Outside of the occasional threats from vengeful ex-cons and Joy, Randy's had a pretty easy life as his brother's sidekick on My Name Is Earl. But in tonight's special "Laugh 'N Sniff" episode (8 pm/ET on NBC), the Hickeys have to suck it up and get [Gasp] real jobs. It's a good thing Ethan Suplee has grown up a little faster than his character: The 30-year-old and his wife, Brandi Lewis, just welcomed their second daughter, Billie Grace, who joins 2-year-old Frances Clementine and stepdaughters Lily (9) and Bella (10). TVGuide.com spoke to Suplee about Earl's evolution, how the show actually helps him be a better parent, and how he risked his very well-being for this week's scent-sational episode.
TVGuide.com: Hi, Ethan. Congratulations! The last time I talked to you was in the fall. Now, looking back, do you have a favorite episode from this season?
Ethan Suplee: I think my favorite one is the season finale, called "The Trial" [airing May 10]. And then there's the scratch 'n sniff one. The cast we have for that episode is unbelievable. There are both the Astin brothers, Mackenzie and Sean, and Charles Dutton.... Plus, I got to put an Oreo cookie in my mouth, which is not allowed in my diet. I couldn't swallow it, but I was allowed to put it in my mouth.
TVGuide.com: That must have been really frustrating. What kind of diet are you on?
Suplee: I don't eat sugar. I didn't want to do it at first. I was scared — like, "If I eat this cookie, am I going to have some crazy relapse?" — but it was fine. And I managed not to swallow any of them. I think we did three or four takes where I actually put it in my mouth.
TVGuide.com: Earl and Randy are getting real jobs at an appliance store. Is that going to affect the rest of the show?
Suplee: Yeah. After this episode, we officially have jobs, so that will have an impact on the way we're living. Though we live very meekly, 100 grand doesn't last forever. I think there's somebody who keeps track of it: how many weeks we're staying at the motel and if we're paying $39 a week for the motel room.... Plus, we eat a lot of ramen, and half the beer we drink at the Crab Shack is free because somebody's left it behind.
TVGuide.com: Besides an Oreo, what are some of the other smells we get with the Laugh 'N Sniff card?
Suplee: I think beer, soap, Oreos, popcorn.... Those are the ones that I'm involved in. Beer might not be right. I hope that's in there, but I don't know if that's a problem at 8 pm.
TVGuide.com: I don't know, you guys got away with saying every single name there is for "testicles" in the "Two Balls, Two Strikes" episode last month.
Suplee: My wife was startled at that, too!
TVGuide.com: Are your daughters allowed to watch Earl?
Suplee: Yeah, the older kids watch it. It was tricky because the first time the older kids watched the pilot, they were a little bemused: "You're drinking, Jason [Lee]'s smoking, and you guys are stealing. And this is not OK." I sat them down and explained that that's what we were doing, but now Earl is trying to make up for all the bad stuff. They got it and they liked it.
TVGuide.com: Do you meet many people who expect you to be Randy?
Suplee: That has happened a couple of times. Especially if somebody hasn't seen the other movies I've been in. People are kind of shocked that I'm not super-slow with a funny cadence to the way I talk. But then they realize I'm just a dude playing a part on TV.
TVGuide.com: Do you watch TV?
Suplee: A little bit. They just had a live UFC on Spike that I watched. I tend to pay-per-view all of that stuff, and I watch the Ultimate Fighter show. I like that they have a fight at the end of each episode, but then you kind of get sucked into the soap-opera aspect of all of these dudes living in a house together. It's like the Real World but with fighters.
TVGuide.com: This is all very macho stuff. Are you a macho guy?
Suplee: No, not at all. I do kickboxing and jujitsu, but I'm not macho at all. I've got four daughters and my wife. But I do get the kids watching the fights at home. The older girls have done some jujitsu and my 2-year-old, Frances Clementine, she definitely wants to when she's older.
TVGuide.com: Do you think any of them are going to be actors?
Suplee: I really hope not. I think if they grow up a little more and say, "This is what I have to do," then I'm not going to stop them. It's a really tough job to have. I hear statistics, like our union has the highest unemployment rate of any union. Plus, for girls I think it's so much harder because a lot is determined by their looks. All my daughters are very beautiful, so I don't think they'd have a problem, but if it is based on looks, then it can have a bad effect on some girls and suddenly they don't have to apply their minds to make a living.
TVGuide.com: How did you get into acting?
Suplee: My parents both majored in drama at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh. They moved to New York and did a bunch of Broadway shows and toured. They basically stopped when they had kids, because my mom was on the road all the time. But my whole life, my mom taught drama in my school, and it was always something I was interested in. Immediately out of school, I went and found an agent and had headshots made. Literally, on my first day of auditioning I had three auditions, and by the time I was at my third one, I had a callback on the first one. That was Boy Meets World, and I wound up doing over 20 episodes of that show. After that, I just went from movie to movie to movie. I never had that thing with struggling for years and getting a big break. I just kind of was a working actor immediately.
TVGuide.com: Has anything about the success of Earl surprised you?
Suplee: I really respect our show a lot. At the same time, when we did the pilot, I didn't think this was going to be a successful show. Arrested Development was on at the time, and that was such a smart show, and people weren't watching it. I thought that was going to be our fate — to be this really inventive, smart show that probably would be missed. But I think everyone can relate to wanting to improve yourself. I'm sure even Warren Buffett, who seems like the greatest guy ever, has ways he wants to improve himself.
TVGuide.com: Do you pay attention to ratings?
Suplee: I don't necessarily know what any of it means, but you hear, "Oh, we're in the top 25." And I don't think we're in the top 25 anymore, but we still do well in our time slot. I know Survivor beats us, but... when Survivor's not on, we're No. 1 in the [18 to 49] demo, which, who even knows what that means? The group of people called "the demo." We're not anywhere near Friends or Seinfeld, but we're doing well.
TVGuide.com: Is there anything I can get you to say about the season finale?
Suplee: I don't know what to say other than it's a big shocker!
For more on My Name Is Earl and to get your Laugh 'N Sniff card for this week's episode, pick up the April 30 issue of TV Guide.
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