Danny DeVito Talks About Loving The Small Screen Actor Danny DeVito talks with NPR's David Greene about his television sitcom career as he heads into another season of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. DeVito says he felt a certain connection to Frank Reynolds -- the role the show offered him.
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Danny DeVito Talks About Loving The Small Screen

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Danny DeVito Talks About Loving The Small Screen

Danny DeVito Talks About Loving The Small Screen

Danny DeVito Talks About Loving The Small Screen

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/129838037/129838152" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Actor Danny DeVito talks with NPR's David Greene about his television sitcom career as he heads into another season of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. DeVito says he felt a certain connection to Frank Reynolds — the role the show offered him.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

DAVID GREENE, Host:

And I'm David Greene.

There's not a whole lot Danny DeVito hasn't done in show business. He was - of course - the crass, despicable, yet strangely lovable cab dispatcher Louie De Palma in the '70s sitcom "Taxi."

(SOUNDBITE TV SHOW, "TAXI")

BLOCK: (as Louie De Palma) I have one, very firm rule in my life. I don't eat at the same table, bet on the same side, or climb on the same airplane as losers. Be gone, Iggy(ph).

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GREENE: When "Taxi" went off the air in the early 1980s, DeVito continued acting in films, and he also tried his hand at directing, also producing. "Pulp Fiction" and "Erin Brockovich" are just a couple of the films he had a hand in. Then just a few years ago, Danny DeVito went back to the small screen, to a little, foul-mouth cable show about five self-centered misfits - four young and one old - who run a bar in South Philly. It's called "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA")

BLOCK: (as Frank Reynolds) Try this on for size. Your mother is dead.

BLOCK: (as Dee Reynolds) What?

BLOCK: (as Dennis Reynolds) Oh, my God.

BLOCK: (as Frank Reynolds) No, she's not dead. We're getting divorced, though.

BLOCK: (as Dee Reynolds) Why? What?

BLOCK: (as Dennis Reynolds) Well, why would you say that she's dead?

BLOCK: (as Frank Reynolds) That's a business tactic. You drop the bomb, then you soften the blow. You never tried this?

BLOCK: (as Dennis Reynolds) That's a terrible business tactic.

BLOCK: (as Dee Reynolds) You are a horrible father.

GREENE: To mark the show's new season on FX and to find out a little bit about what drew Danny DeVito back to television, I reached out to the actor. He told me he just felt this connection to the role the show offered him, of Frank Reynolds.

BLOCK: I've got a reputation already, a little bit of like, you know, just being out and saying things, whatever come out of my mouth.

GREENE: No.

BLOCK: They said it was a character - that it's a guy who's done a lot of things in his life, right, who's been very successful. It was a guy who wanted something new, something different. He was kind of in a rut, in a way. Looking for something that is like challenging, yet get your feet out of bed in the morning and feel like, boy, I can't wait to take the bull by the horns and have a great time today. I found it paralleling my life in a really interesting way. You know, I still like, you know, producing movies. I still like acting in a movie and, you know, if a movie comes along that I want to direct today - I'm offered to direct, I still want to do that. That's really a lot of fun. I have a lot of dough. I've got a nice house. I've got great kids. I've got a great wife. I've got a great life, period.

Now, all of a sudden, this thing comes along, which is like a gift, and it's the show where you can let your hair down, so to speak. I only have hair around the sides of my head, but I do let it down.

GREENE: I see it. It's sticking out there in the show.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: Yeah, it's sticking - yeah. And it's like, you know - and there's an energy that some people recognize - and a lot of people do - about being around young people. Like, you get into your 60s and you're allowed to play in a creative way. And it's been, you know, just a blast. It's just like...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: ...it's crazy.

GREENE: Well, I want to - we're having this sort of calm conversation about Frank, your character, but I want to play just a little bit of it to show our listeners how...

BLOCK: Oh, sure.

GREENE: ...absolutely insane he can be in the show.

BLOCK: Mm-hmm.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA")

BLOCK: (as Frank Reynolds) How you feeling?

BLOCK: (as Charlie Kelly) Annoyed.

BLOCK: (as Frank Reynolds) It's not kicking in yet?

BLOCK: (as Charlie Kelly) What are you talking about, the beer?

BLOCK: (as Frank Reynolds) No, the acid.

BLOCK: (as Charlie Kelly) I did not take any acid, remember?

BLOCK: (as Frank Reynolds) Oh, yeah, you did.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: (as Charlie Kelly) What are you talking about?

BLOCK: (as Frank Reynolds) I put a (bleep) of it in your beer.

BLOCK: (as Charlie Kelly) What?

BLOCK: (as Frank Reynolds) Yeah.

BLOCK: (as Charlie Kelly) Is that what all those little pieces of paper were floating in my beer? I drank all that (bleep), dude.

BLOCK: (as Frank Reynolds) That's okay.

BLOCK: (as Charlie Kelly) There was like a ton of acid in there.

BLOCK: (as Frank Reynolds) Yeah.

BLOCK: (as Charlie Kelly) Why would you do that?

BLOCK: (as Frank Reynolds) I don't want to be the only one tripping.

BLOCK: (as Charlie Kelly) Oh, my God, man.

GREENE: I mean, Danny, you're tripping. You're drunk.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GREENE: I mean, this guy is kind of crazy. But you're saying...

BLOCK: Yeah.

GREENE: ...it's a fun release.

BLOCK: You know, I think I'm the only one on the show - in 1967, when the Summer of Love was going on, you guys weren't even around. I mean, I was, you know, in the middle of it all, coming out to California - you know, running around like I was in "Midsummer Night's Dream" or something.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: You know? So I was - I'm probably the only one up there who's ever tried the little tablet or the wonderful, door-opening acid.

GREENE: Yeah. But let me ask you about - I want to hear you talk a little bit more about hanging out with these 30-somethings on the show. I mean, do you guys get along? Do they look up to you like a father?

BLOCK: Oh, yeah, we get along.

GREENE: What's the...

BLOCK: Well, it's not...

GREENE: ...what's the dynamics?

BLOCK: No, there's a great duality. First of all, they're artists. They're really - it's really like they're very - and I would tell you in a second, and I would not be having a good time if they weren't totally dedicated to the work. I guess the first time I knew I was in another arena was when Glenn Howerton tweaked my nipple.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: You know, it's just like, well...

GREENE: That didn't happen back in the "Taxi" days?

BLOCK: No. There was nobody walking around tweaking nipples. It's like a kind of a thing that people do nowadays. You know, there's a lot of like, kind of - there's a lot of sexual innuendo.

GREENE: There's a generational gap?

BLOCK: It's a little bit of a gap but not, you know - I mean, we did - you know, I was of the '60s, the sexual revolution. That was the Summer of Love, man. What the hell are you - well, you can't say what it really was - the summer of lust. But the idea is that to do it like, you know, just walk up to somebody and say hey, good morning, and grab your nipple - it's like something, you know, you didn't do.

GREENE: You've got to get used to that.

BLOCK: But I got used to it now. I really like it. I look forward to it.

GREENE: Are you doing it back to them?

BLOCK: Oh, yeah.

GREENE: Good.

BLOCK: Yeah. Good morning. Tweak. Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: Take a bow.

GREENE: Well, I've heard you talk about a movie like "Pulp Fiction," I mean, a huge blockbuster, and you decided to have faith in Quentin Tarantino. And you said, this is a young director; I want to support a young director and help him, you know, really explode. I mean, is that what you're doing here, in some ways? Are you trying to pass on a gift to the next generation and then...

BLOCK: Well...

GREENE: ...help them sort of get their footing?

BLOCK: I'll tell you what it is. It's like you're - and I don't mean to sound like, you know, humble pie and all this kind of stuff, but you really are given a gift. With "Pulp Fiction," I was given a gift, and I knew it was something special, and I wanted to be part of it, okay? I knew it was a guy's vision, Quentin's vision, and I wanted to be part of it and...

GREENE: And you produced the movie, which is -

BLOCK: Yes. Yes. And I helped get it made. And it worked really well. And it worked - it was a - this is the same - it's a similar kind of thing. But I'm really getting a double satisfaction about, you know, not only am I with them every day, you know, pitching and having a good time, I'm also up there on the - I'm on the screen. I'm on the - I'm in the show. And that's really important to me.

GREENE: Danny DeVito, you and your wife, Rhea Perlman - of course, you were Louie in "Taxi," she was Carla in "Cheers." I mean, it's tough...

BLOCK: That's right.

GREENE: ...to think of more enduring characters in...

BLOCK: Mm-hmm.

GREENE: ...American sitcom. I mean, to what extent does this at least give you a sense of, you know, hanging on? You know, you're late in your career and you're...

BLOCK: Oh, man. Oh, God, it just gives you a sense of, you know, personally, you're proud of it all. You love being part of the community. It's that old thing. You know, somebody says, what is it like? It's like a big cathedral. I don't know who said it. And what you're doing is, you're putting your brick into the cathedral. You're very fortunate to have those things happen to you, and you have a good time doing it. And I keep saying it's a gift, and it is.

GREENE: Danny, this has been a real pleasure. Thank you for talking to us.

BLOCK: Thank you so much.

GREENE: That's Danny DeVito. The new season of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" premieres this Thursday on FX.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BLOCK: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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