Actors Denis Leary and Elizabeth Gillies talk about classic rock and their new show 'Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll'
He may play a rock star on FX’s Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, but here’s something you might not know about Denis Leary: he’s also a doctor.
“My alma mater, Emerson College in Boston, asked me to be the speaker at graduation,” Leary, who plays Johnny Rock on the new FX show, told EW at Comic-Con. “I went and spoke, and I got a Doctor of arts and letters.” (Or, as he made sure to quickly correct in the proper Boston accent, a doctah of arts and lettahs.) “It’s in my office. I’m a doctor. I mean, I can’t prescribe medicine but I’m a doctor. So I refuse to be spoken to without some respect.”
Leary and his co-stars Elizabeth Gillies, John Corbett, John Ales, Elaine Hendrix and Robert Kelly stopped by Entertainment Weekly’s Comic-Con Lounge, where in addition to waxing poetic about their fearless leader, they discussed their obsession with Leary’s hair and talked about learning how to play instruments for their roles. Leary also revealed that the casting for Gillies came from his producing partner’s three boys, who watched Gillies on her Nickelodeon show, Victorious — and joked that they now “really deserve a cut in the show.”
Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll finally debuted on FX last night! If you missed it (or just loved it so much that you have to see it again), you can now get the first episode, Don't Wanna Die Anonymous on iTunes for free for a limited time! Get it here!.
And of course you can get the music from last night's episode on iTunes as well, including Liz's character Gigi's song Animal! Make sure to buy the song here.
How did you like the premiere? Are you already hooked?
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Elizabeth Gillies talked about fighting for this role in a very primal way, how much of herself she sees in Gigi, just how quickly she hit it off with show creator Denis Leary, playing a character who has the talent to back up her desire to be famous, that this cast is just as crazy and dysfunctional as their characters are, her love of improv, how cool it is to get to record and perform original songs that will be available as each episode airs, her favorite track, and where she hopes the show will go, in the future.
Collider: This seems like the type of role that a lot of young actresses would want, but that not a lot would be able to pull off, and you do so quite beautifully. When you read this pilot, was this a character that you just immediately got?
ELIZABETH GILLIES: Yeah, it tripped me out. I got the script and I started reading it, and I was in awe. I saw a lot of myself in Gigi. Whenever I read something that I really want and really connect to, I get this weird animalistic thing through my body where I become a predator and need to get it. I’m very happy that I did. I wanted it so badly. It’s a dream role. I get to be funny, and then cry, and then be mean, and then be sweet, and then sing. I couldn’t ask for more.
You’ve said that this was a role you had to fight for. What did that process entail?
GILLIES: Well, it’s a big ask of the actors because it’s a singing part, as well as an acting part. I was in L.A. and they were casting in New York, so I did my audition tape. I tried to pick the hardest song I could find off of the song list because I thought maybe that would help, so I picked an Aretha Franklin song. And then, I heard I was going to be screen testing opposite Denis [Leary], and we had really great banter. We both speak very quickly and we have a biting sarcasm with the way we speak. People bought that I was his daughter. The chemistry test really sealed the deal, I think.
Was it scary to go in and convince them you could do this, knowing that the guy playing your dad is not only Denis Leary, but the creator of the show?
GILLIES: No, I was like a lion. I was so focused that I probably came off as kind of a bitch. I wanted it so badly, and I was very determined to make it happen. It’s nerve-wracking because the person opposite you is not some scene partner. He’s the guy in charge, on every level. That was a little intimidating. But, Denis is so cool. He set such a chill, funny, cool tone that for the audition, I felt like I was hanging out with a friend. Because of that, it made it easier.
Who is Gigi and why has she chosen this moment in her life to look her dad up and tell him that he has to make her famous?
GILLIES: I think that she’s had this plan in her head, for a long time, but she was under lock and key by her mother who wanted to protect her from this world that she fled from. She’s seen all of it, so she wants me to be safe. She wants me to change my aspiration of being a singer to avoid that life because it didn’t work out the way she wanted it to. So, I hit my 20s and I decide that now is the time. She gives me money, so I go out and bribe my father, who never knew I existed, to make me famous ‘cause it’s what I want. Really, I want my dad, too, and it’s so obvious. You can tell she’s very vulnerable and she wants her dad, just as much, if not more, as she wants to be famous.
Even though she’s decided that she wants to be famous now, she really wants to be famous for her talent. Is it nice to play a character that has the talent to back that up, in a world where we have so many people who are famous for just being famous?
GILLIES: Yeah, absolutely! I remember when I was trying to make an album for awhile, and real music is not around as much anymore. I would go into recording sessions, and one time, there was an iPhone. It was not even a computer making a beat, which I had grown accustom to, but an iPhone. The guy was like, “There’s this great app. You don’t even need a computer.” I was like, “I’m done! None of you guys can play an instrument? What’s going on?!” I like playing a character that admires real musicianship, and real talent and hard work. I think that’s a good message for everyone. It’s still around. There’s still great music. It’s just not in the forefront. It’s not on the radio. You can’t get it as easily, which is crazy. And the music on the radio is fine, it’s just not my type of music. You don’t to play an instrument, and you don’t need to be able to sing. You just need to be able to make a beat and use auto-tune. It’s crazy!
The imperfections are what make a rock album so great.
GILLIES: Totally! I agree. I’m a perfectionist and when we were recording, every time I would hit a wrong note, I would stop immediately and say, “Let me get it again.” Denis kept a lot of my little flubs in because he likes them. It makes me crazy! It makes me insane! But, he likes them. He likes it sounding real. He likes a wrong note, here or there. I don’t, but that’s okay. I’m growing up. It’s part of life, I guess.
We see Gigi have a little bit of a mini-meltdown before she goes on stage, for the first time. Will we continue to see her have some doubts in what she’s asked for, or will we see her gain more confidence in herself, as each performance happens?
GILLIES: She’s constantly growing, throughout the season, and she’s constantly learning and falling down a lot. She makes a lot of mistakes. Later on in the series, I don’t want to give too much away, but she gets an opportunity to sign with a pop label and sell out a little bit. For some reason, she forgoes authenticity, in the moment, and gives it a try, but she learns it was a mistake. She acts like an adult, but she’s young. She makes mistakes, but she learns from them. By the end, she’s totally different. From the pilot to the last episode, you watch the growth of a young adult to an adult.
Johnny Rock could have been a totally pathetic guy, and yet somehow you still really root for him. And Gigi could be much more selfish and self-centered, but there’s something very empowering about her. Was it important to you that these characters walk that line between depraved and likeable, and still have a relationship that can feel very relatable to people?
GILLIES: Yeah. No one on this show is pretending to be a saint. It’s real life, and it’s real. That’s why they’re relatable. That’s we can be total assholes and then be sweet, and people will still like us, even though we did that thing a minute ago. In real life, nobody is perfect and everyone has their moments. We do not shy away from that, on this show. Everybody has a weird moment on this show where they’re fighting, or someone is being an idiot, or the ego is out of control. That’s real life, especially in rock bands. There’s narcissism and ego, but the underlying love of the whole thing is the core of rock and roll, and what makes all of those great relationships work. Nobody is perfect, and we don’t try to be, at all.
This show is about a dysfunctional family to the extreme, but you can see that they all actually really love each other. Have you guys evolved into as equally dysfunctional but loving family on set, or are you much more functional than your characters are?
GILLIES: Hell no! We’re crazy! We bonded instantly. We were in these little dressing rooms on the same floor, like college, for three months, practicing music and hanging out. We would fight, and we knew what buttons to push. We would torture each other and prank each other, and point and laugh at each other, and then hug each other and say how much we respected each other. It’s insane! The line between reality and the show is blurred. It’s great. It’s fun. I couldn’t pick a better group of people to be doing it with. We’re all insane. [...]
Read the full interview here!
Elizabeth Gillies plays Leary's daughter in new FX show.
With a series as music-focused as FX’s new comedy “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll,” the cast is full of people who love to sing. That’s why Zap2it couldn’t wait to find out what their go-to karaoke songs are.
Elizabeth Gillies had a hard time picking just one, while John Corbett immediately burst into his favorite. As for Denis Leary, he revealed why riding in a car with him over a long distance could either be a dream or a nightmare depending on how much you love driving karaoke.
“Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll” airs premieres Thursday, July 16 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on FX.
Denis Leary (Johnny Rock) & Elizabeth Gillies (Gigi) talk Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll. A new series on FX!
When you sit down to interview the cast of FX’s new comedy Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll at San Diego Comic-Con, your line of questioning is obvious: Would they rather have sex, do drugs, or play rock and roll with superheroes?