In the Season 13 premiere of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” Sweet Dee tells the gang’s soon-to-be-rejected new friend Cindy (Mindy Kaling) that “Yeah, yeah, I hear what you’re saying, but I kind of like being the only woman. Because it makes me feel special.” It’s a funny joke, but one that couldn’t be further from truth, as Olson told IndieWire during the Television Critics Association summer press tour.
“Oh, we have women on set all the time. It was fun to have [Kaling] there. It’s always fun to have another woman to play with,” she said.
And at this point, “fun” is a keyword for Olson after so many years working on the FXX comedy, which continues to chronicle the misadventures of the miscreants running a Philadelphia bar. Since the show’s premiere in 2005, Olson has had plenty of other work, including “The Mick,” a Fox series that ran for two seasons. The only limit to her getting roles has been her own schedule.
That’s because people know Olson’s work at this point — though she also knows the key to selling yourself as an actor during an audition. Below, she explains what she looks for in a potential co-star, and why the “Sunny” cast’s approach to improv has changed over the years.
To start off, talk about getting Mindy Kaling involved for the premiere, because she’s such a fun choice.
Glenn and Rob both did guest stars on her show [“The Mindy Project”]. I tried, but it didn’t work with my schedule, so I wasn’t able to do it. But she’s just always been so lovely, and we admire her so much for her talent and her acting and writing and producing ability. She’s just a good person. We thought it would be fun to have her come and play with us.
How was she as a collaborator?
She’s amazing. She is a very warm, giving person, so that’s really nice in an actor, actually improvising and looking at the person when you’re talking to them. She’s great. We had a lot of fun.
Evans Vestal Ward/FXX
After 13 seasons, how much improvising has remained a part of the show — has it increased or decreased?
I think it depends on the day. I would say maybe it’s decreased a little bit as time has gone on. The scripts are just so good, and we’re happy to play around a little bit, but we also, at this point, we all have other lives. When we first started, we were like, “Okay, we got that, and it’s really funny, but what if we tried this?” Now it’s just like, “No, that was hilarious. We all are happy. Let’s move on.”
The cancellation of “The Mick” was really sad, especially because it was such an interesting cast. In terms of bringing everyone together and finding these unique people, what was your involvement?
Oh, I was very involved. I was at every casting session, and we did chemistry reads. It was really important to me that we had a very ego-free set. I just wanted to work with good actors, who were there to have fun and stay open and flexible and listen and try new things. We just got so lucky. We found such a wonderful cast.
When you’re sitting opposite someone, and you’re trying to get a read off them, what do you look for? How do you get a sense that this person will not be a nightmare to work with at three in the morning on set?
I think people who are trying too hard, sometimes I get that that’s nerves when you’re auditioning. But that is, unfortunately, a little off-putting. Because you just feel like, “Oh, that’s going to be a lot to handle.” People who are comfortable in their own skin typically don’t have as much of an ego.
I remember Sofia [Black-D’Elia] came in and was very casual and calm, said “hi,” and just sort of started acting. That’s really what you want in an audition. It’s a hard thing with comedy. It’s a very fine line, people overdoing it and turning into cartoon characters. You want to have a really heightened version of yourself, but not go into cartoon-land.
Do you feel like that sort of persona creation is something that happened naturally with “Sunny”?
Yeah, I think you just have actors where that’s how they act. It does help that we were friends.
But it seems like it’s a different vibe nowadays.
That’s a rare thing, I think. I guess people do that in movies a lot, cast their friends over and over and have different groups, and you just know that you’re going to vibe well together.
It definitely seems like in the comedy world, people cast their friends, or people cast people they know they like. From your experience, how often do you get the “Are you available to come in and have fun”?
I get that a lot, from people I know and people I don’t necessarily know so much.
People just hear, “Oh, Kaitlin’s fun. You should have her in”?
I think yeah, and I think that people really like our show. I think it comes across, when you’re watching it, that we’re actually having fun when we’re acting. Because we are.
New episodes of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” air Wednesdays on FXX.