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Kaitlin Olson is best known for playing Deandra “Sweet Dee” Reynolds for 15 seasons on FX’s long-running comedy It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, holding her own alongside her four male co-stars (Charlie Day, Glenn Howerton, Danny DeVito and her real-life husband, Rob McElhenney). In 2021, she earned her first Emmy nom for the shortform Quibi series Flipped, and she returns to the competition this season for her guest role as D.J. Vance — daughter to Jean Smart’s Deborah Vance — on the HBO Max comedy Hacks. Olson spoke with THR about what attracted her to the role and how it brought a fresh perspective to the “broken” characters the comic actress loves to play.
What about the character first appealed to you?
I really loved that D.J. was basically an angsty teenager and a middle-aged woman. I thought it was so funny — a stunted teenage attitude in a grown woman who’s desperately trying to push her mom’s buttons.
“D.J.” literally stands for “Deborah Jr.” I’m curious if part of your process was thinking about which parts of Deborah Vance your character might emulate?
I picture this woman so vastly different from Deborah. She definitely does not have the drive or the desire to be huge the way that her mom does. All this woman wants is her mom’s attention, or at least that’s driving the motivation in any of the scenes that we’re in: “Please pay attention to me.” If [my kids are] trying to get my attention, they’re either being really awesome or being really awful — but it’s all for the same purpose. Any of this bad behavior is just a cry for her mom to pay attention to her, even though she’s a grown-ass woman.
How similar do you find this character to the one you play on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or on your former show, The Mick?
I’m really attracted to playing broken people. Mickey was very scrappy and self-sufficient; for Dee, [life is] just a giant competition. Neither of them had the little-girl quality D.J. has. I thought it was a nice opportunity to play something different and to have actual emotion. There’s a relationship there, and it’s one of the driving forces behind the whole season, because D.J. is a bit in the [comedy special] that Deborah’s doing. It’s nice to play a comedic character that also has some broken, raw emotion.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
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