Charlie Day is an actor, writer and producer whose comedic talent has earned him legions of fans, as a result of his role on the TV series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The R-rated romantic comedy Going the Distance is his first major feature film role, in which he plays the sweet and earnest best friend and roommate of Justin Long’s character, Garrett. When Garrett enters into a long distance relationship with Erin (Drew Barrymore), Dan (Day) tries to help them along by taking advantage of the fact that the walls in their apartment are paper thin, and either comments through them or plays music that he feels suits the occasion.
During an exclusive interview with Collider at the film’s press day, Charlie Day talked about making the transition into feature film roles and the difference in being involved with something where the pressure is not on him. He also gave a preview of Season 6 of Sunny, talked about working with Jennifer Aniston on Horrible Bosses, finding a way to enjoy the mutual awkwardness of on screen nudity and said that the film will definitely have an R rating. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Question: How did you get involved with this film? You’ve primarily done the TV show up until now, so were you actively looking to get into films?
Charlie: Yeah, of course. I was excited about doing movies and really wanted to do one, and I just got a call from Nanette [Burstein], the director, saying that she was really interested in me for playing this part and she was a fan of the show and she knew my work. I sat down with her and we talked about the character and the movie, and realized we had a lot in common, not only with what we thought about this movie, but we thought about movies in general. Then, I met with the people over at New Line and they were big fans of Sunny. They asked me to do it and I agreed, and I’m glad I did. The movie was just a lot of fun to do. I just felt privileged to be a part of it.
What was the most thing about doing a role like this, and was there anything particularly challenging about it?
Charlie: The thing that was most challenging was accepting that it was okay to not be too different from my character on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia because the character was written, in some ways, in a very similar way. As an actor, sometimes you feel a pressure to change yourself from time to time. But, on the page, I knew in my head how to do the role and it wasn’t too different from what I was doing. The only challenge was just being comfortable with that. But, really, it was mostly just delightful, making it. I don’t have any pressure, in the movie, of having to carry some emotional arc or anything. I’m really there just to create a guy that you believe is Justin’s good friend and cares about, and then make people laugh. All three of those things were pretty easy to do.
Was it a balancing act to find the right level of making him funny, but still making him likeable enough so that audiences understand why these guys are friends?
Charlie: Yeah, that was the balance. It speaks a lot to Nanette’s directing that we were able to try things different ways, where it wasn’t just the wacky best friend saying, “Hey, dude, why aren’t you sleeping with other girls?” We were able to infuse it with the reality of friends who don’t want to see their friends get hurt. So, even though we do some stupid and amusing things, the characters are still heartfelt and, in their strange way, sensible.
How was it to get through that bathroom scene? Was that embarrassing to do?
Charlie: No, I had a lot of fun with it. In the script, that was actually a little bit different. That was one of those moments where we said, “We still want comedy here, but what if the message that Dan is trying to get across to Garrett is genuinely heartfelt, and it’s funny that he’s having the conversation while on the toilet.” You still get your comedy, but he’s a real person trying to express some real feelings or emotions that he’s having. But, it wasn’t embarrassing at all because people were laughing so much that it was just fun to shoot it. I always have my best thoughts on the toilet, so that’s where that sage wisdom was coming from.
What was the process of making this film like, compared to what you do on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia?
Charlie: On the one hand, there was no pressure of having to write the scripts or edit the show or produce it. I was really just a hired gun to come in and make things as funny as I could. So, on the one hand, that was liberating ‘cause I didn’t feel the weight on my shoulders that I feel with It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and having the final product be great. I knew it wasn’t on me. Personally, I wanted to make all my scenes as great as I could, but I knew that if the movie wasn’t a success, it wasn’t my fault, and that’s a pressure on Sunny, where if something goes wrong, I’ve got no one else to blame. That was different. On the other hand, I often like having that kind of control, so it was very hard, if things weren’t going the way that I would normally have them go on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I had to just sit back and watch them. But, it was also a great learning lesson because, ultimately, Nanette really succeeded in making an interesting and entertaining film. I tried to tell myself that I don’t know it all, and watch and learn. I guess I went through the gamut of emotions.
Being a great writer yourself, when you’re doing somebody else’s film, do you find yourself more hesitant to give input, or do you find those filmmakers want it from you?
Charlie: I have been fortunate enough, on this movie and the one that I’m doing now (Horrible Bosses), to be in an environment where the director is very supportive. And, I think because of the success of the show, from a comedic standpoint, they’ve always been open to input, in that department. However, I think it would be really fun to do a movie with a director and a script that was air tight. Not that these scripts aren’t, but when you’re going for a conversational, improvisational style and feel, and you have a great script, you can take that great script and run with it, so I felt that liberty to come up with ideas or jokes. But, if I were doing a Coen Brothers movie, I wouldn’t.
How has the experience of Horrible Bosses been? With Jennifer Aniston being your boss, how is she horrible to you?
Charlie: In Horrible Bosses, Jennifer Aniston is making sexual advances towards me, in the office, and I’m playing a rather innocent character who is engaged to be married and doesn’t want to screw that up, so I’m refusing her sexual advances, which only further aggravates her character. It was hilarious and surreal. In some ways, it was easy to play the role because I’m supposed to be intimidated by my boss, and by this woman who’s playing my boss, and her presence, and it was easy to let myself feel the intimidation I needed to feel through her celebrity and her great fame. Although, she’s such a wonderful and disarming person in real life that sometimes it was a challenge to think of her as who she is. Last night, I was filming a scene with Kevin Spacey all night, so it’s been one of the most exciting things I’ve gotten to do. I keep pinching myself. You catch yourself acting with these people that you’ve watched and loved in movies for years, and you feel truly blessed to be in that position.
With all the talk of her having to get naked in front of you, is that just awkward or do you try to have fun with it?
Charlie: Of course, it’s awkward because we really had just met each other. I think she was quoted as saying we had met minutes before, and there was some truth to that. There was solace in that we were going through it together. I felt just as uncomfortable about taking any of my clothes off, as I’m sure she did, so in that mutual awkwardness, we found a way to enjoy it and have a little bit of fun with it. I’m choosing my words carefully ‘cause I’m sure, when it comes to being naked with Jennifer Aniston, they will be printed. But, believe it or not, it was just really silly, fun, funny and entertaining, at the end of the day.
Is the film going for a PG-13, R or hard-R rating?
Charlie: It’s got to be an R. There’s no way around it. If somehow they don’t make it R, I don’t want to see the movie ‘cause we’ve done some amazing R stuff. And, they’re going for a full-scale R. It’s a big, bold comedy.
You do some crazy stuff on It’s Always Sunny. Are there ever times when you think, “There’s no way we can get away with this”?
Charlie: That’s a question we’re often asked, and it’s funny that we never really feel like we’re crossing the line, as writers or performers. Only after the fact, when people say it was so outrageous, do we realize, “Oh, yeah, maybe some people find that outrageous.” But, I think our line is pretty far. I haven’t found that horizon yet.
With the show continually getting bigger each season, have you given any thought as to how you want to end things? Do you want to go out while it’s still on a high note?
Charlie: A lot of that is still up in the air right now. We’re contracted to the end of this seventh season, and we’re definitely going to fulfill that. Some of it has to do with how it’s performing in syndication, but I don’t think we’re quite ready to end it after seven, so there’s a chance of maybe at least an eighth season. But, that all remains to be seen. We definitely don’t want the quality of the show ever to slip and, fortunately, we feel as though, in the sixth season, it’s going to possibly be our best season yet. So, as long as we’re on this upward trajectory and we feel good about the work we’re making, I don’t see any reason to stop.
Are there any surprises in store for fans this season?
Charlie: Sure, Jason Sudeikis is in an episode, and so is Dave Foley. We’ve got some great guest stars. The crazy Tom Sizemore is in an episode. He’s actually really hilarious and great. It’s going to be another raucous, wild, amazing season.
What is your writing process like? Is it difficult for you to still keep things fresh, or is that still easy for you?
Charlie: In a sense, it’s difficult to keep things fresh, but at the same time, it was difficult to write Episode 2 of the show, and then 3 and 4. There’s always that challenge of, “Oh, we’ve got to do it again. We can’t just phone it in.” It’s a new challenge every year, and we just try to find different ways to get more involved in the characters, their lives and the stories to keep it fresh. This year, we strung a few episodes together, where one leads to another, in a way that we never did before. It’s not for a whole season, but there were just little mini-arcs dealing with Kaitlin Olson’s pregnancy, and it actually added some real life and humor to the show that we hadn’t really done since the second season, where we strung a few episodes together. We’ve got a team of smart, funny girls and guys that are going to keep on coming up with some pretty good stuff.