On the next episode of the CBS hit comedy series Mike & Molly, called “The First and Last Ride-Along” and airing on November 11th, Molly (Melissa McCarthy) decides writing a crime novel will be her new career, so she goes on a police ride-along with Mike (Billy Gardell) and his partner Carl (Reno Wilson) to research a book she wants to pen. And of course, it wouldn’t be a sitcom if all sorts of things didn’t go wrong, in the funniest of ways.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Reno Wilson talked about what fans can expect from the next episode, what it’s really like to go on a ride-along, just how quickly things go downhill with Molly, what he enjoys most about playing Carl, what a dream it is to be in Season 4 of the same series, how fully appreciative he is of every moment, and the importance of his longtime friendship with his co-star Billy Gardell. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
RENO WILSON: Imagine NYPD Blue, but with Molly in the backseat. Mike and Carl are doing very serious police work, except Molly is in the back, trying to figure out a topic for her novel. She’s narrating our travails. That’s what I’m excited about, this season. You’re going to see a lot more of Mike and Carl. You’re going to perhaps see me pull out the handcuffs, every once in awhile, and through somebody up against the wall who’s not a girlfriend. Not that he was doing that anyway.
Have you ever been on any ride-alongs yourself?
WILSON: Oh, yeah. I’ve played so many cops. I’ve done two series where I’ve played detectives, and I’ve done ride-alongs in New York with Detective Bill Clark, who was one of the executive producers on NYPD Blue. He was one of the detectives who worked on the Son of Sam case back in the ‘70s. So, I’ve done ride-alongs with him and some other cats. And my sister was law enforcement. I’ve been on the fringes of that world before.
What was the experience like, for you?
WILSON: With the actual experience, you don’t want anything to go down. You just want to ride along. You don’t want to ride along and have them say, “Wait in the car while we go deal with this.” You don’t want that to happen. A friend of mine was in End of Watch, and an actual crime went down on their ride-along. They were on the local news because someone got shot. As an actor, you kind of want that to happen on a ride-along, but you kind of don’t. But, it’s not going to get that deep on Mike & Molly.
When he’s first brought the idea of Molly joining him and Mike on a ride-along, he seems all for it. How quickly does he change his mind about that?
WILSON: Well, you’ll see what happens. Carl is probably hoping that she’ll write a chapter devoted to him in her book. He’s like, “Are you recording that?” It all goes poorly when we see somebody with whom it’s implied he went on a date with, but it didn’t last long. I think it’s the last time he wants Molly on a ride-along, when she gets excited about that part of his story. Carl is a little freaky. I think we’ve established that. He has a little freak in him. I don’t know what’s wrong with that boy. Hopefully, we’ll get to find out why he is the way he is. What did his grandma raise him? What happened to Carl’s parents? Why does he like to take up so much energy?
Is it fun to be four seasons into a show now and still not have answers to all of those questions?
WILSON: Yeah. This is a dream for me. I’m somebody who’s done a whole bunch of pilots. I’ve done a lot. I’ve never had this experience before, so every episode is brand new. Everybody always asks me what episode we’re on because I’ll know that it’s #79. I think my record prior to this was 22 episodes of a show in a row. So, every episode is a new record. This is an incredible experience. We’re so close knit on this show, and everybody is so thankful. When you come to our set, it is the most grateful, thankful set you’ve ever been on. It’s a good place to be.
It’s hard to even get a show on the air anymore, let alone have it be successful, especially when you now also have cable to compete with. Are you able to step back and appreciate being on a hit show, working with such funny people, and getting some great one-liners yourself?
WILSON: Yeah, I am fully appreciative of this moment in time. I see the end of it, whenever that’s going to be. Hopefully, it’s not for the next four or five years, but that makes you appreciate this even more. Because you can see that far ahead, it makes you appreciate the whole thing even more.
What’s it been like to work with Melissa McCarthy this season, with Molly going through a bit of a life crisis?
WILSON: I think it’s a brilliant switch. One could say that she’s been really reactionary to the things going on around her, and now she’s pushing the action, this season. We’re reacting to her and what’s going on in her world, and I think that’s fun. The show is called Mike & Molly. You’ve got your protagonists dictating the action, so I say to give her the ball.
This season is being marketed as “The New Mike & Molly.” Does it actually feel new, or does it just feel like the next natural progression of the show?
WILSON: It’s not new for us. The fact that we didn’t come on in September, and we were coming on in January, but now we’re coming on in November, there has been a little bit of a shift, so I think that’s why they’re calling it new. Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything new. We’re just really enjoying ourselves. But, there is a fresh feel and a new vibe on the set. There have been some staff changes, and things like that, so I guess it’s new, in that sense. Otherwise, it’s the same old crew.
When you think back to who Carl was, when you first signed on to play him, what drew you to the character then, and are those still the same qualities that you enjoy about him now?
WILSON: Well, what really drew me to the character, when I first got the original script, was that Billy Gardell and I go back about nine years. We’ve been on a series together. We’ve played partners together before. And when I read the first couple of pages of the pilot script, I saw the relationship between Mike and Carl, and I instantly understood it. I was like, “Wait, that’s me and Billy!” So, I literally called him and asked him if he’d read the script for Mike & Molly. He was in Cincinnati doing stand-up, and he hadn’t read the script. I said, “Get the script and read it. It’s our show.” Fast forward to two weeks later, we both were sitting in front of Chuck Lorre and (show creator) Mark Roberts. So, he owes me 2% of his paycheck.
Had your characters always had the long relationship that they have, or was that added in when they found out that you had your long relationship?
WILSON: They did not know that we had a relationship. But that day with Chuck Lorre, we did three or four lines between the two of us, and Chuck stopped us and said, “Okay, I get it. That’s enough. Get out of here!” So, pretty much, what you see on TV between he and I, is pretty much what we do when we’re not on screen.
WILSON: That’s why Mike and Carl click together. Literally, our relationship is really similar to what you see on screen. They say it’s a bromance, but there’s love there. There’s a safety blanket there. There’s somebody that you trust and that you’re going through life with. They’re partners in the car, and they’re putting their lives on the line. And Billy and I have been side by side, in this business. We have families. We’ve been canceled on shows together. We’ve been through those things together. That bonds you, and it translates into these characters.
With as crazy as this business can get, and how you often spend more time with your work family than your actual family, do you feel the value in having a friendship like that?
WILSON: Yeah. Billy, Melissa and I all have kids, so our kids have been growing up together and we go to each other’s birthday parties. We see a lot of each other. We’re all growing together. Seeing these little kids grow is crazy.
Mike & Molly airs on Monday nights on CBS.