The Bitter-Tasting Origin Of 'It's Always Sunny's Sweet Dee
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is one of television's most celebrated comedies in history, rolling out 14 seasons and counting. Along the way, it helped launch each of its leads into stardom with enough clout to do network TV shows, streaming shows, and films on the side. The best part of that success was that it stemmed from a group of four actor friends putting together a pilot on a digital camcorder for $85-$200. It's a great feel-good Hollywood story.
Well, sort of. Maybe not. Actually, it might be shady in Philadelphia.
Wait, Katilin Olson looks different here.
Recognize that woman in the video? Of course, you don't. That's Jordan Reid. She was the original Sweet Dee before she was replaced by Kaitlin Olson when the show was greenlit. If you're a diehard fan of The Gang, you probably know this. But why was she replaced?
It's not uncommon for actors, writers, or anyone involved in the creation of a show to be replaced once it gets launched, but this seems odd. Part of the success of It's Always Sunny is its grassroots story entrenched in the narrative of friends sticking together to succeed. But as any cigar-chomping agent from the mid-20th century will tell you, "It's show business, not show friendship, kid!"
Well, according to Reid, The Gang allegedly ganged up on her. Reid helped shoot the original original pilot at her apartment along with Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton, and Charlie Day, working as a boom mic operator when not on camera. She claims that she and the other performers improvised most of the scenes before Rob wrote them. Reid was dating McElhenney at the time, and they both gathered all of their other actor friends to cast them for the smaller roles.
Reid claims that when FX gave them a deal to reshoot the pilot, she and the other leads sat down while eating scrambled eggs in Rob's trailer and made a pact. FX would have to take all four of them, or they would get none of them. Within days, Reid noticed that McElhenney, Howerton, and Day were named executive producers, with each one getting a desk. There wasn't a desk for her.
After the pilot wrapped, she officially broke up with McElhenney as the relationship was deteriorating prior to the pilot being reshot. Reid was then let go from the show, getting a payout that equaled the amount to a single episode. She lost her agent and her manager and never heard from any of the main cast again. Reid believes that a major factor in her getting replaced had to do with her ending her romantic relationship with McElhenney along with the executives of FX being a "boys club."
Now you might be thinking, "Well, why doesn't she sue them?" Well, it's not that easy. Reid was a struggling actress in her 20s at the time who couldn't afford a lawyer to fight a parking ticket, much less a team of lawyers bankrolled by a television network. Even if she could afford to win her case after months or years of litigation, media networks don't tend to hire actresses with a history of suing people.
While we don't know any tangible reason why Reid was fired, her "boy's club" theory isn't too outlandish of a claim. Even Kaitlin Olson threatened to quit if the role of Sweet Dee was just being the token girl/voice of reason of the group. Arguably, the fact that Dee is just as loathsome as the guys is what sets It's Always Sunny apart from most sitcoms since it escaped that tired trope. Adding Danny Devito to the cast was just a multiplier onto the scoreboard.
McElhenney, Howerton, and Day never really gave details on why Reid was replaced by Olson, and there doesn't appear to be any interviews with them regarding that -- in fact, they seem to erase Reid's involvement in past interviews. Guilty or innocent, it doesn't seem like we will be getting rebuttals from any of them in the near future.
Fortunately, Reid says that she has made peace with her situation and is currently happy. She has since authored a number of books.
If there is anything to be learned, it's… well, honestly, there is nothing to be learned as it always just "was." Show business has always been cutthroat, even among friends and especially towards women, ever since the concept of performance was created. Hell, women weren't even allowed to portray women on stage until the 1660s. This cutthroat attitude really shouldn't be a lesson to learn or an acceptable excuse that's mildly shrugged off as if policies or social attitudes are a fixed part of nature. It should be treated as a problem that needs to be addressed, given careful consideration by all affected, and then stomped out cold.
Damn, I wish I could end this article with a joke.
Top Image: 20th Television