After watching his former Rescue Me co-stars like Callie Thorne and Daniel Sunjata flock to USA for their follow-up projects, Denis Leary said it was a no-brainer to team up with the cable network for his new comedy, Sirens.
"Thank God USA loved Rescue Me because now I can make some money off USA," Leary told reporters at the Television Critics Association winter TV previews Saturday.
The result is Sirens, an adaptation of the British show starring Game of Thrones' Richard Madden, executive-produced by Leary and Bob Fisher (Wedding Crashers). The half-hour comedy, which debuts March 6 at 10/9c on USA, follows three EMTs (Michael Mosley, Kevin Daniels and Kevin Bigley) whose silly and self-righteous personalities make them great at their job, but not so great in their personal lives.
Leary's longtime producing partner, Jim Serpico, was approached by the original producers three years ago because they were Rescue Me fans. "They had the idea that they might want to turn it into an American show," Leary said. "[USA was] basically pillaging the remains of Rescue Me, and Serpico said, 'I think we can make some money off these USA people.'"
However, there were other elements that drew Leary to USA. "They basically said, 'You guys don't have to follow the British series. You can Americanize it. Do whatever you want,' which is the freedom we wanted," he said. "There were some crossovers in terms of the characters in general and the idea in general with the British show, but we had our freedom."
Leary and Fisher had plenty of other sources of inspiration for stories, such as Leary's own wife, who is a volunteer EMT. "A lot of the stories that we're using come from EMTs that we know," Leary said. "There are a lot of funny things that happen in their job."
Although scary medical situations on the show, such as someone getting a bottle stuck up their butt, were based on real tales, the producers and cast weren't afraid to make light of these incidents. "We had real EMTs on the set. They have an amazing sense of humor," Bigley said. "They're able to find the comedy in all of these surreal situations." Added star Mosley: "It's almost like a coping mechanism because you're dealing with this stuff all the time."
However, the show won't downplay the severity of these calls, such as one episode, titled "Famous Last Words," which shows a patient dying within the first 30 seconds of the episode. "These guys are dealing with life and death in the sense that the people they're responding to are about to either live or die," Leary said. "I think it just brings out a lot of black humor. ... It's an interesting place for comedy. It's also an interesting place for drama."
Like the firefighting drama Rescue Me, Leary said the series will mix both humor and heart. "Hopefully on this show, there are episodes and moments where we kind of do the reverse thing from Rescue Me," he said. "On Rescue Me, it was a very heavy show that we occasionally stuck the knife in and made you laugh unexpectedly, and here, a couple of times during the season you're going to be laughing you're a-- off and all of a sudden, feel an emotional jolt."
Sirens will also feature several Rescue Me alums. Jean Smart and Lenny Clarke will play Mosley's on-screen parents. John Scurti will play the father of Jessica McNamee's character. "I do that selfishly because these people are such great actors," Leary said. "It's so much easier to work with people you have a shorthand with."
So does that mean fans can also expect Leary himself to appear on the show? "I'm not appearing in the show. I don't plan to appear in the show," said Leary, who noted the advantages staying behind the scenes. "I could wear sweatpants or whatever the f--- I want to set and look like sh--. ... I sit at the monitor, I smoke and I laugh and I drink coffee. Its f---ing the greatest job."
Sirens premieres March 6 at 10/9c on USA. Will you watch? Are you sad Leary doesn't plan to appear?