child, I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church, and it was very emotionally involving," he says.

"Anyway, I think that's how they got me. It was a lot of splendor and screaming up at the pulpit. And the rhythms of the speech, and it's something you wanted very badly to believe in. That's basically what I remember about it. That, and I would get swatted if I didn't go."

McBride, who produced and starred in "Eastbound & Down" and "Vice Principals," also shares a background as a Southern Protestant. "I grew up in a very religious household," he says.

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"I grew up going to the Baptist church. My mom did puppet ministry growing up. She ministered the children. I spent every Sunday, every Wednesday, every Saturday night at church. And a lot of my family is still very involved with the church. My aunt is a minister in Atlanta."

Edi Patterson, who plays Goodman's feisty daughter, shares a church-going background. "When I grew up -- maybe not as many times a week as Danny -- but we went every Sunday, for sure, and then to other things through the week, to an Episcopal church. I think even if it's not a megachurch setting, I think religion in general is all about family and feeling like you fit in somewhere," she says.

"I think that's what this show boils down to, too. It's this family against the backdrop of this world. But it's all about their relationships and how they're dealing with each other."

Devine describes his religious upbringing as fairly conventional. "I grew up in the Catholic Church, and honestly I was always jealous of my Christian friends that would go to a megachurch, because it seemed way more fun," he says.

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