I’m Mary Elizabeth Ellis. I am an actress. You know me as Charlie’s obsession on IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA as well as Caroline on NEW GIRL and the movies and TV shows, and I’m starring in the movie THE LAST TIME YOU HAD FUN (which you can check out here: http://www.thelasttimeyouhadfun.com), and MASTERMINDS, which is coming out in August.
I have my three year old son watching DESPICABLE ME so I can answer your questions on the phone with Victoria. AMA.
What’s your favourite Sunny episode you took part in? Favourite overall?
I think my favorite one that I took part in was in season 2, “Mac Bangs Dennis’ Mom.” And it’s because it was the first time I worked with Danny. And Danny does a thing where he gets into character before the scene, like, starts being weird and gross like Frank before the scene starts.
And I wasn’t prepared for that.
So I was like OHmygodwhatthehellisthispersondoing? And can I please never work with them again?
And then, as you get to know Danny, you know it’s just like getting into character.
And I don’t know what it’s called, but I think it’s the one with the fantasy sequences last year, where the gang gets held up while the convenience is being robbed. And everyone had their fantasy sequence of what they would do.
I mean, Nightman / Dayman is above everything else because we got to do the tour with it. That was really special.
What is your best Danny Devito story?
I mean, I feel like I kind of told it with the getting into character right before. I could go into it a little further, but it’s the first time I really had an interaction with Danny other than just “hello.”
We’re backstage, offstage, getting ready to walk into the scene, and the scene is that I just banged him to make Dennis jealous.
And I’m like, you know, I look at Danny and I’m like “Hi, incredible actor I’ve looked up to forever.”
And he starts moan-growling at me, like GRarrrr, rarr, rarrr with eyebrows raising.
And it was so confusing… and weird… and funny… that I, I, I just had to laugh and then pull it together so I could cry and yell at Dennis, as a call to action.
Do you have a name in mind for the Waitress?
I used to fantasize about one day getting a name.
But it doesn’t look like it’s ever going to happen.
I also really love it when people scream “WAITRESS!” at me in public places.
What is something that you or the other cast members don’t like about fan interactions? Like some actors don’t like when fans quote their lines over and over.
I think that one thing that our cast has, that we all pretty much have, that I think we learn from watching Danny? Because he is such an old professional. Is that we all REALLY appreciate our fans. I think also because our fan base started kind of small, and grew over time, I think that people still feel like they’re part of a small club when they’re fans of our show? And we always appreciate when people appreciate the work that we’re doing.
So I think we all pretty much like it when fans come up and talk to us.
I think the only thing that gets shitty is if your kids ever get involved. You know? Like people just want privacy for our kids, because they didn’t choose to do this. But for the most part, it’s fun.
But if someone screams “WAITRESS!” at me, there’s not much I can do besides smile back.
Like, doing a waitress-type thing? I don’t know what that would be.
What is your happiest memory from the set of Sunny?
Wow, what is my happiest memory? I think it would have been on the tour of “The Nightman Cometh.” Just… because the show, it is mine, because I’ve been on it the whole time, but it’s Charlie’s and Rob’s and Glenn’s because they work so hard on it. And getting to hear the feedback of the audience when they went out onstage – I was just so proud of them.
What was your reaction when you saw how much weight Rob McElhenney had gained?
Oh my god, I felt sorry for Kaitlin.
How much fun is it insulting your husband all the time on it’s always sunny in philadelphia?
It’s a lot of fun. But not as much fun as doing it in real life. JUST KIDDING. I don’t insult my husband in real life. But it’s great, I get to work out any anger issues I have with him on television.
If you could remake any movie with yourself and Charlie as the leads, which movie would it be, and why?
Oh my goodness.
It would be LEGENDS OF THE FALL. And Charlie would be Brad Pitt. And I would be whomever that girl is. Julia Ormand. Because it would make my seventh grade heart explode.
How did you and Charlie meet in real life? What’s the weirdest thing you do as a couple?
I was in New York, doing a play. The whole play was a rap. It was like one long rap with 3 characters. Like hip-hop. A hip-hop play. Don’t I seem like a hip-hop kind of person? Anyway, the guy who was directing it actually is directing a bunch of SUNNY now, his name is Heath Cullens so he was a mutual friend of mine and Charlie’s. And he took me to see a play that Charlie was in, about a yo-yo competition called “Throw Down,” and we all went to a bar afterward, and he (Charlie) and his friend both thought I was cute, so they arm-wrestled to see who could talk to me.
And Charlie won.
So he came over, and pretended to be my boyfriend so a very drunk Irish man would leave me alone.
And the rest is history.
And what is the WEIRDEST thing we do as a couple? God… I don’t know what the weirdest thing is? We watch TV together? We hang out with our son… I wish I could think of something funny that’s true. We’re pretty normal. We like to watch TV.
How much are the characters in Always Sunny like their real life counterparts?
I mean, I think that part of the reason the show does so well is that we all kind of play the most despicable versions of ourselves.
So I think – like, there’s a kernel of truth in everyone’s character, and we just explode it into horribleness.
I think it’s completely true – here’s a fault in myself that I probably, as a real person, work on, but in the life of the show, the character delves into the terrible-ness of it.
Except for Danny. He goes into some alternate dimension.
What’s the creepiest thing that a fan of the show has done to you or another cast member?
What is the creepiest thing they’ve done?
Oh, I know! Of course!
Someone got a tattoo of Charlie’s face on their arm, I believe, with the words “Full-on Rapist” above it.
So that’s something lovely…for my son to see someday.
NOTE: That’s a quote from the show. He’s trying to say “philanthropist.” But still, let’s not take that quote out of context on our skin.
Do you and Charlie ever play night crawlers?
We…may play night crawlers?
We play a lot of games our son is charge of, that we don’t have names for.
And often, they’re confusing and sort of creepy to us.
What do you think of Day man?
I love it. I love it as a song. I love it as a musical. I love it when people cover it. Like, we recently went to see Of Montreal, and they didn’t cover it at the show that we saw, but they’ve done a live version of it. Portugal the Man has done a cover of it. And I think that’s awesome.
What kind of music do you listen to? And what does Charlie like to listen to?
Charlie really likes jazz. And I would say I really like jazz now, as well, since we’ve been together for 13 and a half years. We share a lot of things in common. And we both love indie rock. And the first night that I really hung out with Charlie, he pulled out his guitar and played – I believe it’s a Smog song, called “To be of use,” on the guitar.
And it was one of my favorite songs in the world, and he started playing it, and I was like “HOLY SHIT, are you seriously playing it right now?”
And even just the other night, we went out on a date, and we were going to a friend’s house, so we picked up the food, and we got back in the car, and he was playing that song. And it’s still – when we need to reconnect, like “remember how we fell in love?,” we play that song.
Is Charlie as Charlie as we all think he is?
Charlie is as loving, and funny as the Charlie on the show.
But he’s WAY smarter. Like, smart enough to write 11 seasons of television. And he doesn’t like to eat cat food.
But I wish he did. That would make cooking a lot easier.
What does Charlie work consist of in real life? Will the waitress ever give in to Charlie on IASIP?
I would say, in real life, it’s being a movie star! YEAHHH!
Um… I think that people should watch the season, because there’s some interesting surprises coming.
MM-hmm! How about that people?!
Does real life charlie sing songs to you?
Yes. The real-life Charlie makes up songs all the time. And sings them to me even when I don’t feel like listening.
Did you keep the piece of “beach glass” that Charlie gave you in that Jersey Shore episode? Or have you kept anything else cool from the show?
Um… I did not keep that piece. But that would’ve been a great idea.
I have…god, what do I have? I still have my costume that I wore as the waitress for the live show of “Nightman Cometh” in hopes that we’ll take it on the road again someday.
How did you fall in love with Charlie Kelly?
Um, I mean, I’m not in love with Charlie Kelly.
He’s a disgusting garbage-person.
How difficult is it to keep a straight face while shooting episodes?
It’s…. super-difficult, because I think, we’ve all been on the show together for so long, we’ve developed our individual senses of humor closely, so we all think the same things are funny. So we make each other laugh all the time. And honestly, one of my favorite things to do is look at the behind-the-scenes footage, the outtakes from Sunny, and just watch people break. And Charlie will admit it. He is THE WORST. He cannot keep a straight face.
How much are you like the waitress in real life?
Um… I am not very much like the waitress in real life.
I mean, I’m sassy, but I don’t get wasted and take shits in purses.
But I think she’s based on who I was when I was younger. Like, kind of tough, and not taking any shit from people. But you know, her alcoholism is way worse than mine.
If you could play any superheroine or villainess, who would it be?
I kinda always loved… I’m not a giant superhero fan, in the first place. But I kinda always loved Poison Ivy. Yeah!
She’s pretty badass.
I know that you’re married, but if someone wrote a musical for you and proposed at the end by singing a beautiful song, what would your answer actually be?
It depends on how much garbage that person had just eaten.
Your character is so harsh to Charlie. How does he deal with it after the cameras stop rolling?
Charlie knows that it’s ALL ACTING.
Also, he wrote the lines. So if he has a problem with it, he can talk to himself.
In the initial casting of IASIP, did you’d that you’d become a major character?
I think no. I didn’t. I mean, god, it’s easy when you look back on it, you know? Because the show has been going for – we’re starting season 11 on Monday, shooting season 11 – but at the time, it was kind of one of those things where you’re like “Really? Do I have to do this thing that I’m doing for free for you guys? I have a commercial audition…”
Yeah. I think that’s that answer.
Is this your first starring role in a movie? Are there any movies you compare it to in tone/style?
I did another movie, with the director Mo Perkins, if you’re talking about THE LAST TIME YOU HAD FUN, and it was called A QUIET LITTLE MARRIAGE which won the grand jury prize at Slamdance, I think in 2009? And I’m really proud of that one. And it’s similar in tone. Though THE LAST TIME YOU HAD FUN is more of a comedy.
And it’s available now! Video-on-demand, iTunes, and Amazon! http://www.thelasttimeyouhadfun.com
And MASTERMINDS is my first non-independent film that I am also starring in along with Kristen Wiig, and Zach Galifianakis, and Owen Wilson.
What was it like working on New Girl? Is Jake Johnson cool to work with?
Jake Johnson’s a total dick (JUST KIDDING!).
Yeah, working on NEW GIRL was super, super fun. Strangely enough, I had my entire pregnancy on that show. I was pregnant in the pilot, and I didn’t know it yet. And then by the time that we shot a wedding episode, they had to create a dress for me because I was so pregnant, to try and hide it! And then right after I had Russell, I went back and did another episode. So NEW GIRL holds a special place in my heart.
What’s your personal opinion on the Charlie-Waitress relationship?
If I were friends with the waitress, I would tell her to move away and change her name.
Do actors have their own whatsapp group to share funny things with each other and to catch each other when going out?
The actors from SUNNY text each other group texts when something really funny happens – like when that waiter, I think in Boston, put a slice of ham in a tiny glass of rum and sent to Charlie, I think he was at a restaurant in Boston. When someone does something that’s really incredible like that, then there’s a group text.
How did you start out in your acting career?
I started acting in community theater when I was a kid, in my hometown in Laurel, Mississippi. And then I just continued in high school, I did national speech and debate competitions, and then I went to Southern Methodist University to get a degree in acting. And then I was only in New York for like 3 weeks. And that’s when I met Charlie.
What’s the last movie you watched? And did you like it?
The last movie I watched – I’m very proud of this – is KUMIKO: THE TREASURE HUNTER! It’s beautiful and it’s starring Rinko Kikuchi. And one of the reasons i wanted to see it was because she did PACIFIC RIM with Charlie, and I know her a little, and she’s SO LOVELY as a person.
And she’s so inspiring. She literally learned English to be in PACIFIC RIM.
And the movie is gorgeous.
I give it two thumbs up! And if I had another one, I’d put it in there. Not in a dirty way.
What are some of your other favorite tv shows?
And I hate everything else that’s going to happen until it airs. Because I want it to air right now.
What book is your favorite? And what book inspires you in your life?
What book is my favorite?
That’s hard, because I really love reading. These days, I mostly read short stories, The American Anthology collection is always inspiring to me.
I just started Miranda July’s new book, THE FIRST BAD MAN, which I’m already loving very much. I really – I realize this is cheesy – but I love Marianne Williamson’s RETURN TO LOVE when I need to remember to love myself.
And we all need to remember that.
Have you ever had to give up on an Always Sunny scene due to corpsing? Also super looking forward to Masterminds, first trailer in a while to make my body hurt from laughing, how is it working opposite sketch/stand-up based comedians to more traditional comedic actors?
Um… no. We’ve had to give up on scenes due to us laughing at each other too hard.
First of all, say YAY and THANK YOU!
I mean, the actors in this movie, many of them are bona-fide movie stars now, so they’ve been doing this long enough that I would say they count as “actors.” So there wasn’t too much of a difference. Except maybe their improv skills are great.
How is your new TV show going with FX? and what’s it like working with the infamous Sunny cast?
My new TV show? I just shot a pilot for FOX with Robe Lowe and Fred Savage, and that was really fun. It’s called THE GRINDER. It’s about – Rob Lowe is a television star on a show called THE GRINDER, he’s like a television lawyer, and the show gets cancelled, and he has a life crisis, and moves back to Boise to be with his brother, who’s Fred Savage, who plays my husband, and his dad, who’s played by William Devane. And Rob’s character drives Fred insane.
And hilarity ensues!
So hopefully – we just shot the pilot – so we’re waiting to see if FOX will buy more episodes, if they’ll pick it up.
If you could go back in time (or forward!) and play any character in any TV show or movie what would it be? Remember you are replacing them so we don’t ever get to see their performance!
Um, wow, Evil Wizard.
Hold on just a second and let me figure this out.
I would hate for the world to lose out on Samantha Morton’s performance in “Sweet and Lowdown.” But god, that was an awesome role. And an awesome performance. And I would hate for the world to not see her do it. But I would love to live that experience.
What’s your favorite plan the gang has pulled on the show? Also do you think your valuable then Sweet-Dee?
Oh, definitely “Charlie Work” last season, and it’s the old chicken / steak / airline miles theme? Where they have the health inspectors coming to look at the bar, so Charlie’s trying to make sure they get a great grade, and the other guys are trying to pull off a scheme where they rub live chickens on steaks and get airline miles for doing that…
And more valuable? hahah! I think in the world of the show, everyone’s more valuable than Sweet Dee.
Poor, poor Dee.
What occupation would your partake in if not acting?
I would probably… I used to teach gymnastics for a really long time? That was my job – from when I was 15 -26. So I could always go back to teaching gymnastics. Or I would teach pre-school. She says as she helps her three-year-old son go to the bathroom.
What was the absolute funniest thing to ever happen on set?
One of my favorite memories was when – the day that they built the model of Rickety Cricket’s head for the, I think it was, what was it, the 1776? And they make his head explode? It’s probably not the FUNNIEST thing that’s ever happened, but it was definitely pretty amazing.
How great would it be if the writers of Sunny in Philly have the waitress and Charlie got married, got a child and named him Russell?
Haha! I would never do that to my poor son. He’s not allowed to be on television. I feel like the waitress and Charlie got to have those kids in the Charlie Fantasy sequence, when we did the cartoon of “UP” – and I would love to have a team of rats that worked for me. That would be nice.
Who was the funniest cast member you worked with on the New Girl set? Any good stories?
I gotta say – those guys are all great. But I have a soft spot in my heart for Damon Wayans Jr. I also worked with him on “Happy Endings.” He shot the pilot for NEW GIRL – my song goes Shot the pilot?! as in the pilot of an airplane – here you go buddy! He shot the pilot of NEW GIRL, and he was already on “Happy Endings,” so he ended up going back to that before coming back to NEW GIRL. So I worked with him on that, and he was lovely, and funny, and we had a sense of humor in common.