Denis Leary dishes on Rescue Me and its special "minisodes"
But the great minds at Denis Leary's ribald dramedy Rescue Me decided to apologize to fans for delaying the start of the new season to spring 2009 by crafting a batch of "minisodes" -- five-minute vignettes, detached from the show's ongoing storylines, offering bite-size bits of sidesplitting comedy and guy culture gone wild.
In the first one, which debuted last night, dense firefighter Sean Garritty struggles to stick to a fast after the Lieutenant makes his legendary homemade doughtnuts. In another, Leary's Tommy Gavin has a odd dream about sleeping with his ex-wife and ex-lover at the same time, only to see a pal from the firehouse join in. And Gavin's speechifying about the best bar for guys to hang out in falls apart when he sees who buddy Franco pickup in a nightspot he would normally avoid.
I spent some time with Leary last month on the set of Rescue Me -- standing feet away from a pre-crack bust Tatum O'Neal! -- hanging in his well-appointed trailer and watching him film a sidesplitting scene with comic pal Lenny Clarke, whose character is freaking out over the death of the father of Leary's character, Tommy Gavin.
We were plopped in a corner of Queens with well-manicured lawns and middle-class houses, with a row of dressing room/trailers parked alongside a neighborhood middle school. Rescue Me is often shot in actual domiciles, leaving little room for nosy reporters to watch interior scenes, so I had to be content with watching the outside stuff, holing up with an impossibly thin Leary between scenes in his trailer.
Here's the bottom end of that conversation, edited for clarity, followed by a window to the very first Rescue Me minisode, in case you missed last night's debut.
Leary: Well, this is a weird thing for us because we’re doing basically two seasons as one because of the strike, which is probably, I mean, who knows why, but it’s probably meant to be a good thing. So we’re doing 22 (episodes) instead of 13.
Deggans: Are they going to air them together?
L: Yeah, it’s going to be six months, you know, and so it’s … and one of the comedy lines, which is based on a true story, is the three younger guys are opening a bar together. Instead of having to have all these side jobs, they decide to open a bar together which is just …
D: Of course it’s a train wreck. (laughter)
L: But I think it’ll be surprising to people what kind of a train wreck it is ‘cause two friends of mine who are firemen actually did that. And so you think it’s a train wreck, but you know (laughter) … I’m telling you, when you see this story, ‘cause I lived through it with these two friends of mine, the way the train wreck occurs is the last thing you think … of course it is a train wreck, it’s just way bigger than you ever thought it was gonna be. And then, you know, Tommy dealing with the death of his father which, of course, of all the deaths, that’s …
D: And that was just amazing what you guys did with Charles Durning passing away in the ball field. That was really good.
L: Both parents are gone, which is strange. It hasn’t happened to me. I’ve lost my father but … really a good friend of mine but he’s a guy who’s like 60-something years old. When he was young, I got in a lot of trouble, you know, with the law and everything else … a really successful guy. His father died last year, and that was after his mother had already died, and he said this strange thing to me. He said, well, that’s it. I said, what do you mean? And he said, you know, there’s nobody left. I can do whatever I want now. I said, what are you talking about? He goes, something strange. When both of your parents are gone, ‘cause even, he said, when my father was alive, there was still that thing in my head like I can’t embarrass my parents again. Now I feel like, I could kill somebody. (laughter) And I said, oh, wow. So there’s this weird moral window that you didn’t know
D: That seems like such a Tommy Gavin kind of thing.
L: Well, sub-conscious or conscious, it’s an interesting thing that all of a sudden, you’re not accountable to somebody except your kids.
Leary: And the other interesting thing, which is also based on something that we knew was happening behind the scenes, was somebody writing a 10th anniversary book about 9/11, but in order to have it come out in time and to be a big sort of 10th anniversary coffee-table book, they had to start doing their research and getting it ready now. So they were starting to talk to firemen. This was a French journalist. She was sort of creeping around in the shadows talking to firemen and getting ready to interview more firemen about this 10th anniversary book, which, for Tommy Gavin, is probably the last thing that he wants, you know? But, you know, if it was … if it’s a French, hot journalist, wait a minute (laughter).
L: Karina Lombard, she’s on The L Word. So it was pretty interesting. We shot her first scenes yesterday and it is what we thought it was gonna be. It’s like, he doesn’t want to talk to her but she’s kinda dressed cute and she’s got a French accent and these guys are such suckers for stuff, and she knows it and, you know …
D: So, how tough is it to sort of find new situations to bounce these characters off of?
L: Well, it’s not hard, you know. When you write anything, the best stuff usually comes from real life, so when you write something that involves your friends or your family, you know, guys you work with, they can get pissed. And there’s two forms of that. There’s the one of “I can’t believe you wrote that about me,” and the other one’s like, “Can’t believe you wrote that stuff about him. You didn’t put me in there.” (laughter) Okay, so a long time ago, I decided I didn’t really give a shit about that as a writer and then when I started to do this fire show with Peter, you know, my cousin was a firefighter and one of my oldest friends who’s a technical adviser on the show, Terry Quentin, still a New York City firefighter, but, you know, we go back before he was a firefighter, I mean, 20-something years ago.
So once you have one firefighter in your life, it multiplies ‘cause their crew is at your house, and they fix your mom’s porch and they, you know … all this stuff, so I’ve been sort of surrounded by these stories plus I keep being surrounded by it, so you can’t go long without hearing … “you can’t believe what happened in the house last night, we went to this fire,” so that’s the great thing about doing this material is that it’s never-ending, plus we use real firemen for our firefighting scenes, so even amongst those guys, you get, “oh, man, last night we go to this thing” … and there’s personal things always happening too. It’s really an endless supply. We didn’t know that when we started this process, but I guess that’s what the show is really about … 9/11’s where it started but it’s about continuing forward, which most of these guys are trying to do.
D: Is there an end point, like Lost? I mean, do you know where you want this to end?
L: We know where we’re going. We just have to decide...
D: When it ends.
L: Right, ‘cause the network, I think, wants to have us around for a while. We just have to decide. I think for Peter and I, it’s more about when it stops being fun, and we just came back to work on Monday, and we were just last night after work saying, God, it’s crazy. I don’t know what’s going on, but it's still working, you know?