Profane, snarky and always charismatic, Denis Leary parlayed a stand-up career into a Hollywood one that has ranged from the ridiculous (Operation Dumbo Drop, anyone?) to the sublime, namely the critically acclaimed FX series Rescue Me (clips of which are available on Action Unleashed). Leary’s Emmy-nominated portrayal of the volatile, tormented, but fundamentally decent firefighter Tommy Gavin is a tough act to follow, but he’ll be back in action in The Amazing Spider-Man next summer and behind the scenes as producer of a pilot for USA about paramedics, with occasional stand-up gigs on the side. “I do it for charity to keep the muscles going,” says Leary. He gave Made Man his thoughts on java, the last days of the show and what he’s learned.
MADE MAN: What one thing do you never leave home without?
DENIS LEARY: My pants.
MM: What’s your drink of choice after a tough day?
DL: I don’t really have a drink of choice—pretty much whatever’s cold when I get in the house.
MM: What can a guy do in the morning to feel good all day?
DL: Drink coffee. I’m in a shitty mood every day, even with coffee. With coffee I just talk faster.
MM: Rescue Me raised the bar for you. Can you imagine a better role?
DL: It’s very hard to imagine. I got to do action, comedy and drama, all at one time, with a group of people that I really loved going to work with—the cast and the crew. It was in New York. Peter Tolan is my favorite guy to write with. John Scurti is one of my oldest friends. A lot of the guest stars were old friends that I’d always wanted to work with—Susan Sarandon, Marisa Tomei, Peter Gallagher, Maura Tierney. You don’t really get that opportunity.
MM: What was the last day of shooting like?
DL: The girls were all crying. I was trying not to cry because there were about 350 firemen on set that day. We were shooting in a church, and Peter and I had to do a speech to thank the crew and everybody for working on the show, so we wanted to be funny and we had to keep shooting that day. So, we tried not to cry, but the girls were breaking down, and a couple of the firefighters started to get teary-eyed. It wasn’t until we were editing and had to do a brief re-shoot that we really started to think that you’re not going to see these people again, at least not on a daily basis, so it made it a little difficult. But it’s better than doing nine seasons and having everybody say, “What the fuck did you do those two extra seasons for?”
MM: Has your experience on the show made you a better person?
DL: It made me a better actor, a better writer and a better producer, just by virtue of how much work it was and the nature of it. I don’t know if it made me a better person. I’m still pretty self-centered, greedy and angry. It didn’t save me, but it taught me quite a bit.