Yael chats with Denis Leary & Elizabeth Gillies about their new FX show, Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, at San Diego ComicCon 2015.
When Denis Leary stopped by TVLine’s Comic-Con Suite at the Hard Rock Hotel, he thought he was just going to plug his upcoming FX series, Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, and that would be that. Instead, he found himself getting sucked in by the “judgmental and disappointment vibes” that he got from our founder and EIC, Michael Ausiello.
In fact, the Rescue Me alum fell so hard for the boss’ shtick that before the Q&A was over, he was insisting that Ausiello should — no, needed to — have his own late-night talk show. “This is a show I would watch,” Leary declared.
When not fawning over his interviewer, the auteur — accompanied by S&D&R&R castmates Elizabeth Gillies, John Corbett, Elaine Hendrix, John Ales and Robert Kelly — revealed what the show’s rockers love more than one another and copped to one “very difficult relationship” with a fellow actor. And, just for good measure, Gillies teased that one of her character’s outfits is so risqué that it “came lubed, because I couldn’t get into it any other way.”
The final day of San Diego Comic-Con concluded with a a signing and Q&A panel from the cast of Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, as well as some more press. Below you can find links to all gallery albums from SDCC. More pictures will be added throughout the day!
Public Appearances > Appearances 2015 > San Diego Comic-Con: Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll Press Room
Public Appearances > Appearances 2015 > San Diego Comic-Con: Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll Signing
Public Appearances > Appearances 2015 > San Diego Comic-Con: Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll Panel
The cast of Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll stopped by Entertainment Weekly's San Diego Comic-Con photo studio yesterday. You can check out their photo in our gallery:
Photoshoots > EW 2015 Comic-Con Portraits
You have to wonder if maybe everything Denis Leary has done to date in his career was just a warmup to play the ultimate rock ’n’ roll maniac. As Johnny Rock in “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll,” which debuts Thursday on FX (10 p.m.), Leary becomes that guy — and he plays Johnny like a maniacal 22-minute drum solo. But there’s a twist here. The show quickly turns out to be not a solo, but a duet.
What makes it sing is the starburst of Elizabeth Gillies as Gigi, the precocious, sharp-tongued, street-smart daughter Johnny never knew he had. She explodes into his life wanting the fame and fortune he squandered - and she’s good enough to get it. And yes, we’re talking about that Elizabeth Gillies. The one who sang in “13” on Broadway when she was 15 and spent the last few years in hit Nickelodeon shows like “Victorious,” where she played Jade West.
"”It’s definitely a different role,” says Gillies, who turns 22 later this month. “But I don’t think it’s a total reset. In a lot of ways, Gigi is actually a sweeter character than Jade.”
Gillies isn’t the first actor from a teen comedy to resurface in a show like “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll.” Their route just usually takes them through a few transitional shows, maybe a sitcom or a young adult drama.
“I skipped over the middle step entirely,” she says. “But I don’t think I needed it. I also don’t think Gigi will be too shocking.”
Most viewers will eventually agree. When we first meet her, though, she comes on like an R-rated tsunami, flattening everything in her path.
The backstory: Gigi’s mother knew Johnny in New York when he was the depraved lead singer of the dysfunctional, short-lived and now iconic punk-alt-rock band the Heathens, who broke up the day their first album was released. She returned to Ohio without telling Johnny she was in a family way, hoping her daughter would choose any life except Johnny’s. So when Gigi turns 21, naturally she hops the first ride to New York to find Johnny and become a rock star herself.
She doesn’t come to town with a bashful, hopeful look in her eye. She comes offering two things Johnny has completely run out of — money and a last shot at fame. She can sing. She needs Johnny to get back together with his old Heathens guitarist Flash (John Corbett) and write her some songs. So even though his “dad” skills are about on a par with his ability to turn down a line of cocaine, it’s an offer he can’t refuse.
“She’s trying to be the authority figure,” says Gillies. “She’s trying to be the adult for this guy who obviously needs one. Yet she really needs parenting herself. She’s very vulnerable.
“It’s great to play someone who seems so tough, but has that vulnerability. And Denis allowed me a lot of creative freedom in developing her, so that was also great.”
A surprising portion of the sometimes explicit dialogue in the fast-paced show was made up on the fly, Gillies says. “Denis encouraged that, and I was completely down with it,” she says. “Sometimes we went way off the reservation, and a lot of that ended up in the show.
“Denis and I have the same sense of humor. So we’d fire bullets at each other. He’d throw things at me and I’d throw them back just as quickly.”
As this suggests, Gillies says she didn’t spend a lot of time being intimidated on the set. “With Corbett, I did have to get past the ‘Sex and the City’ thing,” she admits. “I couldn’t go forward thinking about Aidan [Corbett’s role as Carrie Bradshaw's boyfriend] every five seconds.
“But once I got over that, the playing field leveled out pretty quickly. I’m the youngest one there by about 20 years, but most of my friends are older than me, so it wasn’t too big a stretch.”
Amusingly enough, Gillies’ personal taste in music arcs back earlier than the 57-year-old Leary’s. “Denis leans toward that ’80s New York scene,” she says. “I’m more into Woodstock-y rock. I listen to ’40s music and jazz, too.” The Heathens are straight from that New York ’80s scene, and Leary wrote the show’s first five songs, including the screaming title track.
But Gillies’ first number at a showcase is a ballad, and it's clear that when she performs with the reunited Heathens, it won’t just be reprising their old material. While Gigi isn’t a songwriter, the real-life Gillies is. She has recorded several of her own numbers in addition to a range of tunes that range from a reworking of the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” to a duet of “Santa Baby” with her colleague and pal Ariana Grande.
She says she and Leary have talked about her writing songs for potential future seasons of “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll.”
Moving forward with her own musical career is one of Gillies’ several long-term ambitions. She says she didn’t do much of anything outside the show while it was filming, “since it was pretty much nonstop for three months. . . . But now I have some time for other stuff.”
Further down the line, she’d like that other stuff to include writing producing and directing. “I like seeing how things are put together,” she says. “I’ve seen how much power you can have, and I’m definitely interested.”
In fact, she jokes, “Maybe I should just become Tina Fey. I’ll get right on that.”
She does say she’s had two great teachers in Leary and Dan Schneider, creator of “Victorious,” “iCarly” and several other Nick hits. “They work very differently, but they’re both geniuses,” she says. “Dan’s shows have a very well-crafted formula, which is exactly what they need, so you do them as scripted. Denis is a lot more laid-back.
“Of course, that’s also a reflection of the networks they’re on.”
At the very least, Gillies is optimistic that Gigi should minimize the chance she would be stereotyped in the future as just another former teen star. “This show requires a lot,” she says. “There’s comedy, drama, music. I’m so proud of this show, and I hope people who watch it will see that I can do more than one thing.”
As for the possibility some of her family, friends and fans may be a little taken aback by some of the things Gigi says and does, she expresses hope that anyone who stays with it will realize the heart of the show lies less in rock ’n’ roll excess and more in an unlikely connection between a disconnected father and daughter.
“I’m not sure some of my younger fans will be watching,” she says. “But a lot of the older ones will. Playing Gigi is like graduation.”
The cast of Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll had a full day of press at San Diego Comic-Con yesterday and stopped by Sirius XM, among others. I've added 3 MQ pictures of the cast in the studio to our gallery:
Public Appearances > Appearances 2015 > SiriusXM's Entertainment Weekly Radio Channel Broadcasts From Comic-Con 2015