In the new FX comedy series Anger Management, actor Charlie Sheen plays Charlie Goodson, a non-traditional therapist who has his own successful private practice, holding sessions with a group of regulars each week, as well as counseling a group of inmates at a state prison. In his family life, Sam (Daniela Bobadilla), the 15-year-old daughter that Charlie has with his ex-wife, Jennifer (Shawnee Smith), is insecure but intelligent, with a sardonic sense of humor and a case of OCD, that leads Charlie to dive into his therapist techniques to help her.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Daniela Bobadilla talked about her audition process for the show, how she and Charlie Sheen just immediately clicked, how quirky and complex her character is, having Shawnee Smith play her mother, and being on set when Sheen and guest star Denise Richards shot their scenes together. She also talked about her experience playing a pregnant teenager on the NBC drama series Awake (that starred Jason Isaacs), what she thought of the series finale, and the difference between the quick schedule of a sitcom and the deeper character exploration of a one-hour drama. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
DANIELA BOBADILLA: Well, I was actually doing Awake, at the time this audition came up. In between shooting for Awake, I was attempting to have my own pilot season. The audition for Anger Management actually came during a week that I was already testing for a couple other shows and we weren’t really letting any other shows into the mix. It actually came from a casting director that I had just worked with, in the Fall before that. Aside from it being Charlie Sheen, I read the script and it was absolutely fantastic, and I really wanted my shot at it. So, it was in a round of auditions, but I definitely had my eye on this one, from the beginning.
I recently interviewed Bruce Helford, who told me that, when you first came in to audition, you did okay, but after Charlie Sheen took you out in the hall and talked to you, you came back in the room and killed it. What did Charlie say that helped you and got you to be able to connect with the material in that way, when you went back in?
BOBADILLA: It’s so interesting that he told that story ‘cause that’s definitely how it happened. I auditioned for Bruce the week before I actually met Charlie, and he tried to help me make Sam what she turned out to be. But, I’m a theater actress and I thrive on working with other actors, and you can’t be even a smidge bad, when you’re acting with Charlie. He’s just so natural, so present and so good that you have to step up to his level, or else. I think that really helped me. I was intimidated by him, at first, but when he took me aside and said, “I want to get to know you before we go back in there. What can I do to make you better?” that immediately took my guard down and it wasn’t an audition anymore. I was actually just playing off him. That’s really what happened. I owe it all to Charlie and Bruce. Bruce gave me the opportunity and Charlie acted with me. Once you act with someone like that, who gives you so much to feed off of, you just have to be there and be yourself, and it comes out.
Bruce also said that you just had a really nice, easy chemistry with Charlie and that Charlie is really proud of you and brags about you, like he does with his own kids. Was that chemistry with Charlie just immediate?
BOBADILLA: Yes, absolutely! He’s everything that you think and more, and it was absolutely instantaneous. He could have been any other way, but he literally took the time to get to know me. He asked me where I was from and where my family was. He was just so human that you couldn’t be intimidated by him. You are on an even playing field with him. He immediately took on the fatherly role. I just felt so at home with him, and he was so comfortable with me that I felt immediately comfortable with him. To give Bruce credit, the script was written so brilliantly that the relationship was already there within the writing. All we had to do was sit in it because it was already there.
Did you know much about Charlie Sheen or have any expectations of what he would be like, before you met him? Had you been aware of his public meltdown prior to doing this show?
BOBADILLA: I’m beyond grateful that I didn’t really have expectations because I don’t think the audition would have gone the way that it did, if I had. Of course, I’d heard about it, but I don’t really focus too much on the media, especially the kind of media that publicized everything that was going on with him. It actually happened during my senior year of high school, so I was just a little preoccupied. But going into it, I really knew that, in order to play his daughter and see him the way that Sam had to see her dad, I really couldn’t focus on that. I always give people the benefit of the doubt, so I went in with a completely black slate. My first impression of Charlie was that he was so nice, human and genuine, and that’s the only Charlie I see. Anything else is completely bizarre and doesn’t go along with the Charlie I know. Charming is the perfect word to describe Charlie. That’s why people love him. He’s so personable. They can relate to him. He made mistakes and he knows it. Everyone is like that. That is why he has so many fans.
BOBADILLA: You know, I used to think that Sam was easy to describe, but now I think she’s so hard to describe. She has her quirks, and it’s not that she doesn’t know that she does. She knows that she’s weird, but she deals with it. It’s who she is, so that’s why she goes at her life the way that she does. She’s nervy. She has a touch of OCD. We all have a touch of OCD, but it’s very accentuated on Sam. She’s just really herself and very naive, and she just goes at everything. She’s intelligent. She knows what Charlie’s doing, but just like I did, she’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. She’s just herself.
Is her sardonic sense of humor match your sense of humor, at all?
BOBADILLA: It really comes from the character. Bruce and the writers have crafted each of us the most brilliant characters. It’s all in the writing, and it’s so easy to just say the words. We have such complex and personable characters ‘cause it’s already in there. But, I can definitely relate to her humor. I might not say some of the things out loud that she does. She can be straight up and honest with her parents.
BOBADILLA: Honestly, that was all Charlie and Bruce. As soon as we stepped onto the set, we already felt like family. If anything, it made us all nervous that it was just so easy that you just have to trust in the ease of it. Shawnee is just super, super sweet. I just said, “Okay, she’s my mom,” and we totally went for it. I don’t think we really needed to do anything charactery, in order to get into that.
What have you learned from people like Charlie Sheen and Shawnee Smith, who have been in this business for such a long time? Do you just try to pick up everything that you can?
BOBADILLA: Oh, absolutely! For my past few projects, but especially this one, I feel like a sponge. I have to remind myself, “No, you’re here, too.” I’ll be people watching everybody like a hawk. I’ll watch everything that Charlie does. I was always on the set, whether it was my scene or not. I was always watching to see what they did and to see the little tricks. Of course, I couldn’t do that when it was my scene, so I just watched everything that I could. They were so professional and they’re comedy geniuses. To get to work with them is just absolutely mind-blowing!
What was it like to have both Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards on set? Did you get to work with them together?
BOBADILLA: Trust me, the whole cast was interested in that. We found out, while we were shooting, about that episode. We all got it, at the same time, and looked at each other like, “Well, this week is going to be interesting!” But no, sadly, I didn’t have any scenes with both of them. I did get to watch them shoot their scenes, and Denise was actually so good. Of course, they have natural chemistry together, but their characters are not their real-life characters. It was just really cool to see them the way that they are. The relationship that Charlie and Shawnee have on the show is kind of what Denise and Charlie have. They’re just really good friends. They go back and forth with joking with each other. It was really cool to see. Everyone was watching to see what it would be like, but they were just too normal. She was just really good. She was really sweet and really funny, herself.
BOBADILLA: I absolutely cannot decide. Aside from the fact that I haven’t seen all of them, literally every single day of shooting was just so much fun. I think any scene that I had with everybody were my favorites. Some of my favorite scenes are actually ones that I wasn’t in ‘cause I just love the group. But, every episode was my favorite. I know that sounds cliche, but I can’t pick just one moment.
Before this show, you were seen as a pregnant teenager on Awake. What was it like to be a part of that show and get to play Emma?
BOBADILLA: I remember the audition and initially it was only four lines, but they said the writers were thinking about making it a bigger part. When I signed on, I said, “I absolutely love this project!” I saw the pilot and just thought it was the most brilliant show. Even if it was just four lines, I wanted to be a part of it. So, I’m beyond grateful that it turned out to be something big. That character was just an absolute dream. You literally got to play the same character, in two different worlds. It was like creating two different characters. I had two different scripts, and two different highlighter colors. It was an absolute dream just to try to keep up with both. I like to be challenged, and that was the juiciest role I’ve gotten in the drama world. That was just amazing! Jason [Isaacs] is just as giving as Charlie, and I learned even more from that show.
BOBADILLA: You know, I can’t say that. We all had such high hopes for the second season, and I know that’s why the ending just left so many questions. People watched it and tried to see what the answer was, and I’m sure you can come up with some kind of explanation that that was the answer, but from what we know from the creator, all they wanted to do was raise more questions to raise the curiosity. So, no, I’m not satisfied! I think it was an absolutely brilliant ending to the season, however I would have loved to see it go on, at least a couple episodes more, or a TV movie or something. We were holding our breath, every single Friday after the show had aired, to see if the ratings had worked. All we know is that the fans we did have were absolute die-hards. That makes us feel a little better.
How does the quick schedule of a sitcom compare to the deeper character exploration of a one-hour drama? Do you prefer one over the other, or do you like a balance of both?
BOBADILLA: They’re so different that you literally cannot compare them. On Awake, we would take a couple hours per scene. Whereas on Anger Management, we can take maybe 10 minutes on a scene, if we’re lucky. That’s how genius everyone is on Anger Management. They can literally do that. They have their system down. We have our stand-ins that rehearse for us, and Charlie doesn’t even rehearse with us sometimes. He just walks in and does it, which is perfect ‘cause then it’s never stale. By the last couple episodes, we would barely just learn our lines and then get it out, and they’d be like, “Perfect! Moving on!” Charlie and I would just look at each other and go, “Well, fingers crossed!” That’s what I mean about it being at a certain level that I just had to step up to. The crew was like that, too. It’s efficient. It’s definitely different than anything I had ever done. I think I like both, though. I really do. They’re different. For comedy, the faster pace is perfect. I can’t imagine saying the same joke for three hours. I don’t know how that would work. I think it’s intelligent, the way that we’re doing the show. Whether it was meant to keep our comedy fresh or not, it’s definitely working. But for drama, you definitely need that time.
BOBADILLA: I would like to work in both comedy and drama. I just saw the new Chris Pine movie, People Like Us, and it was absolutely brilliant. I loved it! I’d love to do something like that, or a Nicholas Sparks movie. That would definitely be of my interest. I’d love to do a really juicy drama that’s just really real. On the comedy side, I’d love to do something like 21 Jump Street. I cannot stop watching that movie. Really funny, really extreme comedies are definitely my favorite.
What originally got you interested in acting? Did something inspire you to do it, or did you just always want to?
BOBADILLA: You can watch videos and see that I was always trying to perform. It actually got me into a lot of trouble. My mom would take me to a market, and I would see someone and copy them. If I heard a funny accent, I would completely copy it right back to my mom, right in front of the person. I’ve always just been really interesting in humans, whether I knew it or not, back then. To be able to recreate that and express that was definitely something I wanted to do. That’s my intelligent answer. I’ve always enjoyed performing. I was in figure skating before, and then I joined my first school play. Ever since that, you have not been able to get me out of the theater.
Anger Management airs on Thursday nights on FX.