From Playing The Prince Of Darkness To An Ex-Satanist: Tony Cavalero On His New HBO Show, “The Righteous Gemstones”

Righteous GemstonesPhoto Credit: Sela Shiloni

Fresh from playing Ozzy Osbourne on the Netflix biopic “The Dirt,” Tony Cavalero tackles the part of ex-Satanist Keefe Chambers on HBO’s “The Righteous Gemstones.” The series, which tells the story of a world-famous televangelist family with a long tradition of deviance, greed and charitable work, also stars Danny McBride, John Goodman and Adam Devine. Beyond playing Keefe and Ozzy, Cavalero is best known as ‘Dewey Finn’ in Nickelodeon’s “School of Rock” as well as for comedies that include “New Girl,” “Hart of Dixie,” “Two Broke Girls,” “Modern Family,” “The Duff” and “Ken Jeong Made Me Do It.” Here, Cavalero offers us some insight into the televangelist world… and reveals what Sharon Osbourne, at least, thought about his performance as the Prince of Darkness.

Righteous GemstonesPhoto Credit: Sela Shiloni

Let’s talk about your new series, “The Righteous Gemstones.” What can you tell us about the series?

I can tell you it was an absolute dream to work on! There is such a family atmosphere out there in Charleston with the whole rough house crew. I mean obviously I’m getting to work with comedy gods like John Goodman, Danny McBride, Jody Hill, Adam Devine, Edi Patterson, and David Gordon Green; so that’s pretty rad too! The series itself is genre bending. Of course it’s hilarious, but there’s also parts that are very dramatic and even parts that feel like a horror film. The show really deals with hypocrites. We see these characters that say one thing and act completely different than that, but at the same time you empathize with them. It also lives in a very fun world of the evangelical south.

You play an ex-satanist. How deep did you have to dig to connect with Keefe?

It was really a blast coming up with this character because usually I play very high energy characters closer to myself. My wife and I were on a long road trip back from Lake Tahoe and we kind of workshopped Keefe, taking aspects of a character I used to play at the Groundlings as well as one that I did a little web series for way back in 2009. Then I added a rad mullet (leftover from playing Ozzy in “The Dirt”) and a southern drawl and voila! It was just so great to play such a subtle weirdo. To be honest it was also fun doing online research on actual satanists too. Don’t look at my browser history!

Was it a trip working with Danny McBride, John Goodman and Adam Devine, or are they more serious than you’d expect?

It was a total trip! I had known Adam before but John and Danny I had never met, so that was like so surreal to get to meet and work with both of them. Always extra special when you get to meet your heroes and they are even nicer than you’d ever imagined. That was my experience! I found myself in total awe most of the time when I was on set with those three.

Righteous GemstonesPhoto Credit: Sela Shiloni

Were there any on-set pranks to be had?

Not too many pranks but endless laughs! As you’ll see with my character, he tends to pop up and throw something completely random into the mix which made for amazing giggles on set! Like I said, it was a real family environment so we were always going out on the boat together, doing “Game of Thrones” watch parties, or spending time on the beach as a group. Adam and I also got really into working out together. He would text me and be like “come over I’m gonna shred for a half an hour” and I’d hop in my golf cart with my dumbbells and we would work out in his backyard shirtless. ‘Twas hilarious! A meathead match made in heaven.

What sets this project apart from other things you’ve done?

It’s HBO and the comedy of a genius brains behind “East Bound” and “Vice Principals.” I have never had the opportunity to work with such pedigree before. Also getting to stretch as an actor and play something completely different than my norm was awesome!

People also know you as Dewey Finn from “School of Rock” and your standout role as Ozzy Osborne in “The Dirt.” Both are musical, but radically different. Which did you prefer and why?

Man that is a tough question! I literally had to step into the shoes of two icons (Jack Black & Ozzy Osbourne) and they were both such different experiences. The Ozzy part was super special because it was my first real job after school of rock had been canceled and it was so wildly different than a Nickelodeon show. The cast and crew were so welcoming even though I only shot one day for that part which made for an unforgettable experience. However the amazing friendships, time spent, and experience that came with “School of Rock” has to win. We all worked so hard as a team on that show and it resulted in two Emmy nominations. The bonds that were made during those three seasons of a show are everlasting. Also have to mention that SOR was my first series regular role ever and a huge milestone in my career. Again, I am so super grateful for both opportunities!

Righteous GemstonesPhoto Credit: Sela Shiloni

Have you met Ozzy? Did he say you nailed [playing] him?

Never met him, but I did hear a rumor that Sharon was very against having that scene in the movie. If that’s the case, I’m sure that’s why I have never heard from him. I hope secretly he loved it :-)

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I’m not sure! I think everyone has something unique to offer the world and I’m just trying to do my best to be of service and a positive influence throughout my work and life.

Has your black belt/military training/Scout training helped prepare you for any roles?

I definitely think the biggest assets those experiences have given me are discipline and perseverance. Whether it’s karate, Boy Scouts, or the Virginia Military Institute; I always had clear goals and pathways towards them. Navigating Hollywood has probably been the toughest task I have faced, but those prior hardships prepared me the best for it. I also think those different types of training gave me a unique perspective that you don’t get very much in the industry.

After “The Righteous Gemstones,” what do you have coming up next?

I’m trying my best to read a lot, watch a lot of movies, walk the dogs with my wife every night, and enjoy the best food in LA, so that’s my main focus right now. However I’m currently performing in the Groundlings and I’m most excited for a podcast/web series I’m producing with my wife who also stars in it. It’s called Slop The Podcast and I think people are gonna dig it!

Righteous GemstonesPhoto Credit: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com

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