Jazz Tangcay Talks to Cassidy Freeman About The Outrageous Amber Gemstone
The Righteous Gemstones stars Cassidy Freeman, John Goodman and Adam Devine. The hilarious dramatic comedy airs on HBO is about a televangelist family who have a historic in charity work and greed. Danny McBride is the series creator shedding light on the shady dealings of the Gemstones.
Cassidy Freeman plays Amber Gemstone plays Jesse’s (McBride), ambitious wife. I caught up with Freeman to learn more about her complex character and what’s in store for her.
This show is twisty and fun and filled with drama. What was it that attracted you when you got the script for this?
It’s an absolute dream. I had known that Danny McBride had this amazing comedic team that he had from college, and this group of artists that he worked with. That’s really attractive to me. I have groups of friends that I work with. I know when people stick together like that they tend to have a similar vision, and their values seem to line up in making thought-provoking and family feeling art.
When I got the opportunity to work with him. I thought, absolutely I want to be a part of that team. Comedy is such a specific genre. Good comedy and thought-provoking comedy are really important to entertainment, and it’s a club. The opportunity to be a part of that club is very attractive to me.
Was there a moment in that script when you had that, “I’ve got to play this part?”
When you read scripts, you read them with a lot of brains on. You’re thinking about the role, what is it going to feel like? or how am I going to do this? Then you read a script, as I read this script, and I started laughing out loud after reading that first scene where they’re baptizing thousands of people in China.
My character wasn’t even in the scene, but to be reading that on my iPad and to be laughing out loud in bed told me that this writing was on point.
When I read the role of Amber, she was complicated and complex. I really identified with her struggle to be from a certain type of family and to be from a certain place in life and to have chosen very tactfully how to raise her level in the world.
I’m looking forward to learning more about who she is as you say. Did you create a backstory for her?
Danny does this incredible thing where he meets with each of us before we start shooting to touch base on who this character is and what their history is. What I really love about him is that he gives each actor a lot of leeway to create that backstory themselves.
There was a while when Amber was considered a journalist who had given up her career to be a matriarch of her particular family and to do this for the greater good as she saw it. I tend to think about what she wants. My method is to try to figure out what she wants in the now and what’s the best way to get it.
Hmmm. I’m so looking forward to seeing what lies ahead.
What’s so fascinating about her is that you think you have her pegged. She might be arguably the most righteous, but like any human, when they get pushed past a certain level, their humanistic ways come through.
Did you go to any of those megachurches at all to get that feeling, or were you just, No?
[laughs] To be honest, I’m not sure I would even know where to go. I wouldn’t want to offend anyone. It is all very sacred. Danny has said, “the purpose of this show isn’t to poke fun at certain people, but to find the hypocrisy in it.” I’m not sure I need to visit one to know what that is.
That being said, I have friends who go to larger churches and I have been with them and seen the gigantic church that that church can provide.
What’s amazing is when we are shooting those big colosseum church scenes, in TV you do take after take and in those bigger scenes there are a lot of moving parts. It takes a long time to shoot what seems like a short scene. You start to really feel like you’re in it. They really create a place of believing. All of our background actors are so dedicated, that for a minute, you lose yourself and you start to believe John Goodman talk about righteousness. It’s really enveloping and interesting.
I love how the show gets the twisty comedy and drama balance so perfect. What is it like to be on a show like that?
Danny is the kind of person who works with people and then works with them again. They become a part of his team. What’s really refreshing about that is everyone feels at home to really go out on a limb and try different things. Their comedic muscles are so strong that it’s almost involuntary; the ability to be in the moment and to be spontaneous. The fact that the muscle is so strong gives way to the ability to be real. You learn the lines and you forget them so you can be in the moment. In the moment, you’re trying to find the truth and you’re doing the scene. Again, no one is funny when they’re trying to be funny. They’re funny when they’re really believing when they’re doing what they’re doing. I’m watching the pilot and that scene at the end when John is watching the video and it’s such a gut punch because we all know what it’s like to have lost someone. That feeling is so relatable that as you’re laughing, you’re also thinking, “Why am I feeling deep emotion?” That’s what makes it really exciting.
Amber’s wardrobe is interesting. Her clothes reveal so much. What’s it like getting into her outfits?
Sarah Trost is our costume designer and she’s such a genius. She had such a clear vision for each of our characters. It’s not necessarily specific to an era. She really goes into the classic nature of these characters. She created this really incredible spreadsheet where we each had our own gemstone that signified our character. Amber’s gemstone is a diamond. I make jokes about this, but everything I wear is white, lace or animal print. You’re not going to see her casual. The most you’ll see her is a silk nightgown. It creates such an incredible layer to the character. You think you know a character, and as soon as you put on those dresses, your body changes. The way I stand changes. The way I move changes and it’s an incredible place of information for the character.