Charlie Sheen showed up to the FOX all-star party at the winter TCA press tour to promote his new FX show “Anger Management,” and although his appearance wasn’t unexpected, the fact that he stayed long enough to speak to a number of reporters was a surprise.
Because of the crush of media, a roundtable was set up on the patio of Castle Green in Pasadena, where the party was being held. At that roundtable, Sheen told a small group that he wanted to get back to series TV so soon because he didn’t want his ignominious exit from “Two and a Half Men” to be the final thing he did on TV. Besides, he said, “they were kinda running out of stories for me, anyway.”
He’s watched his old show occasionally — he loved the final scene of the episode where Jon Cryer‘s character Alan channels his late brother Charlie — and thinks it’s pretty good. Sheen has texted with Cryer, but he still hasn’t been in contact with Chuck Lorre, with whom he feuded quite publicly before he was fired, even though he’d like to. “At some point, sure. We’re gonna have to get some closure there, you know?”
This was the Sheen that the media’s seen lately: collected, calm, not really regretting the “tiger blood”-esque antics from last winter but at the same time knowing he needed to be more under control. And during this roundtable, with show creator Bruce Helford, Sheen was relaxed, personable, and even a little charming. He even took some time to warmly great his “Young Guns” co-star Kiefer Sutherland, who was at the party promoting “Touch.”
Helford did a lot of the talking during the roundtable, trying to explain the gist of the show. The only thing it has in common with the Adam Sandler-Jack Nicholson movie is the name, which they purchased the rights to use. In the multicamera show, Sheen plays a therapist — named Charlie, which seems to be the way Sheen likes it — with a messed up personal life: an ex, a teenage daughter, and his own therapist to deal with. He takes two groups out on unconventional therapies: one a private group, and one a prison group, which was Sheen’s idea.
It’s that collaboration that Helford liked, despite Sheen’s reputation. “Charlie’s just a solid actor besides being really comedic; you don’t often get that mix together,” the veteran producer (“The Drew Carey Show,” “George Lopez”) said. The show is currently in casting mode, looking for a known woman in her late 30s or early 40s to play Charlie’s ex.
Sheen is most definitely missed on the “Men” set, as Jenny McCarthy mentioned to us last month. Why was he so popular with the crew there? “Because I made them feel, and it’s something I believe in, that their jobs are just as important as mine, that I can’t do my job without theirs and vice versa. A great idea can come from anywhere; (even if it’s) the craft services guy, it’s still a great idea. You have to be in a work climate that allows that,” he said.
“I made their jobs easier, because when in doubt, over prepare. You can’t make choices if you don’t always know the words, so I knew the words.” After he left, he thought they had his back. “They were all ‘Team Charlie.’ It was pretty cool.”
Sheen classifies his off-the-reservation ranting last winter as an explosion of pent-up frustration. “It was a lot about what went into going on for all those years on the set. It was also about the pressure cooking of 30 years in the business and just finally wanting to say all the things that I (wanted to)… and I said them all at once, and it created a tsunami of bizarre proportions,” he said.
“But the reason that I pushed it was because I knew I was right; I knew I was absolutely right in my stand. Right about what they had done that was completely wrong vs. what I had done, as far as who was in breach. I knew there was victory at the end.”
The deal for “Anger Management” is unique in that, if the first ten episodes do well, then Helford and Lionsgate are contracted to make 90 more, giving everyone involved an instant syndication-ready package. Helford liked the “creative security” of the ten episode guarantee. But make no mistake: there’s something in it for Sheen, too. When asked if he has a piece of this show and can stand to do well if it reaches the 100-episode mark, Sheen replied with a knowing chuckle, “I mean, um… yes. I’m not gonna lie to you.”
“This is a job where were doing this together,” said Helford, “so you have some control over your destiny and it really makes a difference.” Helford is open to using Sheen’s ideas.
“(Helford) feels like they used 10 percent of what I could do on the other show,” Sheen said. “It’s a great complement.” Sheen seems to be happy that this show, unlike “Men,” won’t have any “d–k jokes, fart jokes, poopoo jokes, and jack-off jokes and all that. That’s when writers get lazy.”
The fact that the show is on FX will allow Helford and Sheen to take more creative risks and use a more mature tone. “If you see I’m on a date in a nice dinner, candlelit, and we have a toast and lean in, then the next shot is us in the kitchen in robes… what happened? You don’t always need to see what happens in the bedroom, and they always had to do it before. So things like that, we’re not going to do the obvious.”
But he’s just happy to have a say on a show. “Every time I see (Helford), it’s like a hundred warm hugs, because to have my input welcomed is an alien concept to me.”
The collaboration process with Helford has been pretty smooth. “He said something really honest; I’m not going to make you say something that you don’t want to say. And I said that I’m never going to not say something that’s written, so at least we hear it and then we’ll make a decision from there. So we’re on the same page.”
When asked about his experiences with social media this past year, Sheen didn’t hesitate to talk about when his “tweetmaster” accidentally put his phone number on Twitter, and he ended up getting 498 texts and 220 phone calls in 31 minutes. He even called a few people back, including someone who sent a really mean text, who hung up on him. “I called him back three times. I was pissed at that guy.”
Overall, though, one of the more useful things he learned in this tumultuous year is how the media can help and burn him at the same time. “It is what it was. I started to figure out that to kind of work with them and not against them. There’s too many of you guys; I can’t fight you. I just try to pick my spots wisely and think a little longer before I speak.”
Watch Charlie Sheen on “Jimmy Kimmel Live”: