It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a favorite series here at Mediaite, appreciated for its hilarious characters, take-no-prisoners gags, and embrace of musical theater. So when I interviewed Nonsociety’s Jordan Reid for this piece and learned that she’d been one of the original gang on the show, naturally I had questions. How did that come about? What part did she play? And, the money question: Why did she leave?
Reid declined to speak about her depature from Always Sunny on the record, but today she goes public with her story: She, along with Always Sunny co-founders Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day and Glenn Howerton, were the original “Gang” who put together Always Sunny‘s scrappy pilot-for-a-pittance, which got picked up by F/X. At the time, she was dating McIlhenny — and right around the time the pilot got picked up, the relationship got rocky. Per Reid:
Here’s what happened. When I graduated from college, I moved out to Los Angeles, where I knew absolutely no one except for my ex-boyfriend, Rob. We began dating again, first casually, and then very seriously. Shortly after I arrived in Los Angeles, Rob conceived of the idea for a Curb Your Enthusiasm-style show that centered on a group of four actor friends living in LA (this, of course, was later changed to four friends working in a Philadelphia bar). Over the next year or so Rob, myself, and our friends Glenn and Charlie shot two pilot episodes for the show, which at the time was called “It’s Always Sunny on TV.” Other friends filled in the remainder of the roles – most notably Mary Elizabeth, who played “The Waitress” and later married Charlie – but the core group was the four of us: me, Rob, Glenn, and Charlie.
It was exhausting work that took many months to complete: we improv-ed out many scenes before Rob actually wrote them, and if one of us wasn’t on camera for a particular shot, he or me (ha) was probably standing off to the side holding a boom mike. Much of the first two episodes (which included several plot lines taken directly from my life, such as my insistence that everyone remove their shoes before entering my carpeted West Hollywood apartment) were shot at my place or at Glenn’s. When we needed more DV tapes, we all chipped in and drove my Chrysler LeBaron to the Rite Aid on Sunset. It was a busy time, but an exciting one – we all felt like we were participating in the creation of something really great, something with enormous potential.
They started shopping the pilot around, and then F/X bit and had them reshoot the pilot professionally. They were in — as a team:
At one point, one of the guys (I believe it was Glenn, but I could be wrong) called a meeting in Rob’s trailer: “What if the network wants to pick up some of us, but not all of us?” Together, we four agreed that they took all of us…or none of us. We were in this thing together – had been for over a year now – and we simply wouldn’t allow them to split us up.
Uh, oh. You can see where this is going. Next sentence: “Around that time, my relationship with Rob began to unravel…” Like I said, you can see where this is going.
When the relationship went south, she says, she “started to sense that I was on unsteady footing on the set…I was surprised to learn that Rob, Glenn and Charlie had all been made executive producers, while I simply remained the lead actress.” Reid notes that at the time she was 23, and was so glad to have gotten a lead role on a TV show — one she helped create — that she didn’t want to rock the boat. Besides, she had agents and a manager to deal with this stuff. The pilot wrapped, and so did her relationship with McElhenney. And then, the news:
A couple of months later my agent and new manager (a manager who quickly disappeared from my life once I was no longer the lead on a show) called to tell me that while Rob, Glenn and Charlie had been picked up for the series, I hadn’t been. The network, they said, felt I was “too pretty” to be believable as a Philadelphia bartender, which makes total sense: TV shows generally hire unattractive people as lead actors, and I was recently voted Miss Universe. Didn’t you know?
Reid was off, and replaced with Kaitlin Olsen, who now plays “Sweet Dee” on the show — and is now married to McElhenney. The show is a hit, and in its fifth season is finding its mainstream audience to match its cult appeal. So — is she bitter? Well, she was — she talks a bit about the betrayal of being cut out of a group project, of never hearing from Glenn and Charlie again (ouch), of being a young actress and feeling powerless against the studios and the system. But Reid, whose blog is all about “domestic bliss,” writes regularly about her own marriage, so it’s hard not to believe her when she says “I wouldn’t give up “right now” for all the money and all the fame in the world.” Meanwhile, for Always Sunny fans who love Olsen’s Sweet Dee and the crazy antics of The Gang at Paddy’s, it’s hard to imagine it any other way — and certainly the wedded bliss of Olson and McIlhenny speaks volumes about the power of “right now” for all concerned.
Still, it’s a pretty good cautionary tale for those at the beginning of the journey: Just to be safe, and no matter how much you love the other person — it might be a good idea to get it in writing. Not so romantic, but, alas, practical — and maybe, just maybe, enough to stave off the Nightman, if it comes to that. Nice to see that in this case, in the final analysis, the Dayman seems to have reigned supreme. Stage freeze!
Reid’s full account is at her blog, and it’s a great read, as well as a fascinating bit of Always Sunny backstory. This was just published, so there’s no response from the Always Sunny team yet, but we will update when there is.
‘Cause You’ve Been Asking [Jordan Reid – Nonsociety]
NonSociety Adds “Domestic Bliss” Contributor Jordan Reid [Mediaite]
“Always Sunny”: Masters of Karate, Friendship and Viral Buzz [Mediaite]
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