As he plots a return to primetime via FX's upcoming sitcom Anger Management, Charlie Sheen says he is putting last spring's "tiger blood"-fueled antics behind him.
"I'm a lot more mellow and focused and much more rooted in reality," Sheen told reporters Sunday night at Pasadena's Castle Green. Sheen took his image rehabilitation tour to the nation's TV critics, who were gathered at a party celebrating Fox's and FX's upcoming series. But once Sheen arrived, reporters mobbed him.
Sheen jokingly calls his public meltdown last spring his "winning odyssey" but stands by his contention that he was unhappy with his involvement on Two and a Half Men.
What happened? The actor says his behavior was triggered by "what was going on for all of those years on the set, and it was also about the pressure cooking up 30 years in the business, and just finally wanting to say all the things I wanted to say." He adds: "I said them all at once and it created a tsunami of bizarre proportions."
Despite several accounts that Sheen's substance use was impacting his performance on Men — leading to his dismissal — Sheen says he believes that he was "right about what they [Men producer Warner Bros. TV] had done that was completely wrong vs. what I had done... in terms of who was in breach. That's why I pushed it so hard because I knew there was victory at the end."
Nonetheless, when asked whether he harbored any regrets from last year, Sheen says, "I would have been a little less vocal about the people I worked with." (Sheen famously blasted Men exec producer Chuck Lorre, as well as CBS and Warner Bros., leading to his dismissal.)
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Sheen's exit from Men led to several unusual moves — including a nationwide stage show that got off to a bumpy start. "It was a real [lesson] of sticking to what you know," Sheen says of what he learned from that experience. Since then, he's gone back to acting, having just wrapped the Roman Coppola movie A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, for which Sheen says he was paid $1,700 a week — "and I was never happier," he says. "It ain't about the money."
Sheen renewed his gripe that he felt underutilized on Two and a Half Men and that it didn't solicit his opinions on the show — but as an executive producer and profit participant in Anger Management, he promises to be very involved. "Every time I see [Anger Management executive producer Bruce Helford], it's like a hundred warm hugs," Sheen says. "To have my input welcomed is an alien concept to me."
Adds Helford: "Whenever I do a show with a star, then we partner. We're doing this together. Anything I do I run by Charlie and we talk about it. He's got great ideas and we're using those."
The show itself shares a title with the movie Anger Management, but little else. Sheen will play a former baseball player with anger issues who winds up as an unconventional anger management therapist. Sheen's character (named Charlie, natch) juggles his work and personal life — as he has an ex-wife, a 13-year-old daughter and his own therapist.
The character also works with two therapy groups: A private one, and one at a women's prison (that was Sheen's idea). "This is a show about how all of this affects Charlie's life," Helford says. "It's half workplace and half personal life but there's an organic flow back and forth... His life is way more screwed up than most of his patients."
Helford says he's looking to give Anger Management a "mature tone" similar to Roseanne (where he once worked) and the shows of famed All in the Family producer Norman Lear. "We have the license to do it," he says.
Sheen and Helford have already hired a writing staff for the show, and now plan to start casting next week. Two of the lead roles call for women in their late 30s or early 40s, "and those are going to be actresses that you know, I'm sure," Helford says.
Lionsgate (the studio behind the show) and its Debmar-Mercury distribution arm will initially produce 10 episodes of Anger Management. If that initial order hits a certain ratings threshold, then an order by FX for another 90 episodes immediately kicks in.
Under a heightened production schedule, more than one episode would be taped a week. "To do that kind of schedule, you need someone who knows their stuff, who has done this before," Helford says. "And Charlie is really sharp and really fast."
Although Management will be shot with multiple cameras and audience laughs, the show won't be taped in front of a studio audience. An audience will screen each episode later and their laughter taped to be used in the telecast.
As for his former Two and a Half Men stomping grounds, Sheen calls the new version (now starring Ashton Kutcher) a "whole new show." "I think parts of it are funny," he says. "I don't watch it that much, but from what I watched I thought it was a pretty good. [But] it's a different show."
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