Wrapping up filming on its 7th season, likely to debut in September on FX, about a dozen online outlets were invited to hang out on the set and chat with the cast of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia while they were shooting their season finale. After observing a couple of scenes being shot, which were connected to the baby storyline from Season 6, and taking a tour of the sets, which included the very recognizable Paddy’s Pub, we were treated to a delicious catered lunch and then brought into a conference room to wait for the cast.
Show creator/executive producer/star Rob McElhenney, who has put on 50 pounds for story purposes, was joined by co-stars Charlie Day, Glenn Howerton, Kaitlin Olson and Danny DeVito for a nearly 45-minute chat, in which they talked about the darker tone, their jaunt to the Jersey Shore, guest stars, more serialized storytelling, themes of this season, the reason for the extreme weight gain, and their hope for a Season 8. Check out excerpts that highlight some of the stand-out points of the interview, and listen to the audio for the full conversation:
GLENN HOWERTON: Yeah, we’re definitely stepping into some pretty dark territory this year.
DANNY DeVITO: It’s fun dark.
CHARLIE DAY: We did so much baby stuff last year that we weren’t going to deal with the baby thing at all, and then we thought it would be funny to put the baby thing to rest, once and for all, with a baby funeral. And then, just through our process, the story became something a little bit different. Originally, the idea was to do it so that Dee would stop talking about babies or doing any sort of baby thing, and essentially just move on.
DeVITO: There’s always the chance that she gets knocked up again.
KAITLIN OLSON: It’s just a particularly dark episode.
Are you guys going to make it out of Philly this year?
DAY: Yes, we’re going to the Jersey Shore.
HOWERTON: But, I promise you that we worked very, very hard to create an episode where the characters go to the Jersey Shore, and it is not an episode about the people from The Jersey Shore.
DAY: Yeah, it will be a refreshing, different look at it.
So you won’t have a fake tan?
DAY: I’m not saying that there won’t be some fake tanning going on and some bejeweled clothing.
HOWERTON: It’s a different spin on it. We wanted to put our spin on it.
DAY: Much like the great actors of our time – DeNiro, Christian Bale, Marlon Brando . . .
HOWERTON: . . . although, that wasn’t on purpose . . .
DAY: . . . Rob McElhenney has intentionally gained 50 pounds for this season. It’s been disgusting to watch him pursue this venture.
OLSON: I live with it. We share the same kitchen and bed.
DAY: We’re a little bit on the fence about it, just for his own personal health and safety, but it has definitely made Mac a lot funnier this season because he still thinks he has the body of an Adonis.
HOWERTON: In Mac’s mind, his excuse is that he’s been spending all this time building up his mass and bulking up, with the idea being that he’s eventually going to chisel it down and he’ll be this big, massive, muscular beast.
ROB McELHENNEY: When David was created, you had to first get a slab of marble, and then you chisel it down.
HOWERTON: So, you’ll see the big, fat, marble slab without it ever having been chiseled down.
McELHENNEY: I’ve actually lost about five pounds, since I put it on. I’m trying not to.
What’s been the method for you to gain all of this weight?
McELHENNEY: I was eating 5,000 calories a day, which is a lot. Every day, I drink a huge shake with Weight Gainer and ice cream, and I eat donuts.
DeVITO: We send him a lot of cake.
What was the reason for this?
McELHENNEY: I was watching a very popular sitcom and noticing about how the characters were getting better looking, as the seasons progressed. And, I have never seen a sitcom in which the actors progressively got worse looking, which is, I think, truer to life, especially the lives that these characters lead. And, a character that’s always talking about putting on mass and all he does is eat shit and drink beer would eventually look like this. I thought that would be an interesting experiment, and it seems to be working out.
McELHENNEY: Fuck no! I can’t. My liver wouldn’t be able to take it.
DAY: Which is too bad because it’s definitely funnier.
HOWERTON: When Rob first moved out to L.A., he probably weighed 135 pounds or 140 pounds. Now, he weighs 205.
OLSON: When we started dating, I was like, “I really like this guy, but he’s very skinny.” Not anymore! He proved me wrong.
DAY: It will be interesting to see if he can return from the abyss.
OLSON: He thinks it will drop off.
McELHENNEY: I think it’s going to fall right off.
HOWERTON: The first 20 pounds will.
When does the experiment stop?
McELHENNEY: When we’re done shooting, so in two weeks.
What are you going to miss most?
McELHENNEY: Just the gluttony of not having to think about it, and eating whatever I want.
DeVITO: He’s always got something in his hand. He’s always eating. It’s really ridiculous. You turn around and he’s got a cupcake. You turn around and he’s got a burrito.
McELHENNEY: Even now, I’m sucking on sugar, just to keep my blood sugar up. It’s a full-time commitment.
OLSON: Not to mention the longer beard and the hair, and the whole thing.
McELHENNEY: We’d fit right in on The Shield. I think Vic Mackey coming into our bar and cracking skulls would be pretty interesting.
Are the Jackass guys coming in and doing an episode this season?
HOWERTON: We had to push that episode, unfortunately.
DAY: It’s tough to pin down their schedules.
HOWERTON: That’s not why. It’s because it was too expensive. They were actually fine. It was the episode itself that got a little too expensive and we were over-reaching a little bit.
McELHENNEY: It was just a really big episode and we thought that, instead of having to go through and cut things out of the script, we’d rather just push it to next year, when we can have the budget to do what we want.
DAY: The concept was that everyone pictures those guys as maniacs who do stuff like that all the time, and they come into our bar, just ‘cause they figured there would be no one there and they’d get a little peace and quiet. And, thinking it’s a fun prank on them, we savagely beat them to the ground, and then we get in a big, nasty lawsuit with them. But, you’ll have to wait until a potential Season 8.
What did you learn from doing more serialized storytelling last season, and will that carry over to this season at all?
HOWERTON: There is a little bit of serialized storytelling this year because of Rob’s weight, but not a tremendous amount. It’s fun. We did that when we brought Danny onto the show. In Season 2, we were forced to do that as well. It was never something that we wanted to do, particularly, but introducing his character forced us to do it, and I think it was actually a lot of fun. We enjoyed it. It’s definitely challenging, in a different way. Doing what we normally do, which is each individual episode being its own thing, is challenging, in a different way, because you have very little time to wrap everything up. I like both styles of storytelling. I think it’s fun. We hadn’t really been doing that since Season 2, so to do it again in Season 6 was a bit of a challenge. We definitely talked about whether or not we wanted to even do that. We thought about trying to hide [Kaitlin’s] pregnancy. We went over a number of different things, and then eventually we decided that would be a challenge that would actually be more fun, to have her be pregnant.
What are some of the themes of this season?
HOWERTON: Well, in this episode (the finale) that we’re shooting right now, we’re playing with the larger issue of what’s going on with the government and what happens with our money when we give our money to the people we elect to decide what to do with our money.
DAY: It’s also paralleled with how, as a government and as people, we communicate with one another, and how, in an effort to communicate, communication often breaks down. And, it also says nothing, too.
McELHENNEY: We’re doing an episode that would be the realistic version of Pretty Women. Frank (Danny DeVito) proposes to a prostitute, and then it’s the real-life version of what that might look like.
HOWERTON: We had an idea for Frank deciding that he wanted to lock this one whore down, so he would continue to pay her, but marry her. And then, it became very funny to us, the idea that that’s the plot of Pretty Woman. But, if Pretty Woman was real, what would really happen in that situation?
DAY: We’re also tackling media sensationalizing things. With 2012 coming up, we’re tackling the apocalypse and super-storms, and just general frenzy.
McELHENNEY: We have an episode about a child beauty pageant, thrown at the bar.
HOWERTON: The biggest challenge for that episode – and it took us a long time to lock into how we would do it – was figuring out why and how these characters end up throwing a pageant. We didn’t want to just do something where they just decide to throw a kids’ pageant because that’s fucking ridiculous. So, we had to come up with something. I don’t want to give away why. It’s a good joke, in the opener, as to how it happens, but suffice it to say, we end up throwing a kids’ pageant and it’s pretty outrageous.
DAY: And, we get kids because the kind of parents that put their children in these situations usually [are willing to do that]. “Is there a crown involved? All right, okay.”
Now that you guys are this far into the run of the show, has it been a challenge to find new things to put these people through?
DAY: Season 2 was a challenge. It’s always a challenge.
HOWERTON: The challenge is not coming up with concepts or ideas for what these characters can get into. The challenge is always building a good story around it and grounding it, in its own way. Obviously, the universe that these characters live in is a little bit heightened. But, a lot of the work that we do, when we come up with these big things that we do, is to work really, really hard to make sure that, at least for the characters, what they’re doing is justified, at least to them. So, coming up with a child pageant is one thing. Figuring out how to get into it and what it has to do with the world, so that it feels like its relevant, as opposed to just a joke, [is another]. We work really hard to make sure that our stuff just isn’t like, “Yeah, that’s a funny joke.” It’s gotta feel like there’s something more happening, so there’s a little depth to it. One of the things that we pride ourselves on is that you can watch the show multiple times and get more from it because that’s what we challenge ourselves with. Coming up with ideas though, there’s a lot of stuff to prey on. There’s always something crazy going on.
DAY: It’s also always a challenge. There’s nothing easy about it, in general, whether it was Season 1 or Season 7.
HOWERTON: Yeah. I just mean that there are a lot of things to make fun of. Structuring it and making it really work, as an episode, is the toughest part.
DAY: Jason Sudeikis is back, for just a quick thing. We’ve got John Polito, a great character actor, coming in to play Frank’s long lost brother. The Kings of Leon make a brief appearance.
HOWERTON: It’s not even that brief. They’ve got a whole thing.
McELHENNEY: They had that whole thing with Glee, where they were asking to use one of their songs. It turns out they’re not huge fans of Glee, but they’re huge fans of Sunny, so we made that happen.
HOWERTON: Ironically enough, the episode that they’re in, there are some elements of it that are Glee-esque. Lance Reddick is going to be on the show, in the same episode that Polito is in.
DAY: We have a surprise one, to announce later this season. It’s a pretty famous guy.
OLSON: It’s not going to knock your socks off, but you’ll recognize the name.
HOWERTON: It will knock some people’s socks off.
At this point in the run of the series, does FX let you do what you want?
HOWERTON: They trust us, a lot more. It’s not that they didn’t trust us before, it’s just that we were all figuring the show out together. We have a pretty good idea of what they like, as well as what we like, so we don’t really get much push-back, but that’s mostly because we also know the kinds of things that they would push back on, anyway. It’s a pretty great symbiotic relationship. And, they still give us great ideas, too. We give them episodes and they’re pretty good at honing in on what’s good about the episode, and sometimes topping it and giving us other ideas.
McELHENNEY: We’re optimistic.
What do you guys look for in movie roles?
DeVITO: A beginning, middle and end. The characters have to want something. If it’s a comedy, it should be funny. If it’s a drama, it should be moving. It’s weirdly true. I’ve been thinking about it, for a long time.
HOWERTON: One of my biggest pet peeves is that I just don’t like it when characters do things that are funny to the writer, but you don’t know why they’re doing it and it doesn’t make any sense. A character does something that supposedly is funny, but it’s not something that would ever help the character achieve his goal, so it just loses all of its credibility. Characters have to have some credibility and something that they actually need. It sounds really stupid, but it’s got to be grounded.
With things getting darker this season, do you guys get more empty and depraved, or do you warm up a little bit?
McELHENNEY: I think there’s a ton of heart this season.
DAY: These characters are always going back and forth between just having absolutely no hearts and having a ton of heart, but just in a bizarre way.
HOWERTON: Our characters can have moments where they probably can’t truly imagine the worst happening, although they’ll agree to it. They’ll be like, “Yeah, I’m doing my thing, and if you end up dying, that’s fine.” But, deep down inside, if something like that actually happened, [I think they would care].
DAY: These characters do love each other, in their weird, sick way.