Charlie Sheen on ‘Anger Management’

No longer “winning” with “tiger blood,” a sane but still fun Charlie Sheen talks about the future of “Anger Management” and his father, Martin Sheen.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

We got a brief audience with Charlie Sheen earlier this year as he made his first post “Two and a Half Men” appearance to the Television Critics Association. This summer he returned for an official panel for “Anger Management,” his new FX comedy.

FX had just announced they are strongly considering ordering 90 more episodes of the series, and his producer Bruce Helford discussed their fast paced, organic way of working and finding the comedy. This is Sheen’s response to questions on those subjects.


Q: Is it easy for you to learn lines this quickly?

Charlie Sheen: No, not easy. It just takes repetition, just go through it over and over. The older I get the more I need. It’s great because it’s not like we’ve got to go out there and get the scene perfect if it’s an 8 or 10 minute scene. We just get it to where we can get to it, we pick it up, Bruce is very forgiving. Still with all that, we’re making really good time per episode.

Q: Is that a better way to work?

Charlie Sheen: I think so. Ask me that question at episode 72.

Q: Were you familiar with your father’s repertoire of impressions?

Charlie Sheen: Well, see, what nobody knows or what they didn’t hear is that my sister Rene is in the writer’s room. But I can’t talk about anything that goes on in there. That’s the deal that we’ve made so she’s in there. It’s not like I have a spy in the writer’s room, not that I need one.

Q: But she knew what he could do?

Charlie Sheen: Hell yeah, she did, yes. And she’s the archivist for the family photos and movies so Rene was able to find a clip of my fifth birthday and put it on the show, the thing I’m talking about. It’s pretty cool.

Q: Is surrounding yourself with family helping everything else?

Charlie Sheen: Yeah, of course it is. It’s the people you’re the closest with you grow the farthest from, so why not just bring them all to work. Just bring them all to work.

Q: What is it actually like working with your dad?

Charlie Sheen: It’s like this moment right here. It’s very claustrophobic. It’s great. He comes to set prepared. He likes to rehearse. He’s old school and he’s a bit of a perfectionist like I am. He doesn’t want to leave a tag or a scene he doesn’t feel he absolutely killed, but he’s very trusting also. He’ll say, “Are you sure about that?” I’m like, “Yeah, we got it. We got it twice.”

He’s very supportive on the set. He’s kind of a living legend so when the crew sees him, it’s kind of attention on deck. It used to be Captain of the military. Now it’s the frickin’ president. It’s pretty funny because I played the president the other day in Machete Kills, Robert Rodriguez’s film and it was a trip. I did more destruction in the oval office in one day than anybody’s done in the last 200 years.

Q: Are you sure about that?

Charlie Sheen: Yeah, pretty much, yeah.

Q: What do you look forward to about working with dad as series regular?

Charlie Sheen: Well, after he left the stage that night, I said to Bruce, “Why couldn’t he just be there all the time?” Maybe not as much as Stiller on “Queens” but every third episode or something like that, what do you think about that? And we set it up well. He’s going to live here now but not too close. He can’t walk over. I haven’t seen the episode yet. It’s very touching that moment in the kitchen, just “You know where to go.” It’s a real moment, you know.

Q: What was he like as a real dad?

Charlie Sheen: He was great. He was awesome. He tells stories I can't recall. He was a regular dad, except he just took us all over the world making movies.  Outside of that, it was like any other family. He's great to work with.

Q: Have you thought about Kathy Bates guesting on “Anger Management?”

Charlie Sheen: Would you have thought about that if she wasn’t on “Two and a Half Men”? Probably not, right? I was honored when they got her to play me because in my mind that was a woman who won an Oscar playing an impossible role. If you read that part in the book there’s no way that part can come to life and she did it. So for her to play me I thought was great.

Q: Is therapy a bottomless well for comedy? And were you a fan of Bob Newhart show?

Charlie Sheen: Yeah. Yeah, of course. It’s as you said, a bottomless well. Because the thing is, people can leave the group, come back to the group. It’s just wide open for all of that.

Q: When you hear they’re going to look at the first 10 and decide whether or not to do 90 more, what pressure does that put on you?

Charlie Sheen: It doesn't put any pressure on me. That's something I can't control. We've done the work, this section of it, and it's really up to what the number decides, and that's based on how many people have shown up, and so far they've all pretty much shown up.  Not all of them, but you know what I mean.

Q: What does the prospect of 90 more episodes of this feel to you like?

Charlie Sheen: Exciting as hell. Look who I get to work with. This is a really amazing group, and this guy right here, I mean, forget about it. I don't think 90 is gonna to be enough. I said that out loud, didn't I? I feel with how we started that we've just scratched the surface, barely. So we're all very excited. 

Q: Is there anything autobiographical about Charlie Goodson, and do you add anything autobiographical to his relationship with this father?

Charlie Sheen:  I guess anytime you play a character there's a lot of yourself that you bring to it. You can't avoid that if you're playing the truth. So we have incorporated certain things that are very specific to me and perhaps to the other show, just as a wink and a nod. 


Q: What about the part where you say, "Wait. I've been blaming everyone else for screwing myself up. Maybe it was just me who screwed myself up," did you feel that way?

Charlie Sheen: No, not really, because the show deals with a guy who is being somewhat manipulative, and not aggressively, but pretty pointedly trying to make him feel a certain way about things that didn't happen, so Dad and I never experienced that.  We’ve both always sort of been soldiers of the truth, you know. 

Q: How did the decision to bring your dad on the show happen?

Charlie Sheen: He did an episode on of "Spin City" and of "Two and a Half," and they thought it made sense for him to do an episode of this. We figured he should be on this and so I talked to Bruce about it, and we said "Sure, if there's a story that breaks that involves having your father's character on the show, absolutely."

Brought it to Dad, and he said, "Whatever you need." And a couple weeks later we had a script, and we loved it and shot it. I think it's the best episode we did. I really do and that was the last one we shot. I don't want to say we peaked, but he brings a whole different energy to it, a whole different sense of it's not Martinville, but it's certainly not Charlieville at that point.

Q: Were you really going to call your autobiography “Apocalypse Me?”

Charlie Sheen: That's only half the title. I was going to call it "Apocalypse Now: The Jaws of Life." 

Q: How is that going? 

Charlie Sheen: Pretty good, huh? I should can that. It was a waste of time

Q: Why is that movie so important to you? 

Charlie Sheen: Because it's the greatest film ever made, first of all. I was there for half of it when it was being shot. I made some relationships that I still have to this day. I learned a lot about the filmmaking. I learned a lot about life. I learned a lot about survival, and it was just one of the experiences you can't plan or ever really completely understand why it happened.

Q: Since we saw you go through a difficult public time, how is your life different now, how are you coping better and working better on television?

Charlie Sheen: I talked about this so much already. I don't really want to bore anybody here with any details about this stuff.It was a crazy time, and it was sort of like a dream I couldn't wake up from or some runaway train I couldn't get off of, but I was the conductor, you know.

It was something that could never happen again, so that was pretty cool. Not that anybody wants it to, including me.  I learned a lot. I learned stick to what you know.  Don't go on the road with a one man show in 33 days in 21 cities with no act. No act. So my life's different now that I'm not insane anymore. Pretty accountable most of the time.

Q:  Are you having fun right now? Was it fun six months ago?

Charlie Sheen:  I mean, every place, anything I'm doing is fun, as far as I'm concerned. It's how it's interpreted that I have an issue with. It's all about choices, and sometimes you don't always make the right choice.

Q: Do you thrive on chaos or do you wish you had a simple normal life?

Charlie Sheen: I mean, I can wish every minute for an ordinary and simple life.  It's not going to happen.  But I don't really look at it as chaos.  I look at it as challenges.

Q: How do you compare doing comedy and drama? Is one more difficult than the other? 

Charlie Sheen: Some days more difficult, some days less. It's a whole different animal. In particular this show, there's no time to overthink it. Things happen, and sometimes they're wonderful and sometimes they're not. That's how we all figure out these characters and these stories.

As far as drama versus comedy, sometimes comedy can be a little harder but the good news about it is you don't have to go to work knowing you gotta exhume some loved one to get to a moment because that's what the scene calls for. It's just nice that at the end of the day, delivering laughter is really job one. It's really a satisfying feeling, especially like a couple weeks later to see your work on television.

Usually you do a film, and nine, 10 months, a year later you see it, and it's so different. There's a lot of bad surprises, but this is really cool. It's about midway through season  my first season on "Spin City" is when I kind of felt like, okay.  This could be a new direction, and plus the hours were just bitchin'.

Q: Will Denise Richards be back?

Charlie Sheen: We had a ball working on the show.  Our daughters were there.  It was fabulous.  She was great on the show, fun to work with, nice to the women.  She'll probably come back and she's welcome back. But we're not going to create stories because people are available. We're going to create stories and then see who's available.

Q: You were trying to do Major League 3. Would you consider Hot Shots 3?

Charlie Sheen: Hot Shots 3, no. Major League 3 for sure.

Q: Why not?

Charlie Sheen: Because there are so many movies like it that have been done since, that joke is really overplayed.

Q: What’s the movement on Major League 3?

Charlie Sheen: I’m actually supposed to find out soon. We’re just trying to find the money. It’s harder these days because everybody relies on all the foreign presales and there’s a lot of countries that don’t really know or like baseball.

Q: Is there a script?

Charlie Sheen: Yeah, there’s a script. It’s really good.

Q: Who wrote it?

Charlie Sheen: David Ward.

Q: Did “Idol” talk to you at all?

Charlie Sheen: No, they put it out there like you heard it for the first time, I heard it for the first time. I was driving, I was in Kansas City heading to the All Star game. I wrote this reply to Mike Walters over at TMZ and they printed it, so he has my terms.

Q: So you’d still do it?

Charlie Sheen: Sure, why not? For me it’s not always about the work, it’s about the experience. It’s like when I was watching the episode with Denise. I didn’t really think about her and I doing the scenes. I thought about us spending time with our kids between the scenes. So that’s all it’s really about. It’s the stories I can tell in 20 years, sometimes in 20 minutes. I’m thrilled to be here. I think it’s really a cool opportunity to come back and sort of slam that Warner Brothers door finally and move on from that.

Q: What would it take to get you to do Idol?

Charlie Sheen: Well, it’d have to be FX approved first of all. If it makes any sense, like I said if those three charities could be helped, I don’t know, how many nights a week is that?

Q: Three.

Charlie Sheen: Three nights a week, hmm. I could do it in two. No, I don’t know, it depends on how much is going on at the time and if it’s a real conversation. If it’s a real conversation, were they testing the waters? I’ve not heard from them since I made my comment but I was deeply flattered. They’re a really smart group over there.