The hilarious new Audience Network comedy series Loudermilk centers on Sam Loudermilk (Ron Livingston), a recovering alcoholic and substance abuse counselor with a bad attitude about everything, including helping people. He pisses off everyone, from this group to his neighbor to just about anyone and everyone that he comes into contact with, except for his best friend/not quite so sober sponsor (Will Sasso).
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Ron Livingston talked about how Loudermilk was brought to his attention, the appeal of this character, finding the right comedic tone, why he doesn’t think a character has to be likeable, whether Loudermilk knows just how much of an asshole he can be, the fun of playing someone so unfiltered, and how he’d like to keep playing this character for 10 more seasons.
Collider: How did Loudermilk come your way, and what was your reaction to receiving a script for a show with that title?
RON LIVINGSTON: There’s a thing that, when you name a character, you have to do this legal search for all the people that might sue you for being called that name. I thought that they invented a name that nobody in America had, but in fact, there are several people named Loudermilk out there. It’s probably just a regional name that sounds really cool.
How was this presented to you? Did you get scripts to read, or was it just an idea?
LIVINGSTON: I got teased with it early. I had a couple people call me, not people that I work with, but people that I know, who had read the script. They said, “Ron, I think this would be really good for you.” I usually blow people off when they say that, but after a couple people saying that, I started to think, “I’ve gotta look into this thing.” And then, I read it and I was hooked. I was in. Pete [Farrelly] and I had never met, but we had a phone call that was fantastic. He’s a master of comedy. It was really just a matter of, “Okay, when are we doing this?”
For someone who’s been in the business for awhile now, how nice was it to get a straight to series order of 10 episodes for this show, and not have to be stuck in limbo, waiting to see what happens with the pilot?
LIVINGSTON: You know what? It’s fantastic! I’ve been on shows where you’re on eggshells. Pilots are always a little wonky, anyway. You’re stuffing this big ball of exposition down the audience’s throats, so that they know what the show is about, and in a half-hour, that doesn’t leave a lot of time. You have to do that in a pilot because you can’t take a chance that they end the pilot, not knowing that the show is gonna be. It was really nice not to have to do that. I think Pete was really smart about it. The show gets going right away. You don’t have to learn everything about the characters in the first episode because you can learn it in the third, the fifth or the seventh.
A half-hour comedy about recovering alcoholics and addicts doesn’t seem like it would be a very funny subject, but this show is hilarious. How challenging has it been to find the right comedic tone?
LIVINGSTON: I’ve gotta say, that scared the hell out of me, in a good way. Ultimately, that was what attracted me. The most attractive thing about this was that I just had no idea how it was gonna work. To me, what that means is that we’re doing something original that nobody has done before. That’s why we don’t know how it’s gonna work. It’s because we haven’t seen it. And when you’re doing something that people haven’t seen before, you feel like you’re an explorer in unchartered territory, or something. It was really cool. It is a little bit of a tone puzzle. It’s gotta be really funny, but the stakes are very high. The subject matter can be life-or-death. I think what ultimately gives it its special flavor is that Pete is such a master at everything he does, but the stuff that he’s a master of has traditionally been big, broad, physical comedy. He’s done some classic comedy stuff and I’ve always been a guy that under plays everything, so I wasn’t sure how that was going to work. I thought there was maybe a chance that I was going to show up, Pete was going to tear his hair out, and it would be terrible and I’d let everyone down, but that didn’t happen. He’s got impeccable taste and great ideas, and the thing has a good skeleton. I was really thrilled to see it all drop together and gel.
Loudermilk is less of a bad guy and more of a guy with a bad attitude. Did you worry, at all, about making him likeable or sympathetic, or is this the kind of character that we don’t have to root for to enjoy watching him or to be able to understand him?
LIVINGSTON: It’s funny because people tell me a lot, “We want you to do this part ‘cause we want it to be likeable.” And that’s flattering, but I don’t put any stock in making a character likeable. I think what people like about people is when they live their life the way they want to live it, unapologetically and if they’re being true to themselves. If they’re doing that, people are gonna get invested in the story. I don’t think you have to like the guy. Tony Soprano kills people on every episode [of The Sopranos], but that’s because that’s his personal code. He’s trying to live up to his personal code. We’re all trying to live up to our personal codes, so we relate to people who we see doing the same thing.