It’s true that It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,
but things aren’t always so great for Sweet Dee, who has been set on fire, dissed by a mentally-challenged rapper and nicknamed “The Aluminum Monster” in high school thanks to a back brace she wore for her severe scoliosis.
Season four of the hit comedy, which has been described as “Seinfeld on crack,” debuts tonight on FX, so we recently caught up with Kaitlin Olson to see if things will be “sunnier” for her character this season. Unfortunately, if the character’s upcoming waterboarding is any indication, it’s going to be another long season for Sweet Dee.
Where are you originally from and where do you call home now?
I am from a little town outside of Portland, Oregon. Although, I spent the first eight years of my life on a little island across from Seattle, but basically I’m from the Pacific Northwest. I’ve been down here in Southern California for about 10 years and I definitely call this home.
I don’t like the rain. It turns out it gets your hair wet and I don’t appreciate it. It doesn’t matter if you have an umbrella or not, don’t let them fool you – it will find a way in.
How exactly did you get into acting, and when did you decide this is what you wanted to do for a living?
I started doing plays during summer camp when I was in elementary school. I went to those camps where you could do ballet and fishing and piano and all I ever wanted to do was act, so I just did that full-time. I kind of decided when I was like six, when I was doing Alice in Wonderland that I wanted to do it. And my parents were like, “Okay. Uh huh.”
But I either wanted to be an actress or a secretary, I was definitely sure it was going to be one of those two because I loved playing with stationary. So my mom was pretty on board with steering me towards acting.
How tough was it to break into the business once you decide to pursue acting as a career
This is like the lamest, cheesiest answer, but I really just decided from the beginning, after listening to everyone tell me how hard it was – “it’s so hard, you just have to have a good support system because it’s so hard” – I just decided that I wasn’t going to be miserable. It’s beautiful here. I lived in Santa Monica, I had great friends, I got right into The Groundlings, which was really, really fun and I just decided not to be miserable like everyone else was.
So I don’t know, I can’t say that it was ever that hard. It took a while. I did a lot of auditions, but in the meantime I was doing what I loved, which was sketch comedy. I think that once you start beating yourself up about not booking jobs right away and you’re miserable, you’re going to give up faster. So I don’t know. I have to say it just wasn’t that hard because I was having a really good time.
That’s a very cool outlook.
Well yeah – it’s one that the grandmothers will love to read. Everyone else is going to gag and click on something else.
As you mentioned, you started your career working with The Groundlings. What was that experience like?
It was intense. Everybody has to start out at the first level. It doesn’t matter how much experience you have with sketch comedy or improvising. So I started out in the first class and it was easy and really fun and it just gets progressively harder and harder. My goal was never really to join the company. I just wanted to get the training and it looks great on your resume. Casting directors love it; they’ll bring you in if you’re studying with The Groundlings.
So I kept at it and I just kept moving up and finally I was in the Sunday Company. But in Level Three and Level Four, which are the last two levels, it is very competitive. It’s very intense. It’s like a full-time job. You’re writing, you’re getting together with somebody and writing sketches every day, several times a day. And once you’re in the Sunday Company, you’re doing the same thing, but you’re also performing brand new shows every single Sunday. And you’re also poor. I worked two part-time jobs, plus doing this was like a full-time job. I barely ever slept. It was a lot of work, but luckily it was so fun because I would have been like “Fuck that” a long time ago.
One of your early reoccurring roles was playing Mimi’s nemesis Traylor on the Drew Carey Show. What was it like being a part of that show and what did you take away from that experience?
It was cool. It was really cool. I got a job as a guest star, and it was just supposed to be one episode. It was my first multi-camera show. I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know anything about hitting a mark. I didn’t know what the terms were that people were throwing around. I was just pretending like I knew exactly what I was supposed to be doing.
But it was such a fun character. I had a really good time with it. It was a very bitchy, bitchy character, which is fun for me. I love making fun of those kind of people. I don’t know, I just had a great time. And it was really well-written and I had fun and I ended up coming back a few times that season and it turned into like a two-year thing, so it was a great experience.
You played Becky on Curb Your Enthusiasm. What was it like having the freedom to improvise on that show, particularly with your background in The Groundlings?
That was awesome. It was really awesome. It was the first time that I’d been given the freedom to say whatever I wanted. Normally, I don’t know if people know this, but when you go and get a job on a scripted show, you are not allowed to change the words at all. Not at all. I mean, they’ll cut and start over if you screw up one word. That’s not acceptable because the actors have their jobs and the writers have their jobs and they’re completely separate. So getting to be involved in the creative writing process of it was really awesome. I loved it.
Now that Larry and Cheryl have split up on the show, is there any chance of you returning to Curb Your Enthusiasm?
I never know ahead of time. They let me know like two weeks before they want me to come. So it all depends on if they call and if my schedule allows. But I love that show and I’d be happy to do it again.
Of course, you now play Sweet Dee on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. How did you land the role and what has it been like working on this show?
I’m not saying this because it’s the show that I’m currently on, but it’s by far my favorite show, my favorite experience. It’s the best of both worlds. It’s hilariously scripted, but we also play around when we’re shooting because the writers are the actors. So we can say whatever we want and if it doesn’t work, we go back to how it was scripted or you come up with something else. There’s such creative freedom in it and they’re all my really good friends.
You know, we have long days. We shoot single camera, which is how hour-long dramas shoot. I don’t know if anyone cares or knows about that, but it means that we have really long days – 12 hours or 14 hours. So it’s really a blessing that it’s funny because I think it would be miserable if we weren’t laughing all day long.
For the one or two slow people out there who haven’t watched the show, how would you describe it and how would you describe Sweet Dee?
I don’t know how to describe our show because the only thing that is consistent is that we work in a bar. Otherwise, the topic’s different really every time. We’re just four jerks that work in a bar and Danny DeVito plays our father figure. We just make terrible decisions and end up losing.
When the show is all said and done and the fans look back at it, do you think “Day Man” and “Night Man” from the episode “Sweet Dee’s Dating A Retarded Person” will end up being your “Freebird”?
Well, I’m glad you asked about that because season four has an episode called “The Night Man Cometh,” which is a musical based on the Day Man and Night Man songs and characters. So we’ll all be acting that musical out. So stay tuned.
Can you give us any preview of what’s in store for the Day Man/Night Man musical?
Charlie writes a musical and wants us to perform it and we have no idea why he would do that. But, of course, we are all competitive and want to be in it and be better than everyone else that is in it. And so, you see this beautiful love story that Charlie has written that we’re acting out. And that’s about all I’ll say about it.
What else can fans expect to see in season four?
We tackle the gas crisis. I get waterboarded. That was one of the top three worst days of my life. Not fun to be waterboarded, it turns out, even if it’s just a TV show. It’s actually really water going up your nose.
We do an episode that’s set in 1776 when we try to explain to the historical society why we should be on the historical walk. We’re trying to get on the historical walk so that people will come into our bar and buy beer, so we go down and explain what important role we’ve played in history and we flashback and you see it. That’s an awesome one
What else? Just good family fun, all kinds of it.
You are engaged to co-star Rob McElhenney and Charlie Day is married to Mary Elizabeth Ellis, who plays the Waitress on the show. How long until Glenn Howerton and Danny DeVito begin dating?
I think that Glenn and Danny are going to have to come out pretty soon because people are already starting to get suspicious.
We had our suspicions. Their on-screen chemistry together is amazing. You can’t fake that.
It’s fiery. It’s passionate and fiery. And the good news is Rhea Pearlman is totally fine with it.
That’s awesome and disturbing all at the same time.
Yeah. She’s started hanging around the set a lot more now because she just likes to watch Glenn and Danny make out.
What is it like working with not only Danny DeVito, but also Fred Savage?
(Laughs.) I cannot wait to tell Fred that you phrased it that way, as if Fred was just as exciting. I think we’ve all decided that Fred peaked when he was 10 and that we’re just doing good charity work by giving him a job and letting him try and support his family. Because everybody knows the show’s pretty self-directed. We don’t really need a director, but we’ve met his wife and his kids and they’re really cute, so we just want to help out their financial situation.
That’s very kind of you.
Yeah, yeah, yeah – we’re good people.
Well, Danny DeVito, what’s it like working with him?
He is awesome and he’s famous. And we get into good restaurants and good sporting events because we’re with Danny. So, all in all, it’s a very positive experience.
What goals have you set for your career? What would you like to see yourself accomplish in the future?
I would like to hit Danny DeVito status within the next like year, year and a half, maybe two years max.
Perhaps you could follow in his footsteps and be in the next Batman movie.
Well yeah, probably, and be a successful producer and director also.
Sure, directing and producing are important, but you have to admit, being in a Batman movie would be pretty sweet.
I don’t know if I could top Maggie Gyllenhaal, but yeah those Batman movies are pretty sweet.
There have already been rumors about Johnny Depp and a bunch of other actors being considered to play the role of the villain in the next film. We could start a rumor here today that you are in consideration for a role in the next film.
Yeah, Johnny Depp and Kaitlin Olson.
Well, whoever they pick, they’re going to have to pick a tall man. I don’t know if you know this, but men in Hollywood are short and I’m 5’8”. So let’s keep Christian Bale and I’ll probably have a better chance of getting that job.
What would you be doing for a living if you never got into show business?
I’m pretty sure that I would be doing hair and nails. I really love it. I still really love it.
Do you do other people’s hair and nails?
If they let me, yeah, absolutely. I did all of my friends acrylic nails for prom. I taught myself how to do fake acrylic nails and I did all of them for prom. I was really proud of myself. So yeah, it’s either this or nails.
Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I’m a little obsessive with recycling and eating organic food. I’ve kind of been forcing the issue on our set. Our set got pretty green this year. I’m thinking of incorporating compost into season five on set. It might be a little extreme, but don’t poo poo because you never know.
What does the future hold for you?
I’ll probably go out to lunch with my friend in about a half hour here.
I don’t know. I want to do movies; I want to have babies. I want to be on this show for a while. All kinds of stuff. I’ll probably change my mind tomorrow. You should call me again tomorrow.
For those few remaining souls out there who haven’t watched It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, here is your chance to promote the hell out of it and tell people why they should check out the new season.
They should check it out because God will be mad at them if they don’t watch it. You don’t want that on your shoulders.
Interviewed by Joel Murphy. The fourth season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia begins tonight at 10 p.m. Season three is available now on DVD. To read our interview with Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton and Charlie Day, click here.