You owe it to Kaitlin Olson to watch tonight’s special premiere of The Mick on FOX. Not only is she starring and executive-producing the outrageous family comedy, but she endured a fractured skull and a shaved head to get there. (No, that’s not part of the show. That actually happened. But more on that, below.)
“We really wanted to make a family comedy where the jokes that the kids shouldn’t get will go over their heads, and it’s nothing too scarring,” says the actress best known for starring as “Sweet Dee” on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. “It’s a network [single-camera] show, but it should feel like it lives in the cable world.” She’s right—at a recent press screening, journalists were howling with laughter and couldn’t believe half the stuff that happens actually made it to air. “My sensibility is more cable,” Olson says with a laugh.
Of course, perhaps just as interesting as the show is Olson’s own life, which began in Oregon and took her to the hallowed comedy training ground of The Groundlings in Los Angeles. From there, she’s lived enough lives to warrant a movie (she decided to go to a Phillies baseball game after going into labor) and married her co-star (It’s Always Sunny’s Rob McElhenney).
But along the way, Olson’s picked up some pretty valuable advice. And lucky for us as we start the new year, she’s sharing it with us here.
Glamour: Here’s my first thought after watching The Mick: Goldie Hawn needs to come and play your mother. The two of you have so many similarities it’s scary.
Kaitlin Olson: Oh my God, can you call her and tell her that?! I adore her, and I’m going to steal your idea.
Glamour: Well, I feel like The Mick is a raunchy combination of Overboard [starring Hawn] meets Mary Poppins. [Laughs]
Kaitlin: I love Overboard! That’s such a great movie, and it’s one of the first movies where it co-stars a man and a woman and they are both equally funny. That’s a very rare thing. It’s usually just a man or then we got into this age of female-driven comedies. How about men and women can both be funny in the same scene together? I love that movie for that reason. But yeah, I would say that The Mick is a combination of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia meets The Facts of Life?
Glamour: Mickey is so out there, but how are you guys similar?
Kaitlin: I have always admired people who are comfortable not being liked because I am the opposite of that. To the point when I was little it was crippling. I walked through the world trying not to do anything that would upset anyone, and that’s a horrible way to live. It’s not possible. So I really admire that she does not care what people think about her. Obviously, that can be taken way too far, but it’s a pretty cool quality if you can reign it in a little bit.
Glamour: Especially in your business, where everyone wants to be liked.
Kaitlin: Exactly. And especially as a woman.
Glamour: You’re the star of The Mick, executive producing it as well, and starring on It’s Always Sunny. What have you learned about dealing with immense pressure?
Kaitlin: I feel like I’m doing so many things at the same time, including being a mother to two little boys. I’m also a bit of a perfectionist, so trying to do 100 things perfectly well is completely impossible. The thing I’ve learned is that it’s so important to stay in the moment and not let my brain [think too far ahead]. It’s so cliche, but it’s so important. I can’t do everything at once, but I can do one thing really well at a time.
Glamour: You wanted to be an executive producer on the show, but you had to ask for it, right?
Kaitlin: The [creators] asked me if I would [star in the show]. I said, “I won’t do it unless I can executive produce it,” to which they immediately said, “Of course. We want you to! It’s your aesthetic, and we want you to do this with us.” What you learn is that you ask for what you want, and if someone says no, that’s OK. But you shouldn’t not ask for things. I also knew I could best serve this project if I was a producer on the project. In order to play this character well in the way that I could make it special, I needed [to be in on] the hiring of the other actors. They’re kids! I needed to know that I could improvise with them, that they could take direction with me…that makes a big difference when you’re doing a comedy.
Glamour: When you were 12, you were in a serious bike accident that resulted in a fractured skull.
Kaitlin: Yeah, that was a doozy. I still have a hole in my head. It was the size of a lime. Now it’s the size of a quarter. It was bad. I had my head shaved, and this was all going into junior high school. I also smashed my face and had to have surgery. It was bad, it was really, really bad. Honestly, it’s probably the greatest thing that ever happened to me. That was a real serious source of adversity that took years to fight back from that. No 12 or 13-year-old girl wants to walk into her first day of junior high with a swollen face and a shaved head and a [huge] scar. It was bad.
Glamour: Did you rely on humor to get you through that period?
Kaitlin: I was a funny kid at home, but I was a very, very shy kid at school. This just threw me into a…real tailspin. I just wanted to hide. Some people were really nice, but some kids were really mean. I remember standing in a lunch line once and this kid named Casey Johnson was somewhere behind me in line throwing jelly beans at me trying to get them to land in the hole in my head. I was like, “Are you kidding me?! Who does that?!” It was rough. Years later, when I found the theater department and felt comfortable there, I was suddenly able to…yes, the short answer is yes. I certainly didn’t have the confidence and I certainly didn’t think I was attractive in any way, so all I had was my sense of humor. You just kind of go with it.
Glamour: Wow. What do you teach your kids, especially since I’m sure they’re pretty active at this young age?
Kaitlin: It’s something I’m very conscious of: how I parent that. I don’t think it’s always helpful to say, “Be careful! Be careful!” because then they get fearful. So, the thing around my house is I say, “Check in with your body. You need to keep yourself safe.” I try to teach them to be aware of their surroundings and keep themselves safe. I wasn’t wearing a helmet [when I had my accident]. My mom sent me out of the house on this bike ride with a friend wearing a helmet, but as soon as I went out of the neighborhood, I took it off because that was a time when no one else wore a helmet. I knew that I should wear it because it was to keep myself safe, but I’m really trying to teach my kids to look around and figure out what to do to keep yourself safe and then go for it. You gotta take risks, but take the helmet!
Glamour: Speaking of taking risks, you also went into labor at a Philadelphia Phillies game!
Kaitlin: Well, I went into labor at home. Then we drove to the game because I was like, “Oh, it’s gonna be a long time [till the baby is ready to come out], and it’s my first baby.” My whole plan, anyway, when I did go into labor was to go for a walk around the neighborhood, go to the grocery store. But we went to the game! I think I made it like five innings? Seven innings? I was like, “OK, time to go now.” It was an important game, OK? The Dodgers were playing the Phillies.
Glamour: Listen, I’m a die-hard Cardinals fan, so I get it, but even that’s impressive.
Kaitlin: My husband is a huge Phillies fan, and by proxy because we basically have been a part of the city of Philadelphia for 12 years now, [I am too]. I endured a lot to watch that game! [Laughs]
Glamour: Did they win at least?
Kaitlin: They did. Because of me. [Laughs]
Glamour: You and your husband didn’t want to date at first, or rather you did so secretly because you didn’t think it was a good idea to be in a relationship with your co-star/boss. Obviously, it worked out. What advice would you give in that department?
Kaitlin: What I learned, honestly, is if there is that much of a pull…there was really nothing that could keep me away from him. Once we really started dating, I knew that we would get married. That’s so cheesy, but now that I’ve dated a bunch of people, then found him and gotten married, you really do know. You really do. So if you’ve got doubts and you’re not sure, the answer is no, it’s not right. That’s what I think because it only gets harder. You get used to each other. We’re great friends, he’s an amazing man, and he’s fun. My kids are so lucky that he’s their dad. He’s smart, he’s sensitive, he was everything that I was looking for. So it was so dumb [not to try and date] because there was nothing that could have stopped me because he was the right person.
The Mick premieres January 1 on FOX at 8 P.M. ET.