Tim Baltz has gone from doing improv in Chicago to acting in a variety of movies and television shows, but always keeps his heart in the characters he takes on. Most notably, he plays BJ in The Righteous Gemstones, which recently aired its second season. Baltz had much to say about his time filming this season and how he came to be the actor he is today.
Righteous Gemstone’s season 2 episode 4 is a big moment. Can you tell us more about filming the episode? What did you enjoy most?
Episode 4 was wild. There are too many great details to list, honestly. It mostly took place in one location, and when we walked in it was fully decorated with these gigantic posters of Judy and BJ. I mean, they were about 40 feet long and all over this huge room. We were all speechless at first. My favorite part had to be the romper with a cumberbund, though. Every time I walked past people for the first time they were in shock. The extras were going wild for it, too, staring at my body, admiring the craftsmanship of my special outfit. Also, Sarah Trost, our brilliant head of the wardrobe department, had seven to eight extra rompers made for when I had to tear it off in the dressing room scene. I secretly hope they still have them and they auction them off or something because people have been direct messaging me to say that they're going to dress up like BJ for Halloween this year. Who knows, maybe they can get the extras from production.
Your actual wife, Lily Sullivan, plays your sister in Season 2. What was it like working alongside her?
We're a writing team, so we work together on our laptops all the time, but we hadn't worked together on set since 2016 during the filming of Shrink. Knowing how rare it is, it was just really special to have her there. She's such a joy to be around and nobody cracks me up like she does. Plus, they put her in this wig to look like Judy Gemstone and she looked extra ridiculous. We were laughing about it the entire week. It’s a little weird when the director has to say to you, "Don't kiss her like she's your wife, kiss her like she's your sister,” but, hey, I'm a professional and I always follow direction.
Season 2 of Righteous Gemstones was released in January. How is this season different from Season 1?
This season helps the audience understand a little more how the Gemstones empire was built and how difficult it's going to be to protect and maintain it. The family doesn't just have current external threats, they also have threats popping up from their past, specifically diving into Eli Gemstone's backstory when he was younger, long before he became a wealthy, successful minister. I love both seasons and I think Danny McBride and company are experts at building these rich universes for their characters where anything is possible. I hope the show runs forever.
You studied improv at The Second City in Chicago. How does improv compare to the on-screen acting you’ve done?
On camera, you're always learning new techniques to prepare and execute the task at hand, but you've got to be able to handle the unexpected. I think improv really helps people prepare for anything that might be thrown at them, so I'm grateful for all the training I went through in my earlier days in Chicago. It's different in that, in an improv show, you can play any character and go wherever you want with it, whereas with on-screen acting you're playing one character and trying to accomplish the objectives of the scene that day. But so many core principles of improv like listening, being in the moment and reacting to the last thing your scene partner said are essential to on-screen acting.
How do you think your comedic rooted past has helped you in your acting career today?
The short answer is that it keeps me loose, reminds me to laugh and have fun. It's a tough business because you're going to get rejected a million times and have your biggest hopes dashed over and over, so it's important to...uh...be able to laugh about that, I guess? The longer answer is that getting good at improv takes a lot of repetition. Whatever form you're practicing, it'll put you in a ton of different scenic situations, especially if you're playing with different kinds of people or groups. All those different situations hopefully help you feel in your bones what works comedically and emotionally and what doesn't. That develops your instinct so that if you're reading a script or performing on camera, something inside you is guiding you toward the funniest choices. Then if things start to change in the moment, whether it's during an audition or while you're working, you're okay with it because you know you've got thousands of hours in your bones to keep you from getting scared.
Throughout your acting career, you’ve played a good deal of comedic roles. What do you love most about taking on these comedic characters?
I love how flexible and surprising they are, to be honest. Comedy tends to be open to surprises and different choices and that's exciting. Plus, a lot of the comedic characters I've played have had serious or dramatic stakes and that's allowed me to emotionally commit in my performances, too. It's always felt like comedy flows more naturally when a character has clear stakes like that. Whether it's dramatic or comedic, I gravitate toward characters that have heart. I think the more three dimensional or realistic a character can be, the funnier it gets. And I'm really grateful that I've gotten to play a lot of characters like that, who've ended up in some ridiculous situations.
Photography by: Courtesy HBO/ Ryan Green