As FX gears up for the third season of its red-hot firefighter drama Rescue Me (premiering tonight at 10 pm/ET), count on Callie Thorne's Sheila to carouse and connive her way around the firehouse, causing a whole new set of problems for Denis Leary's Tommy. TVGuide.com chatted with Thorne to tease the new season (the first episode of which she had yet to see), find out what it's like hanging with the boys as well as guest stars Susan Sarandon and Marisa Tomei, and why she'd be willing to swing from a chandelier in scenes... if need be.
TVGuide.com: I just finished watching this season's first episode, and it's so good!
Callie Thorne: Oh, my god, I'm so excited. I haven't seen it yet. The first time that any of us are really going to see it is here in New York, where they do a little movie premiere and party. That's always a little scary because none of us have seen it and you're seeing yourself huge up there on a movie screen! [Laughs] But that's also what makes it so much fun.
TVGuide.com: How many episodes of this season have you filmed so far?
Thorne: We just finished up Episodes 5 through 8, which is shocking, because we're halfway through the season already. It's this period of time when I wish so badly that we were a 22-episode show, because it's just so much fun.
TVGuide.com: Viewers also wish you were a 22-episode show.
Thorne: I know. I guess in that respect it's good it's 13 episodes, because we always leave them wanting more. But [fans] would always want more with this show, even if it were 22 episodes, because that's how smart [cocreator] Peter [Tolan] and Denis [Leary] are about the story lines.
TVGuide.com: What attracted you to the role of Sheila?
Thorne: This role of Sheila in the first season was to be just a three-episode arc. I desperately wanted to be on this show, so I auditioned to play Andrea Roth's character Tommy's wife and obviously did not get it. I had tested for a character on [Leary and Tolan's previous series] The Job, when they were doing that moons ago at ABC, and I knew pretty straight away that this was a group of people who, come hell or high water no matter whose ass I had to kiss I wanted to work with. My agent wanted me to wait until there was a series-regular [role available on Rescue Me], and I was like, "Are you kidding me? I want in, no matter what. I'd sweep a broom in the background." I did a lot of episodes that season, and they made me a regular last year. It's my most favorite job I've ever had.
TVGuide.com: Prior to your casting, did you have an idea how tough-as-nails Sheila was going to be?
Thorne: No! [Laughs] Nor did I think [the producers] knew how much of a carnival ride Sheila was going to be. That's what really great about the way they set her up in the first year. She just happens to be this woman with no edit button and who's kind of manic not in a cartoonish way, but a very human way. It's so much fun to play that, but it's also so much fun just to read the scripts every week, because I'll be like, "Oh, my god, I can't believe this is what I'm going to be shooting!" And yet it always makes sense, because they always allow there to be complexities within the character so you can see why she's cuckoo. You can sort of see behind the curtain a little bit.
TVGuide.com: Has there ever been anything you couldn't believe they wanted your character to do?
Thorne: A lot of the sexual stuff. On any other show, I have to be honest, I probably wouldn't have done it. The stuff that came up in the first year as well as last year, for me, was actually very scary having to be very intimate, very spontaneous and very sexual. That's nerve-racking to me, but I trust Denis and Peter so implicitly that I felt so safe. Denis is so generous and kind, and he figured out really quickly that if I get nervous, the key is to make me laugh. I'm very lucky that a lot of the things that could be very scary in terms of being so intimate with someone who's not your boyfriend but actually your boss are actually funny. They may be raunchy, but to top it off there's always an enormous amount of humor, which makes me go, "Hell, yeah, I'll swing from the chandelier. As long as it's funny."
TVGuide.com: What's it like being one of the only females on such a testosterone-driven set?
Thorne: Delicious! [Laughs] I love being part of a boys club, because my favorite thing to do is laugh, and this bunch are truly some of the funniest men I've met in my life. Andrea Roth and I and Tatum O'Neal, Marisa Tomei and Susan Sarandon this season are all women who can dish it out. If you can dish it out, you're in with this crowd. It doesn't matter if you're a girl or a boy.
TVGuide.com: Susan Sarandon first appears in the second episode?
Thorne: She starts pretty early ,and she and Franco have a sexy little love tryst. Daniel Sunjata was thrilled! They had a really good rapport because they had worked together before, and that made it more comfortable for them on-camera.
TVGuide.com: How does Marisa Tomei enter the firehouse?
Thorne: She plays a love interest for Tommy and comes in midway through [the season]. I can't give anything away, but it's such a great character. It's such a smart move to have her come on the show, because it's just going to be hysterical!
TVGuide.com: What kinds of reactions have you gotten from the FDNY and their families about the show?
Thorne: I've gotten great reactions. [Laughs] Reaction from 9/11 widows has been very split down the middle. Definitely during the first year and much of the second year, when I would meet [widows] at a 9/11 benefit, they were all so kind. But I think it's a generational thing. Some of the older widows because it can be a really risqué show think we are trying to say, "This is what all widows of 9/11 are like." But when you come down a bit in age, the women who say, "Thank god you're showing that grief isn't just crying and that a woman in mourning can be very funny and drink and smoke and cry and laugh." What [the show is] trying to do is tell the story of this particular bunch of firemen and their families, not necessarily say, "Hey, America, this is what everybody's like."
TVGuide.com: Other than making a handful of appearances on ER, how did you spend Rescue Me's hiatus?
Thorne: I worked. The four episodes I did of ER, I shot them at the end of November through the end of January. Then I really lucked out doing this independent movie shot here in New York called Delirious. It was directed by Tom DiCillo, who did Box of Moonlight, and it included Steve Buscemi, Alison Lohman (White Oleander) and Gina Gershon. Alison plays a pop star and I'm her manager. It's a hysterical role, but it's the exact opposite [of Sheila]. She is a real ass-kisser and a real control freak who's scared of her client saying no. She's not a bumbling idiot, but she's definitely kind of a wet noodle.
TVGuide.com: Lastly, offer a teaser as to why fans should tune into Rescue Me's Season 3 kickoff.
Thorne: In terms of Sheila and Tommy, it was so questionable at the end of last year after all the things she [did] in terms of lying to him about being pregnant whether they were going to be in each other's lives or not. The way this year starts off is that Tommy needs help with his father, so he asks Sheila to help him out at home. She gladly accepts, and it's basically because I think she thinks that maybe if she's around enough, Tommy will fall in love with her. But of course all hell breaks loose!