"Mostly I play despicable people or screaming people high on cocaine": 'Always Sunny' actor Charlie Day on being typecast
We speak to the ‘Hotel Artemis’ star about being a movie star and growing 'a pretty sweet moustache'
Hi Charlie! What are you up to right now?
I’m in Los Angeles, California, on the set of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. The new season is going great so far.
There’s a lot of secrecy surrounding this season.
That’s true. It’s like a marriage – you want to keep something special over the years. You don’t just blurt everything out. You want to save some mystique.
Mystique isn’t great for interviews, though. What can you tell us?
Well, right now we’re shooting an all-female reboot of ‘The Gang Beats Boggs’, the episode where the main characters tried to drink 70 beers on a flight.
As you share a name with your Always Sunny character Charlie, do people get you and him confused?
I’m sure they do. They’re always a little bit shocked that I can read and write. When we put the series together I was of two minds. I thought that if it ever became a big hit and people yelled “Charlie!” at me in the street, they could be a fan of the show or a fan of me in general. I didn’t want people shouting, “Kramer!” And two, I was not anticipating any of this and didn’t think to change my name.
You filmed the pilot yourselves on camcorders, right?
We did. We were all working on various television shows and not finding the opportunities or the quality of work we wanted, so we took matters into our own hands. We got some cameras, wrote a script and filmed it in our apartments.
And now you’re a movie star. Does that seem mad?
Well, yes and no. When you put it like that it does seem as though the odds were against me. But so many people’s careers come from putting something together themselves and building it from the ground up.
So what you’re saying is, anyone who’s not a movie star needs to make something themselves?
Oh absolutely. Even if you are a movie star, if you sit around waiting for the phone to ring nothing happens. If you don’t seek out material or put it together yourself it’ll pass you by.
You used to share an apartment with Jimmi Simpson from Westworld. You must be chuffed to bits that he’s done so well.
I love Jimmi. Jimmi and I, and Sterling K Brown – who’s in Hotel Artemis with me – started our careers together at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in our twenties. I always thought that it was just a matter of time before people caught up with what great performers they are. Jimmi is like a young Jack Nicholson – he has the same gravitas. I’m thrilled for him; it couldn’t happen to a better guy. Same with Sterling – he’s just incredible.
With the Pacific Rim films and now Hotel Artemis, you’re becoming something of an action dude.
I don’t see myself as an action hero, and I’m convinced the audience won’t see me that way either. I like playing characters other than variations on my Always Sunny persona. It was fun [in Hotel Artemis] to play a character who really had no redeemable qualities, a real rotten egg. I could finally be my true self.
You’re sporting a pretty sweet moustache in the movie.
Yeah! [Writer-director] Drew Pearce and I considered several different looks, such as dyeing my hair blond, but ultimately we settled on a nice slimy moustache. It seemed perfect for the character. I grew to like it and kind of wanted it to become my regular look, but if I go around with a moustache all the time it won’t be special in the film. Maybe after it comes out I’ll grow it back and transfer to a full moustachioed life, and that’ll just be what I look like. I think my wife preferred me with it.
Your wife plays the Waitress in Always Sunny, where she is frequently disgusted by you. Does that ever cross over into real life?
I’m sure it does, but she hides it well. I’m sure there are plenty of occasions when it’s easy for her to tap into being deeply annoyed by me, and that’s just come with time.
What does your six-year-old son think of what you do?
He’s not ready for Hotel Artemis yet, but we watched some of Pacific Rim together, and he’s seen The Lego Movie and Monsters University. Mostly I play despicable people, paranoid people or screaming people high on cocaine, but one of these days I’ll get cast in a normal role.
You’re very good at the whole screaming, despicable paranoia thing. What’s the secret?
I don’t feel as though I walk around filled with paranoia and anxiety, but who knows what a shrink might find? When I see it on screen I think, “Gosh, everyone else seems a lot more relaxed than me.” I think it’s just that once you play one manic role, everyone wants you for manic roles. Maybe in my next movie I can play Guy Reading A Book.
Hotel Artemis is at cinemas from 20 July