14 Seasons Later, Danny Devito Says the Future Is Still Bright for “It’s Always Sunny”
Now 76, Devito has been playing Frank Reynolds on the long-running FXX show since 2006
All due respect to Dennis, Mac, Charlie and Sweet Dee, but Frank Reynolds is really the straw that’s been stirring the below-average cocktail at Paddy’s Pub since he became a member of The Gang in 2006 during the second season of FXX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Played by Danny DeVito, Reynolds might just be the most depraved character in a South Philly universe that is chock full of ’em, having happily indulged in drugs, food-related sex with random acquaintances in dumpsters and a game called Night Crawlers with his roommate Charlie.
DeVito, who is just as odd in a new video in which he co-stars with Awkwafina to promote Discord’s “Imagine a Place” campaign, has fit like a meaty mitten on It’s Always Sunny since he arrived on set 15 years ago despite being a foot shorter and three decades older than most of his co-stars. Thanks in large part to that fit — and the excellence of original cast members Glenn Howerton, Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day and Kaitlin Olson — It’s Always Sunny is now the longest-running live-action comedy series in American television history, with four more seasons already on the books.
Set to start shooting in Los Angeles in the middle of next month, 76-year-old DeVito tells us he can’t wait to get back to The Gang and hanging at Paddy’s.
“We have a fun time together. Caitlin and Rob and Charlie and Glen, we love each other. It’s become a family,” DeVito says. “That’s because of the show. We take the lid off. There are no holds barred. Whatever we want to do, we can do. That makes it good to get out of bed in the morning and go to work. We only do 10 shows a year and when you’re done you say, ‘God, we should do more.’ On Taxi we used to do 20 to 25 a season. There were a couple of years where they had kids and I went to London and did a play and the interval was bigger. You miss your family. So when you get there, it’s like a celebration. I guess the spaces in between are almost as important as the times you’re together, because absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that stuff.”
That degree of fondness isn’t hurt by the generation gap between DeVito and his Paddy’s pals.
“It’s always good to hang around with people who are younger than you. You don’t want to hang around with a bunch of old farts,” he says. “I like to hang around with my kids. I like to hang around with their friends. I do. There are people my age who I hang around with and I love them dearly. It’s really good. But, I’ll tell you what. You want to stay young? Hang out with the young kids. See what they’re doing. Keep your eyes and ears open. Like Discord. It’s a whole new app avenue for me. I love that. The whole idea of doing different things. A bunch of years ago, somebody offered me a part in a music video. ‘It’s some band in London,’ they said. It was One Direction. Why wouldn’t I want to do that? I did it. I met Harry and one of the boys and we had a great time. Let’s all have a good time together. That’s what I say.”
Which is why promoting a platform like Discord appealed to DeVito.
“You can’t do it alone. That’s the whole thing. I mean, life is life. We’re born alone and we die alone, but the middle part we’re in should be together,” he says. “That’s the idea. You need your friends. You need people around you. You need to share things. You need to be open. You want to find out what makes everybody tick. And the only way to do that is to communicate and talk to each other.”
Communication from critics on It’s Always Sunny‘s hasn’t always been positive, but that’s just par for the course these days.
“We’ve always said that we are not big fans of tuxedos,” DeVito says. “I remember once somebody called me and said, ‘Hey, why didn’t you guys show up last night? You won the People’s Choice Award.’ And you know what? Nobody told us. I thought it was perfect for the show, because we’re just these people who have a bar and do crazy things and dig a hole and can’t get out of it. Put your foot in your mouth and stuff like that. So I guess it’s cool to keep doing the way we’re going. I wouldn’t want to spoil it with an award.”
Per DeVito, the feedback he and the other cast members receive from fans is what really matters.
“When people that you work with or pass on the street or see at a restaurant tell you they love it, that’s what you’re doing it for. Those are the most important things about this,” he says. “It’s a great show. I think it’s like right up there in the higher echelons. It really resonates. There’s a lot of great stuff in it. I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think it was a great show.”
And Reynolds, at least played by DeVito, is a big part of that: an eccentric, stellar, unpredictable character with edgy appeal.
“Frank Reynolds, with all the money, wants to live in squalor. He wants to hang out with the real people,” DeVito says. “I can’t abide by the rubes in the world. I don’t mind making money from them. My money, Frank’s money, is going into the bar. That’s okay. I don’t care. I’d rather have fun with these guys and hang out in a bar every day than live in some kind of alien world with a bunch of people who have a Master’s or MBA. I ain’t got none. No offense. You do what you want to do. Frank is doing exactly what he wants to do. I want to hang out in that bar and I’m going to do it until they tell me I can’t and board it up.”
Of course, there is one thing that Frank does that we — as well as every other fan of It’s Always Sunny — were keen to learn a little more about.
“As for Night Crawlers … you can do it. Get a good friend. Turn the lights out. I ain’t going to say anything more. Life is discovery. Frank’s a very devil-may-care character and he does anything. I mean, I don’t want to hurt anybody, but I take a lot of chances. I like standing on the abyss, not knowing what’s out there and then taking that step.”
That’s worked out well for 14 seasons. Bring on 15. And !6. And 17. And 18 …
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