'Rescue Me's' Denis Leary, Peter Tolan Spill Secrets About Series in Candid, Funny Conversation
The co-creators reveal to THR how the FX show -- whose series finale airs Wednesday night -- was almost a Toronto-filmed comedy on HBO, their hopes (and fears) for the legacy of the show and what's in store for the bickering pair.
Tolan: We were very impressed. Another thing that people can't believe is that three of us [Tolan, Leary and Evan T. Reilly] wrote 93 episodes of this show. It seems kind of audacious when you look back at it to think you could actually do a show with humor -- which is obviously the thing that saved it -- that had 9/11 as an inciting incident. It just seems audacious.
Leary: You used the word "audacious" twice during that last paragraph. It's really not impressing anybody. The king of Scrabble had to throw in "audacious" twice.
Tolan: Let me do a variation for you, "au-douche-ous." Now I have another question for you. It seemed like every other scene we'd shoot we would look at each other and say, "Only on Rescue Me." And we'd say to the actors, "Enjoy this, because you'll never do a mix of comedy and drama like this again." And now we're moving on to other projects. For example, I'm coming up with an hour [in development at ABC] that has a dramatic element to it, and I realized after doing a show that uses 9/11 as an inciting incident that there's no other inciting incident as rich or as big or as all encompassing as that. Sometimes I feel like, "How am I going to wring drama out of this?"
Leary: Quite frankly, you can put the realities of 9/11 aside and just talk about dealing with firefighters. The thing I miss the most about the show, besides the camaraderie of that cast, is that on Monday, you would shoot hilarious comedy scenes. Tuesdays were heavy emotional dramatic scenes that really sort of stayed with you all day. Wednesday, you're shooting action sequences where you're running into fake fires. And then on Friday, you might get to do all three. I mean that just doesn't happen in movies or TV on a regular basis. I did Spider-Man for eight months or whatever the hell it was, and most of the time you're just running around doing action sequences.
Tolan: Thankfully, you brought up Spider-Man again in case people forgot the first mention.
Leary: And in Ice Age 4 [in which he again voices the tiger Diego], it's mostly singing and comedy. I wanted to bring this up, too: They both come out July 4 weekend next year. I own that weekend. The thing I'm finding is that I'm working and writing for the first time in a while without you.
Tolan: The quality is suffering?
Leary: The quality is really suffering. [Laughs.] I'm realizing how I need to be part of that team again because I look at what I write and I go, "Wow, there are a lot of words there, but they're not really that funny. What's wrong with my computer? It's missing the comedy chip."
Tolan: We are working on a half-hour comedy together, but it's going slowly because of our other obligations. But obviously it's a good, fertile partnership. No children have come out of it, but I would be an idiot if I ever said I wasn't going to work with Denis again. Everything we've done has been interesting. The two shows that we've done together? They were never boring.
Leary: We're not going to say what the idea is, but the idea is really juicy for the two of us.
Tolan: Very different for you.
Leary: Yeah. I hope it's as funny as we think it is, but the fact that Peter's involved means it's going to at least be partially funny.
Tolan: I think it would be an interesting part for Denis if we are unable to get [look-alike actor] Willem Dafoe. Really, I think Denis would be a very strong second for the role.
Leary: And you know the way Hollywood works, by the time we write it and actually get it to screen, it'll probably be Ashton Kutcher and not me. I'll be the third writer at that point.
Tolan: No, at that point, it'll be Ashton Kutcher's son.
Leary: Go to Ashton Kutcher's huge trailer and tell him we need his son to do a scene.
Tolan: I wouldn't be able to find him in that trailer. I'd get lost.