Kaitlin Olson Originally Passed on ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ Because Dee Wasn’t as Funny as the Guys

The ‘Hacks’ star had no interest in playing an unfunny supporting role like the girl at Sudz
Kaitlin Olson Originally Passed on ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ Because Dee Wasn’t as Funny as the Guys

In the original scripts of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Deandra “Sweet Dee” Reynolds didn’t get nearly as many punchlines as the rest of Paddy’s Pub — it’s like they didn’t even know she does impressions.

Before Kaitlin Olson was the most beloved and embattled bird on television, she was an accomplished improv comic with a handful of credits that would pique the interest of most comedy snobs. In her early career, Olson appeared in 12 episodes of The Drew Carey Show, she had a recurring role on Curb Your Enthusiasm as Cheryl’s chaotic sister Becky and she even assisted on a couple Punk’d pranks. So, when Olson rolled up to her audition for a new and barely funded FX sitcom called It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, she was surprised to find that the part she was asked to play was thinner than an ostrich’s neck. 

Today, Olson is the most Emmy-snubbed actress in all of TV comedy, and none of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s millions of fans could possibly imagine a world where Paddy’s Pub doesn’t have its double-dropping, scoliosis-beating waitress to provide her brother, his friends and her not-father with unwanted comic relief. But, as Olson explained during a recent interview for Vanity Fair, when her future husband Rob McElhenney first offered her the part of Sweet Dee, she turned it down, due to the fact that he and his buddies Charlie Day and Glenn Howerton hogged all the funny lines to themselves as if zingers were shares in Paddy’s Pub.

Sunny was a really happy accident,” Olson explained of her first big break in Bob Rossian terms following a particularly Dee-like episode of her current show Hacks, in which her character, DJ Vance, struggles but eventually succeeds in getting laughs during the celebrity roast of her comedian mother. Said Olson of her first taste of It’s Always Sunny, “That audition was incredible, because the sides weren’t for Dee.”

Today, that screen test is the stuff of Always Sunny legend, but, back in the early aughts, McElhenney and his collaborators had to scramble to find lines for their prospective Dee in the script of their short-film-turned-episode “Charlie Has Cancer” that would give her a proper opportunity to flex her humor muscles. “They changed a scene that was between Dennis and Charlie because they didn’t have any funny Dee scenes, so they gave me that,” Olson recalled. “But I didn’t know that. So obviously for the audition, they changed the name.”

“And it was funny! I loved it, I did it, and then Rob said, ‘Go ahead and put the sides down and we’re going to do the same scene, but say whatever you want. Same scene, but say whatever you want,’” Olson recounted. The Groundlings veteran was all-too-eager to try out what would become Always Sunny’s signature half-improvised style, telling Vanity Fair, “No one had ever done that before, and I was like, ‘What?’ It was the most fun audition I ever had. I got in the car and was like, ‘I mean, that’s my role. I believe I got that.’”

Later, however, Olson learned the truth about the scene she thought was between Dee and Charlie, and the spectacular audition seemed to be shaping up into a disappointment for both sides. “It was only later after they asked me to do it on the phone, I didn’t have to talk to their faces. I just told my agent when they were like, ‘Oh, that wouldn’t be your character. Here are five scripts that are written, and here’s the Dee character.’ And it wasn’t good. So I passed,” Olson explained. “Then Rob called me and was like, ‘That’s not what we meant. We do want you to be you.’”

“If I had gotten an audition and they had literally just pulled a Dee scene out of the scripts that they had already written, I probably would’ve passed on the audition,” Olson admitted. “I was coming off of a show that was shot in England where I had a bad experience, and I said, ‘Okay, for the rest of my life, I will never take a job for money or just because I want to be on TV.’ I would’ve missed out on the whole thing if I got an actual Dee script.”

Thankfully, McElhenney and his writers rewrote their first-season scripts in order to allow their new star to stretch her wings, and, 20 years later, she’s still flying. 


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