‘Vice Principals’ star on Belinda’s fear, vulnerability

HBO brings class into session with the soon-to-be-released Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download pack of comedy that will test your take on laughter with “Vice Principals: The Complete First Season.”

As two teachers plot and plan for control of the principal job at North Jackson High School, Neil Gamby (Danny McBride) and Lee Russell (Walton Coggins) are in for a big surprise.

Deciding to hire someone not from the school, the two teachers are introduced to Dr. Belinda Brown played by Kimberly Hebert Gregory. Coming into the school with high expectations, she had no idea that what was about to happen to her.

From dealing with two adults acting like teenagers, an ex-husband who hasn’t grown up either and sons who test her every move – Dr. Brown is pushed to a breaking point that is nothing short of mind-boggling.

I had the grand opportunity to speak with Kimberly about her role as the principal of North Jackson High School and shares with us an in-depth look at her character.

Jeri Jacquin: Thanks for talking with me today Kimberly, how are you?

Kimberly Hebert Gregory: I’m doing great Jeri, thank you.

JJ: I have to tell you that I just fell for the series “Vice Principals” and your character. Please tell me how you got involved with the project?

KHG: It really was an audition where they made a decision about the character early on in the pilot, and I was doing another pilot at the time. Somehow it worked out that I got to go in and auditioned with Danny McBride sitting there. I was trying not to freak out — I mean, it was a test with the leads! I did walk out feeling “wow, this is a great moment, pat on the back Kimberly!” I made people who I truly respect in comedy laugh and thought it was a good day. They called back fortunately.

JJ: When you read the script did your jaw drop as much as mine did watching the series?

KHG: It did, but for several different reasons. I’m actually reading everyone’s part even though I’m Dr. Brown and reading it for the development of my character. I had to think about what was this world like that Belinda was going to be in. Just reading that this was taking place in a school, and this was adults behaving this way in a school, I was blown away at how absurd it all seemed. The adults had really become the children.

JJ: It’s almost, too, as if they had their own adult “high school’ cliques with the rift between Gamby and Russell.

KHG: Absolutely, and I think that may have been part of their desire to write something that mirrors our adults lives whether we can see it or not. We have created and do create these cliques with people who are cool and people who are not, people who deserve our wrath <we are both laughing at this point> and people who do not.

JJ: Your character is also the odd one out of the clique circle because everyone else knows what’s going in at the school except Dr. Brown.

KHG: I think that’s the sinister nature of it all between these three characters. You have two people who are actively working to take someone out to get a job! That’s the nature of the comedy and the story.

I believe that if Belinda even suspected what they were doing, both would have been gone day one. Its worse that Gamby and Russell are both actively and jointly trying to get rid of her. The beautiful flaw in her character is that she is so overwhelmed and consumed with her personal life that even when there are clues that should pull her in get past her because she needs the job for her own sanity. Then she tries to play Gandhi in many situations.

JJ: She has such a trusting nature in ways because, let’s be honest, you don’t expect this behavior from staff. You go in with a great nature that takes such a dark turn.

KHG: She goes in ready to clean house within the first few episodes. You discover that these guys are horrible human beings and somehow perform their jobs — leaving her to think they are good people. She has no idea of the personal crisis coming her way when they do what they do to her house. They have put things together in such a way that it’s hard for her to know who is doing what.

I don’t know that Belinda is well meaning all the time, in fact, that’s why I think I love this character. She had to meet them where they were at some point.

JJ: I have to ask how much fun or not fun filming the last dark scene. I think you know which one I’m talking about.

KHG: I have to be completely honest and say it was my least comfortable, least favorable and least enjoyment. That moment I cannot watch. I remember how I felt as Kimberly, and I didn’t want the world to see me doing that. It took a lot out of me.

I remember a day or two before shooting that scene, Danny and I were talking and we were waiting to do a scene and he said, “how is it going?” I mean he is such an amazing guy and such care taken for me as an actor and a person who is new to their world. So when he asked how it was going I said, “Could you just take back that scene?” He said, “no we can’t cut that!”

JJ: If it helps, what it did for me as a viewer, is that you finally see this deep vulnerability. I mean, when you are a principal you have to be the strong one, you have to show you can lead and solve problems. In that moment there is a scared vulnerability that is totally relatable as I thought man, I’ve been there before.

KHG: I knew that too when I read it. I read that scene and thought, “Yep, that’s the one.” When we had our meeting and they asked if I had any questions. I said “Yep, I have a question.”

I wanted to know how the scene was going to be done and it tested my personal insecurities. It was around then that I started to grow right along with Belinda — I mean, she had to have that ending. It had to be that, it had to bad. I think part of me not wanting to do it was because I was so protective of my character. I wanted her to be in the world in such a way that we could all look at her and say, “Yes, I know how that feels.” I felt like that for her to give up on so much that was going on in her life, drinking again.

JJ: I’m surprised your character didn’t start drinking way before that!

KHG: Her whole experience was a difficult one to deal with that’s for sure.

JJ: I know it’s hard to talk about a series or give anything away for those who haven’t seen the series yet, but what would you want viewers to know about your character that maybe only you know about her?

KHG: She is such a scared woman. I think that’s the biggest thing. She is afraid about everything that is going on in her life, her job and inside she’s afraid. That can manifest in so many different ways, so for Belinda, I think, as a woman who works in a male driven position, you are your most vulnerable during all of those insecurities. I think that was the secret to her for me. I knew her and I know we all know her. No matter who you are we all know that place when a part of us says, “What are we doing?”

JJ: Exactly. Thank you so much for talking to me today. You are an amazing woman to have taken on this role and do it to the point of giving your character so many facets that we can all relate to. I appreciate you so much.

KHG: I really appreciate that Jeri; I hope that I answered your questions.

JJ: You did, and it makes it more fun when we can laugh about some of it.

KHG: Absolutely!

 

“Vice Principals: The Complete First Season” is a show you don’t see coming which makes it all the more worth a marathon watch. The series on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download pack this week from HBO Home Entertainment so might I suggest on this blustery weekend indoors that laughing be back in session.

In the end ­— we all need someone to look up to!

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About the Author

Jeri Jacquin

Jeri Jacquin covers film, television, DVD/Bluray releases, celebrity interviews, festivals and all things entertainment.