Don Cheadle realizes he's best known for dramatic roles in such films as Crash, Hotel Rwanda and Traffic. But he finds it odd that so many viewers aren't expecting to see him flex his comedic muscles from him in his new series House of Lies.
"I do it all the time around my friends," he tells TVGuide.com with a laugh. "It's not a new side of me to me."
VIDEO: Watch the premiere of Showtime's House of Lies
The Oscar-nominated actor will show many new sides of himself in the new Showtime comedy, premiering Sunday at 10/9c. In the series, which he also executive-produces, Cheadle plays Marty Kaan, a ruthless, manipulative, selfish management consultant whose team travels around the world analyzing companies and helping them close big business deals. Marty's one of the best in the country. The only one better? Marty's crazy ex-wife Monica (Dawn Olivieri), who is also the mother of the couple's gender boundaries-pushing son who'd rather audition for the role of Sandy than Danny in Grease.
"When you see a project that goes as far as this goes and is as bold and dangerous and funny as this is with this company that we were able to assemble — it was just a no-brainer," Cheadle says of his decision to pursue the project.
Levity may be nothing new for Cheadle, but creator Matthew Carnahan says the actor's largely dramatic background was one of the reasons he got the part. "Don Cheadle is right for the role on so many levels," Carnahan says. "He's hysterically funny and his comedy is not tired because we don't think of him that way. So it's really a fresh thing to see him in a comedy."
Luckily, Cheadle is surrounded on the show by a group of actors — Kristen Bell, Ben Schwartz and Josh Lawson, the other members of Marty's team — who are more familiar in the comedy world. Since breaking onto the scene as a teenage wunderkind detective on Veronica Mars, Bell has moved towards more comedic material like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Couples Retreat and a two-episode arc on Party Down. Schwartz, better known to Parks and Recreation fans as Jean-Ralphio (RIP Entertainment 720!), is an Upright Citizens Brigade improv comedy group regular, and Lawson is an alum of the acclaimed improv troupe "160 Characters."
"It was great to have a playground," Cheadle says of the environment his co-stars created. "It was great to have the opportunity to work with company members like this who are well-versed in it and just start throwing the ball around."
Cheadle's fellow company members seem to agree. "It ups your game. Don Cheadle's here and Kristen Bell's here, so I got to be the best version of me that I can when I'm acting," Schwartz says. "But at the same time, when its break time, they play with us and we joke around and become friends. It makes it so that you can't wait to come to work every day."
House of Lies premieres Sunday at 10/9c on Showtime.