The cast and creatives of HBO’s Vice Principals rebuffed criticism at today’s TCA for the series’ depiction of two white men pitted against an African American female character. Kimberly Hebert Gregory, who plays principal Dr. Belinda Brow quickly dismissed the negative notion, stating “This is what casting equality looks like. There is an inherent question about her ability to be strong enough to stand with these people.” She continued, “I just feel really strongly that we have to look at it for what it is, it’s about power, not about race or gender.”
The show centers on Vice Principals Neal Gamby and Lee Russell, two desperately ambitious high school administrators vying for the spot of principal. Two episodes have already aired, to which Gregory cautioned, “we have to be clear and not be reductive after the first two episodes of watching.” She added, “Because a black female body is in a space with these white males… we kind of reduce it to something that isn’t necessarily in that script.” She insisted that the storyline would be the same if Melissa McCarthy was playing the role. “We have to be open… I want to be in a space where I can fight with two white boys. I want us in the industry… to get past and be open and really reach for that idea of equality.”
Vice Principals currently airs on HBO and reunites the team behind Eastbound & Down. The show was originally envisioned as a feature, but creators Jody Hill and Danny McBride felt that an hour and a half wasn’t enough to really “investigate the characters.” When the decision came to making it episodic, the duo knew it should be capped at 18. McBride said it “was exciting for us to write something so self contained, it had a beginning, middle and end,” and that “you didn’t have to keep these characters in one area where every week they reset and keep the same mind set… it’s a show about growth.”
“Having that rule and working this to a finale as opposed to trying to think of a backdoor escape,” McBride added, “it made us feel more honest with the storytelling.”
Rounding out the panel were Walton Goggins (Lee Russell) and Georgia King (Amanda Snodgrass).