Charlie Day on Horrible Bosses, Cocaine, and Why Mac Got Fat for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Charlie Day as Dale Arbus in Horrible Bosses Photo: Warner Bros.

Over six seasons of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia as Charlie Kelley — the manic, woefully ignorant, borderline insane dive bar custodian — Charlie Day has been a cult television hero. That meant it was pretty jarring to see him step out of the small screen and into a Drew Barrymore romantic comedy, of all things, with last year’s Going the Distance. Turned out he was great in that, too (exhibit A: “Can you masturbate yourself off at all?”), making this Friday’s surreal comedy Horrible Bosses — in which Day plays one of three leads, alongside Jason Bateman and Jason Sudeikis, trying to murder their supervisors — all the more enticing. Earlier this month, Charlie chatted with Vulture about his burgeoning movie career, Sunny’s next season, and why Rob McElhenney just put on 50 pounds out of nowhere.

Dale, your character in Horrible Bosses, is a pretty low-key guy. Then there’s the scene where he accidentally does cocaine, and it’s almost like he turns into Charlie.
That makes sense. I wanted to have him start out being subdued and normal. And as he sort of gets in on over his head, he gets a little bit more out control and crazy. And anything out of control and crazy might seem like my character on Sunny.

There’s also a moment where your character makes a reference to Danny Devito, who of course co-stars with you on Sunny.
That was just in the script. I was wondering if they would take that out, like if they thought it would take people out of the moment, but they left it in.

You have the luxury of having a day job. How does that affect your process in picking movies?
Well, so far I’ve had some good opportunities come my way, and some opportunities that I personally decided weren’t good. I’ve been fortunate enough based on people’s reactions for the show. I picked these [Going the Distance and Horrible Bosses] because I thought I could make them funny. When it comes to comedy, that’s the standard. When it comes to other things, you see what the project is.

Are you considering dramas?
Yeah, I’m talking about something right now. Hopefully that will lock down in the next few weeks. I can’t talk about it quite yet.

The photos of a larger Rob McElhenney recently surfaced. How did he gain the weight?
A lot of protein shakes filled with ice cream. And doughnuts.

What’s the reason for the development?
Right at the beginning of the writing season, we started writing at the beginning of the new year, he said the he wanted to try to do that, and we said, "All right, we’ll start writing, and you start eating. And if you keep getting big we’ll write it into the whole season.’

How do you explain Mac’s weight gain within the show?
Well, you know, the reality of a guy who lives a lifestyle like this character, who owns a dive bar, is that he would start to go downhill at some point. We wanted to have a new, fun direction for his character to go. We knew that "fat equals funny" isn’t good enough. It had to be like his character, specifically, because his character is just that into physical fitness. Actually, it would have been funny if Dennis had done it, too.

Is he planning on losing it?
For the sake of his health, he’ll have to start losing it. We’re gonna finish shooting, and we’ll see where his eating habits start to go.

The Emmys are coming up. Do you have any thoughts on awards?
It’s a double-edged sword: On the one hand, it’d be really nice to get that sort of acknowledgement. Then on the other hand, you have to look at the shows you criticize that also get that acknowledgement. I don’t want to name anyone specific, but you think, If I’m getting nominated, and this bozo is, too, then maybe I shouldn’t be taking things so seriously.

Last season you strung some plotlines together over a few episodes for the first time. Which approach is more fulfilling for you?
We did that in season six because of Kaitlin’s pregnancy. We’re not really doing that in season seven. It’s a bit more of a challenge, considering the nature of how we shoot, and it’s a bit more of a limitation. I think our show, ideally, is not totally linear. These characters get into something and they drop it just as quickly, and that’s part of the charm. We don’t really think of it as an overall grand scheme. We never try to top ourselves. We take things one episode at a time and just try and make each idea that we have the funniest that we make it.

Have you been keeping up with the backlash for The Killing?
I haven’t, actually. I’m not even sure what The Killing is. Other than a Stanley Kubrick movie.

Well, basically the audience for the show was very vocal in its distaste for some of the plot twists, and I wanted to ask you if you could ever see a passionate enough audience reaction making you reconsider a creative decision.
Well, fortunately, they haven’t turned on us too much yet. Our job is to stick to our own creative guns and hope that it translates well. We can’t write episodes based on what people are writing on the Internet. But if a large enough group was massing — like, say, millions of people — we’d pay attention.