- It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia -‘Always Sunny’s Kaitlin Olson On Season 15, Her Favorite Dee Moments, & Running Headfirst Into A Car
Kaitlin Olson once requested the opportunity to run headfirst into a parked car on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Not agreed to, mind you. Asked, said please, could she take a shot at running headfirst into a parked car.
“[The producers] didn't want me to do it,” Olson tells me of the stunt, in which her “Sweet” Dee Reynolds tried to purloin a pair of designer shoes and thus bolts headfirst into the side of a car while fleeing the store in Season 4's episode, “Who Pooped the Bed?”
“They had a stunt double there. And I was watching behind the monitors, and I was just like, ‘I just feel like I can do it better than that. Please, just let me try it.’ They switched out the door to the car so it had a little bit of a give to it. They only had a certain number of those special car doors, [and] there was only one left. I think something to do with knowing I only had one shot, you just go for it,” she says.
“I loved it. I love stuff like that. I'd rather do my own stunts, when it's somewhat safe.”
It was a successful take in that it became an instantly classic Dee moment, and helped establish Olson as a fearless actor and a truly gifted physical comedian in the realm of more recent TV stars like Maya Rudolph and Kate McKinnon. For Olson, it’s all about getting the laughs, and she’s more than willing to throw her body at it to make that happen.
There were “a lot of trips to the chiropractor,” she recalls about the aftereffects of the car headbutt. “But at least it looked good. That was really all that mattered.”
Before Olson and her Sunny co-stars get back to work (she estimates they’ll start shooting in the summer of 2021) and while she gets her two sons through the complicated pandemic school year, she made time to hop on the phone to chat with me about the upcoming season, how she fought to maintain Dee’s rottenness, and of course, the comedy of it all.
Is it an accurate assessment that you completely embrace every chance for physical comedy on Sunny?
It's definitely my favorite stuff to do, so yes. I don't know, there's just something so funny to me about a really clumsy person, and my limbs are just way too long for my body, so might as well use that to my advantage.
Is it true that you once broke your back during filming?
I did break my back. [But] I didn't do it on set. We were in the middle of production, but I wasn't on set. I just let my neighbor at the time, who was a football player and used to lift up cheerleaders … I was like, "That sounds cool." And he lifted me over his head, holding onto my hips and my shoulders. And he dropped me, and I landed on the street on my hip and broke my back. So I remember it was 4th of July weekend, and it was actually the year we were getting married, and we were getting married in September, and I couldn't walk.
I just remember thinking, "Am I going to be able to walk down the aisle at my own wedding?" I found a really amazing acupuncturist, because all of my doctors were like, "Look, you're not going to walk for eight weeks." And my acupuncturist, this magic man, was like, "Well, your bone won't heal for eight weeks, but we can repair that tissue. I can get you walking." It was just a ton of acupuncture, and I started being able to put some weight on it after about three or four weeks.
And you were able to walk down the aisle?
I did walk down the aisle, yes.
I think I remember reading about a situation on set where a spike went through your leg …
So, OK … we were shooting one of the Lethal Weapon [spoof] episodes, where Dee's dressed up as a cop. And my only job was to run in and pull a gun on [the rest of the cast]. We were in some weird warehouse, and I ran in and slid to a stop. But suddenly there was no ground underneath me. The ground was like a metal grate, and my leg went down, and the metal grate went into my leg.
Oh my god.
That was horrible. I just calmly sat down. I get super calm when I am very hurt, and Rob was like, "Uh oh." And he came over and lifted up my pant leg, and he just put the pant leg down and was like, "OK, could someone call the medic and also could someone else call 911?" My leg was just wide open.
The best thing is, we went to the hospital and at the hospital they said, "We know it's your leg, but is there anything else that's bothering you? Is there anything else?" And they just kept asking me and I was like, "No, are you kidding? My leg's wide open." And [the nurse] said, "Well, what is going on with your stomach?" And I looked down … I forgot that I was wearing a blood pack, because in that scene, I was supposed to get shot. My blood pack had exploded, and it looked like I'd been shot in the stomach. Rob was there with me, and we were laughing, we were like, "No, no, no, that's not real."
Did you finish the episode that day?
No, we had to write me out of that one. That was actually one of the more painful recoveries. I had to go to a plastic surgeon. It ripped the inside of my leg. It was sewn up, but underneath … it's hard to explain. That was a little bit of a longer recovery. They wrote me out of that scene.
Is that the worst injury you’ve suffered?
On set, yeah.
Oh no, you had to qualify that with “on set.”
It's seriously a joke on set, where I'll be walking and someone will be taking me to set, if we're on location, and just constantly going, "OK, there's a cord there. Go ahead and watch out for this cord." I'm like, "You guys, I know how to walk. We're good in the basic walking. You don't need to let me know that there's a curb. I promise to step up on the curb, not fall."
Do the writers write physical scenes for you because they are so funny, but also because they know that you like playing them? Because Sweet Dee’s violent gagging when she is super nervous, is just …
I think so. I know, the gagging thing came about because we were just joking around. A lot of this stuff just comes from us messing around behind the scenes, and we're trying to entertain each other. I was just doing a fake gag thing, I don't even remember what it was; it was over a decade ago. But it was making Glenn [Howerton] laugh, and then they ended up writing it in for something. Same with the inflatable man dance. That was because I was dancing, and Glenn was like, ‘How long are your arms in relation to your body? I don't think this is normal. You have an abnormally large wingspan. You look like one of those inflatable blow up guys at the car dealership.’ So that's how that whole thing got started.
And what about the bird jokes? You obviously do not look like a “bird person,” as the rest of The Gang is so fond of saying, but that is one of the longest running jokes of the whole series.
Yeah, that's a big one. I get, "Shut up, bird!" no matter what I comment on on anything in social media by thousands of people. I don't know where that came from. I think it started with Larry Bird. There was a basketball reference … it's just funny to me, because I don't even know what that means. And the fact that [Dee] gets so upset about it is really great.
Dee loves Josh Groban. Where did that come from? And he guest stars in the great fantasy sequence in “The Gang Saves the Day.”
He sings about how I do not look like a bird?
Yes. And he confirms that “Grobes,” as Dee calls him, does love it when his ladies pop.
He loves his ladies to pop. I think what happened there is that we found out that he was a fan of the show. I think that maybe Rob met him somewhere. Things like that are so specific. I love that she loves Josh Groban. I don't know why that's so funny to me. And he's just such a lovely person in real life, too. He was such a good sport. That was really fun.
How do you see Dee having evolved from the beginning? I remember reading that you talked to the guys — executive producers/writers Rob, Glenn, and Charlie Day — after you read the pilot and told them you had concerns, that you didn't want Dee to be just their sidekick or the voice of reason for the guys behaving badly.
Well, I had this great audition, and I was so excited about the show. [Then] they sent me their first three episodes that were already written, and I read them and I was like, “Well, hold on a second. The audition I just did was so funny and so much fun. And then the Dee character in these three scripts that I'm reading is just so boring.”
I talked to them about that and they were like, “Yeah, we just really didn't know how to write for this character, because [she] hasn't been cast yet. So what we did for the audition was we took a scene that was actually Dennis and Charlie, and just switched it out to see how you would do it. But this was actually a Dennis scene.”
And I was like, “Oh, OK, well, in that case, no, I don't want to do this. I love it, and I see that you are capable of writing a really wonderful character, but I don't want to do this character as it's written right now.”
And they said, “No, you're absolutely right, we just need to figure out how to write for a woman, because it's just the three of us." And I was like, “You don't need to write for a woman, just write a funny character for me. But it needs to be as dynamic as the three of you guys are.” And they did.
It was fully me trusting them because those episodes were already written; we were going to do those. So I don't love the first season because a bunch of the episodes are Dee just being like, “You guys! Come on, you guys, you can't do that, you guys!” So boring. And so in that way, it sort of evolved. But otherwise, I like to think that once we got the character to a place where I really wanted her to be, I don't think she's evolved at all, which I think is the point of the show: none of them will. Nobody's going to learn anything. There might be changes here and there, trying new things out here and there, but the beauty of the show is that the characters probably won't evolve.
What kinds of things do you still want to see Dee do?
Ooh, that's a great question. I've gotten to do so much. I just get so excited when there's something that I hadn't already thought of. When I read a script, and I have no idea where this is going to go, that's always something I love so much … any time I get to do those big ridiculous things or there's some big reveal or when Dee had a plan all along..
Like in “Dee Day”? One of those delightful episodes where Dee really gets the best of The Gang?
That was really fun to do. I love the stuff where Dee gets a win, but it's accidental … [it’s] really funny to me. What was that one with the escape room? “The Gang Escapes”? And Dee ends up falling out the window and is in the hospital and all the way to the very end she hates them and is going to sue them, but the second that they come into the hospital smiling and chanting, “Dee, Dee, Dee” she's just so happy that they like her. It's so ridiculous to me that her goal in all of this is just to get their approval, for 15 years now. I don't understand why [she] hasn't left. But that makes me laugh, that she just fully turns on the moderator of the escape room and is right back as a part of The Gang.
One of the other things I love about Dee is that she is the character who gets into the best adventures with other members of The Gang. Like, Dee and Charlie are always a great team.
Yes! Oh my gosh, I love that so much. When they think they're eating human meat, that episode. I can't even remember why or what's going on in that episode. I just remember walking down the streets of L.A., pecking at a chicken hoagie, like a bird, and just eating human meat. [Charlie’s] just so much fun to play with. Scenes with Charlie are great, because your goal ends up being just to try and make Charlie break while you're shooting. It's just like such a good energy, because I'm saying things that are scripted, but really I'm going to tweak stuff and just see how many times I can make Charlie laugh.
How often does the improv stuff get in?
Oh, all the time. All the time. And it's not like full scenes are rewritten, it's just a line that ends up being our favorite was something that somebody just came up with on the day.
Can you remember one that's happened with you that made it into the final episode?
All the stuff on the scooter when I drive the scooter into the bar. Yeah, the scamming, when I drive the scooter into the bar, that whole scene is pretty much improvised. I don't know. It's just a mush of scenes that are crammed together. I don't even remember storylines anymore.
Why do you think the audience trusts you and the show, to go so over the top, do so many outrageous, sometimes really awful things to each other and other people?
I think because it's very clearly a satire and because as creators, we are clearly making fun of extremes on all sides. It doesn't have to get argumentative and political, because I think you can tell, if you really tried, what side of the line we're on. But on the show, we're not trying to be preachy. We might be pointing things out or highlighting problems in America, but we really do try and make fun of extremes. And I think that's what makes it safe to laugh at. I don't think it's divisive. We're poking fun at everyone. Really, the character of the city of Philadelphia is the only good guy. The rest of us are just, we're disasters.
And the city loves all of you, too. Do you and Rob still have the restaurant in Philly?
We do, yeah. It had to close down for a while because of COVID, but it's back up and running. It's Mac's Tavern, and it's in Old City, and if anyone's there they should definitely go visit it. It was tough for a while, but hopefully we can build some business back up. We just have so many great employees we want to keep employed.
Will you guys go to Philly again to film for Season 15? That's something you usually do at least once a season, right?
Yeah, we try and get there as often as possible. This year is a little tricky. We're not really sure if we're going to be able to fly, if we're going to be able to do all the traveling and things that we want to do.
With next season, Sunny will officially be the longest-running live-action comedy in TV history. And not that it ever seemed like you all were unenthusiastic about doing the show, but it feels like you really have a renewed enthusiasm for continuing the series, like you are really having fun together. Is that right?
You know, that's a great question. I think what happened, certainly what I feel happened, is that we were able to take a break and do different projects. And that really highlighted just how great we have it on Sunny.
I mean, we are so fortunate, the situation that we've found ourselves in on FX [and FXX], a network that fully supports and trusts and pushes us to do whatever we want. The fact that we all love each other and are great friends and have amazing chemistry together … we shoot so quickly, it's not boring at all ever, we are in and out in two months max.
The fact that we were able to take a year off, and I was able to go do The Mick, and Glenn was able to go do A.P. Bio, and Rob [and Charlie] Mythic Quest … everyone got to do other things, and that felt really good. And it also just really reminded us how much we love these characters and working together. So it was great to come back … And I think we just really appreciate it. It was able to highlight how much we need to appreciate this opportunity that's really a once in a lifetime thing. I mean, this'll be the thing that I did with my life.
And it brought you to your husband, meeting your husband, and your kids.
That's the thing. I met Rob, and we have these beautiful children, and it's just such a huge, huge part of my whole life. It's not just my job, so I never take it for granted. I hope we do it forever.
Can you envision going to Season 20?
So what I think will probably happen, I hope, is that in order to not get sick of it, we're able to go and do other stuff. I mean, I'm speaking as one of the only actors-only on the show. I don't have to worry about writing it. Writing is the hardest part by far.
So it's a matter of Charlie and Rob and Glenn feeling like they are inspired by something and had a break from it and want to come back fresh and write a new season. And I think as long as we can take breaks here and there, I don't see why we couldn't go for a long time, because we're taking cues from events that happen in society. And there's a lot of material going on.
I can't imagine how they're going to keep it to 10 episodes after this year and all the things they could write about.
There are so many things. I'm just always amazed at how they are able to write to these horrific events and allow for a space to laugh at some of this stuff. I don't know how they do that.
Do you have any desire to write?
No. And I love this question. I get asked it all the time. I have a desire to write on shows where it isn't working for me, to offer notes and step in and make suggestions … when I feel like, “Ooh, I can see how to fix this.” [I’ve] literally never once read a Sunny script and been like, “No, this isn't good, but I have ideas.”
I read them and I'm like, “How did they do this?” And I really mean it. It's not just because I'm married to [Rob]. But he's an amazing showrunner, and he has this unbelievable gift to be able to look at something and see where it's not working and see how to fix it, or look at something and say, “Well, this is a predictable route, and here's what we could do that would be surprising and interesting and funny and maybe a little heartwarming.” You know?
There are those moments, those heartwarming moments. Not many, we do not expect that from the show, but there have been a few sweet moments.
Yeah, Mac coming out was really beautiful. And not trying to undercut it with a joke was such a great choice. And you won't see that very often, which is good. You don't want to.
Dee has a few moments like that, too, especially when she is vulnerable. Like, as you mentioned earlier, just desperately wanting The Gang to be impressed with her in the escape room episode. And when she’s eating “trash cake” in “The Gang Broke Dee.”
Yeah, thank you. It's definitely one of those things where you want to throw it in every once in a while, and then you want to find a way to sweep the rug out.
And then we want Dee's hair to get caught in a fish processing machine.
That's right! Oh, Dee's hair.
Images: Screenshots, FXX/Hulu