Oregon native and University alumna Kaitlin Olson has been making a name for herself playing Sweet Dee on the outrageous FX comedy “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” which starts its third season Sept. 13. Olson recently took some time to talk to the Emerald about the show, Danny DeVito and showbusiness.
Oregon Daily Emerald: So are you looking forward to the new season of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”?
Kailtin Olson: Yes, I’m looking forward to it. There’s a lot of fun stuff this year.
ODE: What would you say makes the show so great?
KO: I just think that it is different than all of the sort of bland comedy that you’re seeing on network television right now. I mean, there’s some funny shows on network TV, but it’s all kindn of the same jokes, just kind of presented in different ways. I think that our show’s funny and different because it’s inappropriate, so it kind of catches you off guard a little bit.
ODE: I love that your show finds humor in things that aren’t necessarily funny, like drug abuse, community service and things like that.
KO: Yeah, it’s like you think you’re not supposed to laugh at it, but it’s funny.
ODE: Is the show entirely scripted, or is some of it improvised?
KO: It is scripted, but we all have improv backgrounds, and we’re all really good friends and we kinda just joke around and make each other laugh. So we’ll shoot a few takes as scripted and then we’ll just kinda play around a little bit, so a lot of what you end up seeing is just stuff that we’ve improvised while we’re shooting.
ODE: The interaction between the characters on the show seems really natural a lot of the time.
KO: Yeah, you can tell that we’re talking over each other and adding things in. It kind of just evolves as you’re shooting. It starts our really scripted and kind of, one line and then the other line, and then once we get more comfortable with it. Honestly, the scripts are hilarious by themselves. They do such a good job of writing it. The only reason we’re improvising is because we’re just playing around and it’s more fun that way.
ODE: What’s it like working with Danny DeVito on the show?
KO: I wish I had some dirt on Danny DeVito, but he is honestly the nicest, sweetest man I’ve ever met in my life. I love him, I love being around him. He’s become like a part of our family. His wife and kids are amazing. Like, he’s the happiest man I’ve ever known. He doesn’t really have much to be sad about.
ODE: Were you nervous or intimidated at first?
KO: I don’t know that I was nervous, but we did our first season without him. And so he came in in the second season, before we met him, there was a little bit of anticipation, like, “We have this little low-budget, fun show, and we’re all really good friends. Is this big star going to come in and kinda change the dynamic of it?” Because that was a definite possibility. But honestly, all he wants to do is have fun and play around, and he’s so fun to be around that you don’t really feel nervous around him because he’s so kind.
ODE: What drew you to your character, Sweet Dee?
KO: There’s just something very funny to me about insecurity. I just think that lack of perfection is so much funnier. She’s so insecure, but she just tries really hard not to be, and pretends that she’s not, and I think that there’s just something really endearing about that, and I think that balances out all the despicable behavior. That’s kinda why I like all the characters; there’s something endearing about all of them. Because they’re just idiots and deep down they just want so much more than what they have, and they’re insecure, and I think that’s funny.
ODE: Is that why you think the characters are all likeable, even though they’re doing these despicable things?
KO: I don’t necessarily know that they’re all likable. I think that you don’t hate them because they never end up winning in the end. I don’t think that they’re mean – they’re just really self-centered – but they always end up losing in the end. It’s easier to be on their side because they’re not winning anything.
ODE: You grew up in Portland, right?
KO: I did. Well, I grew up in Tigard, actually.
ODE: And you went to the University of Oregon?
KO: I did.
ODE: Did you enjoy the Univeristy?
KO: I loved it. I don’t think I really had a choice, because my dad was a Duck, but I loved it. It’s beautiful, and it’s fun. I really enjoyed Rennie’s a lot. I got my fake ID taken away at Rennie’s.
ODE: Do you come back to Oregon to visit often?
KO: My family’s still in Portland, so I come back a few times a year for holidays and visiting and stuff. I haven’t been to Eugene in a while.
ODE: It’s always exciting to see someone from Oregon make it to the big time.
KO: Yeah, yeah. It’s fun. It’s funny – we go to do press on the east coast and we go to Philadelphia a lot and people ask me where I’m from and I say Oregon. And I swear to God, you would think that I had just said I was from a foreign country. No one on the east coast even knows where Oregon is. It’s really sad.
ODE: You were on “Punk’d” for a little bit, right?
KO: I did two episodes of “Punk’d.” It’s fun. The hidden-camera thing is a whole different thing. The person in front of you doesn’t know you’re acting, and they hate you. It’s really funny in your head, but it’s really stressful.
ODE: Who was your favorite celebrity that you punk’d?
KO: I think Beyoncé was my favorite because she was so mad at me. I secretly thought it was hilarious.
ODE: And you were on “The Riches” for a few episodes?
KO: Yeah, I recur on that show. It hopefully will be back for another season. I think FX is just such a great network, and they do such interesting stuff. So I feel really lucky to do shows on that.
ODE: You started off on stage and now you’re on TV. Do you prefer one medium over the other?
KO: Wow, that’s a good question. I really love stage. When I moved here, I did the Groundlings and the Sunday Company and so we were performing every week, and it was a new sketch-comedy show every Sunday. And there’s just something so fun and exciting about that, and it’s just much more fast-paced and much more instant gratification because you have an audience right there. I really love that, and I miss it. But you make money in TV [laughs].
ODE: So what drew you to comedy initially?
KO: I don’t know. My dad’s really funny…that’s sort of how I coped growing up; I would just make fun of myself. I was really shy, and it kind of just turned into that, I think. It goes back to why I like the characters on our show; they’re just so damaged, and there’s something really funny about turning that around and making fun of it.
ODE: Did you always know you wanted to be an actor?
KO: I did, I did. When I was a kid, I did community theater. I remember my parents being in the front row and laughing, and I was like, “Hm, OK. I can get used to being the center of attention.” So I always kinda knew I wanted to do that.
ODE: Were you like the class clown or anything in school?
KO: No, I was really, really shy. It’s funny, because we all have MySpace pages for the show, and I get contacted a lot now by people that I went to high school with, and every single one of them is like, “What? I can’t believe that you’re doing that! You were so quiet!” I think inside I just had a quiet plan to do it, but I certainly never shared that with anybody. I was scared of everything, so I didn’t o
pen my mouth very much.
ODE: Do you have aspirations to do film at all?
KO: I do. I’m looking. I love this show so much, and I just really want the next thing I do to be something that I can really bring something to the character, so I’m definitely open to that special project down the line.