Denis Leary says he’s known musicians like the ones featured in his new FX comedy Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll his entire life, and some of those artists have now been in rock bands for the last 30 years. “I was backstage a lot and got to witness a lot of the crazy egomaniacal behavior, and I wanted to do a half-hour [show],” said Leary during the press roundtables at the 2015 San Diego Comic Con. “I thought this would be a new way to go and I’d probably have a blast doing it.”
Leary returns to series television with Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll debuting on July 16, 2015 at 10pm ET/PT. Leary not only stars in the series as an aging rocker who’s desperate to be famous but also created the show, writes the episodes, and even penned the music sung by the fictional band, The Heathens. In addition to Leary, the series stars Elizabeth Gillies as his talented daughter.
Asked who influenced his character, Leary replied, “For me, there’s a couple of guys I know who never made it. They were pretty bitter about it for a long time. So I based it a little bit on those guys. They still look like rock stars. They walk around the Lower East Side of Brooklyn…you know, when you’re not a rock star but you look like Keith Richards and you’re walking around with that outfit, you look kind of crazy. I love the idea of a guy walking around with this outdated look. That’s the most fun part of the show for me is like my relationship with her because I look so ridiculous half the time. And, to me it’ll be interesting to watch him have to learn from her how to behave as a dad, how to dress.”
“That’ll be a funny episode – me dressing you like a dad,” added Gillies. “In dad clothes? Oh no!”
Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll begins with Leary discovering he has a grown daughter (played by Gillies) who’s actually more musically talented than he is. “It starts off pretty one-note and then it takes on about a thousand other notes. We get invested and the relationship becomes really complicated. But it’s funny too. We tear each other apart,” explained Gillies. “We mentor each other in a weird way. I parent you [to Leary] even though you’re my father. You do teach me about rock and roll, but I don’t have all the issues that you have. I’m clean and sober. I never did anything. He’s obviously the opposite of that. But I definitely feel like Ava and I run the show. We run that sh*t.”
“I’m a huge Rolling Stones fan, obviously a huge fan of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. I’ve always found it interesting Keith Richards raised such normal kids. He’s been married for 30 years now. He’s a grandfather at this point. It’s really interesting to look at that guy and to see him from that side of it. So, I think that if the show gets to go on and continue it’s going to be really interesting what I’m going to learn from her and vice versa. But there’s clearly the biggest lesson he’s got to learn – which he kind of learns by the end of season one – it starts to become clear to himself that he’s never going to become famous. If anybody in the family is, or the band, it’s going to be her. So the idea of her getting more fame and him being in a room with her while somebody else famous is in it is always going to be funny. Like, if she’s hanging out with David Bowie in a recording studio, what Johnny’s going to do to blow that up and piss off David Bowie…even though he’s like the biggest David Bowie fan in the world…is always going to be funny to me,” said Leary.
Elaine Hendrix plays Ava in the series, Johnny’s longtime companion and The Heathens backup singer. Leary hasn’t told her who her character is modeled after, but she believes Ava was probably inspired by women who hung out with Leary’s musician friends. “The way he’s described it to me is that she’s sort of a compilation of a few people. But the real genius with Leary, at least as a fellow actor, is that he comes to the table with all these ideas and then he’s willing to let them go,” said Hendrix. “It became a very collaborative process. Certainly as we go along it becomes even more and more collaborative, which is an actor’s dream.”
John Corbett co-stars as Flash, lead guitarist of The Heathens. Corbett was sporting a Johnny Rock T-shirt with cutoff sleeves and a vest while at Comic Con and seemed to be having a blast channeling his inner rock star. “I’m an old guy – I’m 54 – so to be walking around in cutoff T-shirts is a little stupid,” said Corbett, laughing. “But at the same time, it’s like, ‘Why not, man?! The show is called Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll!'”
Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll is incredibly smart and funny, and Corbett loves getting the scripts from Leary who he labels a “mad genius.” “He’s got a lot of past to draw on. He’s hung out with every strange comic and musician that we know for the last 30 years, and he’s musical himself,” said Corbett. “Denis writes all the music for the show. He plays piano, he plays guitar, and he sings, so he’s got that little sack over here. I’m impressed. Totally impressed.”
Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll centers on “Johnny Rock” (Denis Leary), lead singer of a legendary early 90’s New York band called The Heathens. Known for living up to their name, the band partied so long and so hard that even Keith Richards thought they needed to slow things down. The Heathens were on the brink of becoming famous for their kickass live shows and the release of their highly anticipated first album. Until they broke up. The same day the album dropped. Because lead guitarist Flash (John Corbett) found Johnny in bed with his wife. So the band became legendary for all the wrong reasons – like self-destructing sooner than any group in rock-n-roll history. 25 years later, the only thing bigger than Johnny’s ego is his prostate. The drugs he really needs now aren’t cocaine and marijuana – they’re Crestor, Cymbalta and Cialis. He’s out of work, out of money and out of show business options. That’s when a massively talented young singer named Gigi (Elizabeth Gillies) shows up – with a burning desire to be famous, a throwback appreciation for The Heathens’ only album, and a stack of cash big enough to bring the whole band back into the studio. Only this time, SHE’S the lead singer and Johnny’s just a behind-the-scenes songwriter. John Ales, Bobby Kelly and Elaine Hendrix round out the rest of this dysfunctional rock-n-roll family. The race is on to see who gets famous first – and for what reason.
Follow Us On: