The Righteous Gemstones introduces us to a powerful family ruled over by a domineering patriarch, Eli Gemstone (John Goodman). From the get-go, we know that sons Jesse (Danny McBride) and Kelvin (Adam Devine) are privileged in ways sister Judy (Edi Patterson) isn’t. They get to accompany their father on a major trip to China, they get to be pastors in the family’s mega-church, and they are obviously being groomed to follow in their father’s footsteps. Judy is overlooked because she’s a girl, and in the The Righteous Gemstones premiere, she proves what a mistake that is. It is her cunning that saves the day for Jesse, revealing her to be the Cersei Lannister of The Righteous Gemstones.
Maybe it’s a bold move to compare a character on a brand spanking new HBO show to one of the most infamous anti-heroines in the network’s history, but Judy Gemstone has a lot in common with Lena Headey’s Cersei Lannister. It’s not just that they’re overlooked because of their genders, but both are fueled by a desperate frustration.
“To me, that’s like the biggest, simple adjective I think of when I think about her is that she’s ‘frustrated.’ And rightfully so, I think,” Edi Patterson told Decider during a recent interview at Summer TCA. “She may be the most wild card, and the most off-the-rails, but I think she’s the cleverest one. For sure.”
Patterson added that she thinks Judy was tragically born with that deep-rooted frustration, but a tragedy from her adult life is also haunting her. “I think a lot of times, it’s a middle child thing, and I think Jesse was probably always so big in the room, she needed to do something to try to gain some of that attention,” Patterson said. “And then I honestly think a huge part of her adult dysfunction and pain is from her mom passing. I think she just so deeply wants to be seen, and I think her mom saw her, and now that person’s gone.”
In Judy’s case, her frustration fuels her anger, spite, and a crafty plan to funnel millions of dollars from the family finances into a bag of cash she’s hidden in one of the church’s air ducts. It’s ridiculous, and bizarrely genius — and it’s what gives Judy the leverage to join her brothers as they deal with a team of mysterious blackmailers. They have footage of Jesse and his inner circle cheating on their wives and partying with illicit substances. Leaking it would ruin the Gemstone name. So Jesse needs to come up with an inordinate amount of money in little time.
Judy might have the money to save the day, but it’s Jesse who makes the deal go south. He lashes out at one of the blackmailers and makes a run for it. Judy then panics and runs over one of their adversaries…which only gives Jesse the idea to hit one of the others on purpose. It leaves the siblings in an awkward situation where they don’t know if they committed murder or not.
“We were doing some fast and crazy driving,” Patterson said of filming the raucous scene. “You go over ramps and sandbags and stuff, and then they film stunt people after and stick what their bodies are doing into…it’s some kind of crazy CGI thing.”
The last shot of The Righteous Gemstones premiere shows the three siblings driving away from the scene of the crime. All three — Jesse, Judy, and Kelvin — look spooked by what’s just happened. Is there still a way for the Gemstones to have a happy ending? Do they even deserve it? And what would happiness look like for Judy Gemstone?
“I honestly think for Judy, she wants to be important…she could be important and seen and understood,” Patterson said. “I think she wants to be an important member of the Gemstones.”
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