Hallelujah! The third season of The Righteous Gemstones has come to an end, and what a brilliant season it was. There were monster trucks, doomsday preppers, religious gameshows, rattlesnakes, and a whole lot of theatrics. Before the season came to an end, Spencer Williams talked with The Righteous Gemstones costume designer Christina Flannery about the captivating third season. The conversation delves into the creative intricacies of season three’s costume journeys, the meticulous research and preparation, her deep admiration for Danny McBride’s genius, and her penchant for pushing comedic boundaries. The conversation transitions from discussing the evolution of the Gemstone siblings, the supporting partners, Dr. Eli Gemstone, and of course… the esteemed host of Baby Billy’s Bible Bonkers, Baby Billy Freeman.
Spencer Williams: I am so excited to welcome the costume designer of season three of The Righteous Gemstones, costume designer Christina Flannery. I’ve been basically binging the show every hour of every day, and I’m obsessed. I’ve just been dying to talk to you.
Christina Flannery: I love that. Thank you!
Spencer Williams: Let’s get into it. So getting into season three, you were new to the show. What kind of research and preparation did you go through getting into the series?
Christina Flannery: I am a huge fan of the show, and I am a huge fan of Danny McBride. He’s a genius with my kind of humor. Sarah Trost designed the costumes for seasons one and two, so I chatted with her a little when I was beginning. It just felt so natural! I’m from the South, and I’m very knowledgeable about religious stuff, but I’m also very intrigued by hyper-stylized elements and pushing the comedy aspect. It was just very much like … this is my world!
Spencer Williams: I’m excited to dive into the Gemstones and their own personal styles. They are very hyper-stylized, over the top in their everyday looks. The siblings are coming into their own as leaders of the church! Let’s start with Jesse, played by the brilliant Danny McBride. How would you describe Jesse’s style? And what was it like collaborating with Danny, who is also the creator, a producer, a writer, and sometimes a director…
Christina Flannery: King! He is the king. Even from the very beginning, I had my interview with him, and we just hit it off! I had maybe an 11-minute interview with him. It was literally just two just people broing it down! In general, Danny is the most supportive. I cannot literally say it enough, he is the best showrunner I’ve ever worked with. Danny is so thoughtful, communicative, dedicated, and very involved. I don’t even know how he does it, the man is superhuman. Season 3 of The Righteous Gemstones is what happens when you give Christina some money. Danny just unleashed me, pushing me in the right direction with creative freedom!
Spencer Williams: That is so brilliant! Honestly, that kind of comes off in the show too. So then tell me about Jesse’s style this season, as he is definitely coming into his own as the leader of the church.
Christina Flannery: Yes! I pushed a lot of his costumes this season. There were some Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Hermes, and Versace moments. Bless his heart. He wore jackets in 100-degree weather with humidity because he’s that dedicated. There were definitely moments where he was like, “I don’t know about this.”
Spencer Williams: But Jesse would wear it regardless!
Christina Flannery: Exactly! The Gemstones would not be caught dead in fake or low-end designer. They are so wealthy! So there was a lot of flashy stuff for him: belts, ties, accents, jewelry. We also touched on those elements of Elvis and George Jones. I tried to take what Sarah Trost did with the first two seasons and keep on that pathway but put my own twist on it. Out of the three siblings, I would say Jesse doesn’t pivot as much.
Spencer Williams: Right. Because at the end of the day, he has his own style, and it doesn’t really change much because he’s always kind of seen himself as a leader anyways. Let’s talk about Kelvin. Kelvin is always up to some sort of new venture. This season, Kelvin and Keefe formed the Smut Busters to shut down local sex shops by buying out their inventory. Tell me about Kelvin’s style this season, which is a lot different than last season.
Christina Flannery: I would say it was one of the ones that made the biggest transition. I wanted him to seem more like a hype priest and kind of lean into that world of what you see on TikTok for youth pastors. I did a lot of research and made my own TikTok account so I could just literally suffocate myself in this culture. Initially, we wanted to keep it simple… but keeping things simple is really hard for me.
So I had some ideas and threw them around and basically landed on the Smut Busters. Each individual character has a different color sock that matches the shoe. Then each shoe, my whole department just laid out all the velcro shoes, and everybody wrote with puffy paint pens that said little details like “I love Jesus.” The real concept behind this is that it’s a nod to Double Dare. The production designer, Richard Wright, and I came together, and we just thought it was so hilarious. It really landed and was a great follow-up to The God Squad from last season. Kelvin, to me, has the kindest heart of the three. He has great intentions, but there’s just something not quite right.
Spencer Williams: Kelvin is too much fun! We have to talk about Judy Gemstone, played by Edi Patterson. She is on top of her game this season, just really feeling herself as her career as a performer starts to take off. Judy is almost always in costume, even when she’s sneaking to see her man on the side. I just love Judy for it.
Christina Flannery: Judy is definitely one of my faves, obviously. I loved working with Edi Patterson because she is just very much… ready to get down on the ground with you! She was the one that was in for so many fittings because it was just such an enjoyable experience to work with her. She was so excited, and I was so excited! Now the whole idea was that Judy was coming back from tour. She’s on top of the world. She’s having this affair and living in a delusion. You see where she’s just pushing this rock star mentality. She’s got a lot of flashy stuff, a lot of gold, and a lot of “Don’t fuck with me” pieces! Even at cousin’s night, she had this really cool jacket that I was quite afraid to use. I kind of went back and forth on it because she is a religious person, but the jacket had naked ladies in silver on it.
Spencer Williams: She’s teetering on her pop star era!
Christina Flannery: I wanted to bring pants into this season as well. So you see Judy wearing a couple of pairs of pants this season. I wanted it to be a little bit more feminist if you will. She is stepping into her own and taking charge… wearing the pants! So yes, her costumes definitely represent this rock and roll personality. As we transitioned through the season and we learned more about the cheating, I wanted to show through costumes that she was kind of going inward, and she was becoming more meek and embarrassed. She starts to get in a little bit more of those feminine florals, something you would see her actually wearing to woman’s night or to church.
Spencer Williams: Judy is such a brilliant character, and I just love what you and Edi Patterson have done this season. I’m obsessed with her. I now want to talk about each of the sibling’s partners. BJ has an incredible Versace look that took my breath away! *laughs*
Christina Flannery: BJ had a glow-up this season, and that was written! He sure did. He sure did. And he was written, it was written in the script that he, that he would have that glow up. There’s not a lot of grounding in the show. I think that he was one of the characters that I wanted to be more grounded in the reality of Charleston, South Carolina.
Spencer Williams: The real world exists outside the compound.
Christina Flannery: Exactly. That costume, though, is head-to-toe Versace. There are moments with him when we can have a little bit of fun in that surrealist, Gemstone over-the-top look. He has his own personal accent, and every earring he wears generally matches his outfit. That earring is changing all the time.
Spencer Williams: Maybe we need to take some more style cues from BJ, honestly. How would you describe Keefe’s costumes? One of the best characters on television right now.
Christina Flannery: Keefe leans goth. Tony Cavalero is definitely very hands-on. We immediately hit it off and exchanged phone numbers. He would text me and ask, “What do you think about this?” He was just so fun to work with. He has a lot of his own ideas. We did a lot of the cropping of the shirts and things that were specifically for Keefe. He wanted to have this element of sexiness to him. We played with that idea a lot. I brought in some Rick Owens; it was perfect for him. He is based in that sexy goth world, but then as he gets kicked out of the church and leaves, Danny really wanted him to be very stripped down and bare. Keefe is the heart. We live for Keefe. He’s such a beautiful person. I can’t say enough about these actors. I am so fortunate.
Spencer Williams: My heart! Keefe, we love you. Then, of course, we have Amber Gemstone, who is just a style icon. She just always looks put together. She just never misses.
Christina Flannery: She definitely is a gorgeous bombshell, and it was so fun working with her as well. This season I wanted to elevate her look and lean more into this head of the church idea. Especially because you can see now going back to the flashback episode where she came from and her storyline. Amber had interactions with Amy Lee and learned how to be this beacon of the church. Elevating her look, I wanted to bring her into Balmain, Chanel, and a lot of St. John. I added a lot of shoulder pads to her stuff to kind of give her this very structured powerhouse feeling. Danny really likes that she has this mafia wife element to her.
Spencer Williams: Amber is just so elegant! Let’s talk about Dr. Eli Gemstone, played by the incredible John Goodman. He’s semi-retired this season, so he’s giving me vacation vibes. He’s a little bit more loose except when he’s at his interesting pistol group meetings. Tell me about Dr. Gemstone.
Christina Flannery: Thank you for noticing. You’re one of the first people that caught that. I really wanted the audience to see that he is leaning into retirement. We have a lot of linens, a lot of cotton, and natural blend fabrics. Growing up in the South, we all know that it’s incredibly hot. That comes with its own problems because linen always wrinkles. I think that John is very glad we did it because he was finally in this position where he could not be melting.
Spencer Williams: Good for him! He could wear some shirts and show some arms.
Christina Flannery: There’s one moment where he’s wearing a three-piece linen set that’s from Banana Republic that very much looks like something the guy from Jurassic Park would wear.
Spencer Williams: Oh my god, that’s what it is. Dr. Harmon! I love it. But I’m ready to talk about my favorite costume, probably from the entire three seasons. Baby Billy, played by Walton Goggins, is now a resident performer at Zion’s Landing, and his dreams of becoming a television personality are starting to show through. I am obsessed with this costume. It is just perfect. Please tell me about this look.
Christina Flannery: I really wanted to pay homage to Wayne Newton. Liberace was also heavily influenced in this. Initially, when I got the script, it had Baby Billy singing by the pool, bada bing, bada boom, we move on. I wanted to know how I could make this insane costume and pitch it to Danny. I did some illustrations, and it started as a cape. But capes have been done. I’m ready to do something different. What about a stationary shell? I thought that it would be weird. It would be uncomfortable. He would move so awkwardly. I think it’s a really funny thing to do with his character because he just takes himself way too seriously. It’s bringing his ass down a few notches. It’s beautiful! I have to give a big shout-out to Kelly Rose, who brought this shell to life. Also to Aughra Moon who tailored it down and listened to all of my wild requests and notes! I love this costume. It’s one of my favorite costumes I’ve ever designed in general, and it’s going to be hard to top this for myself. It’s going to be a challenge, so I can’t wait. It’s going to push me.
Spencer Williams: This one needs to be in a museum somewhere. It’s perfect. It was giving Botticelli The Birth of Venus vibes, which is so funny to me.
Christina Flannery: So ridiculous. I keep seeing on the internet that people are calling it a clamshell… It’s an oyster shell, guys! *laughs*
Spencer Williams: Do you guys not know the difference? *laughs*
Christina Flannery: Come on, he’s the pearl!
Spencer Williams: Well, Christina, this was so much fun. I could talk about the show forever. I would love to know what this season of The Righteous Gemstones meant to you. It’s a huge project, and you’ve really done an incredible job.
Christina Flannery: Thank you. I am feeling very fortunate that I have gotten to work with somebody who I admire. I am so incredibly grateful to my incredible crew. From the freaking beginning, they were just on it, and it was a match made in heaven. This is the project that the stars were aligning for me. I’m just so fortunate and really, really happy.
Spencer Williams: Christina Flannery, thank you so much for joining me. This has been such a joy!