Denis Leary as Johnny and Elaine Hendrix as Ava from Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll. Photo by Patrick Harbron/FX
We were very excited when Denis Leary came back to TV this summer on the FX series Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll. Not only was Rescue Me one of our favorite shows of the 2000s, but Denis was our brother’s college roommate, so we always have a soft spot for the actor and his projects.
While we miss our favorite TV firefighters, on his new show Denis has a whole new cast of characters including Flash, played by John Corbett (Sex and the City and Northern Exposure), and Ava, played by Elaine Hendrix (Parent Trap and Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion).
Denis stars as Johnny Rock, a has-been (or maybe more accurately never-was) rocker from an almost famous ‘90s New York band The Heathens. The legendary, hard-partying band broke up the day of their debut album release, when Johnny was caught in bed with Flash’s wife. Johnny has been floundering ever since.
But solidly standing by his side has been his longtime lover Ava, who is the only one in his life capable of putting up with his drugging, drinking and womanizing antics. In a recent conference call Elaine Hendrix talked about their unusual relationship. “The Ava/Johnny relationship is a very complex one because anything goes with them, and they thrive on that. It’s what’s kept them together so many years that they just completely accept one another. They could be screaming bloody murder at each other and then in the next second be making out… They love each other unconditionally. And as crazy as that can seem, particularly in a rock and roll world, it’s kind of neat. It’s kind of special.”
Elaine, originally from Tennessee, recalled that she got the part “the old fashioned way” — by auditioning. But since the casting agents were seeing people in New York, the now-L.A. based actress sent a digital audition for review. She noted, “Normally even if you put yourself on tape, eventually you have to go into a room with some decision maker. That just didn’t happen in this process. My tape got passed around, and then the next thing I know I booked the job, was shooting the pilot and then the next thing I know we’re on the series… it was a little old-fashioned and a little modern at the same time.”
Having worked with Denis once many years ago on a movie called Bad Boy, Elaine states that working with him again is “a dream.” As creator, producer and writer of the series, Denis makes the actors feel comfortable on set and allows them to contribute creatively.
“I cannot stop raving about him enough,” she adds. “I keep saying I don’t know who I’m going to work with after him. Because between him and FX, it makes the perfect combination for an artist, for the actor side, because we have a lot of freedom on this show to really bring ideas, and creativity, add our own unique stamp to the roles. And that just doesn’t always happen.”
On Rescue Me, Denis created several determined, edgy female characters and the trend continues with S&D&R&R. Elaine reports, “Denis starts to write towards us and towards our strengths, and as a woman who does comedy that is the ultimate dream… It just doesn’t really happen that much, and especially from a male perspective. Males don’t always write strong, funny women roles. But Denis does and he champions strong, funny women.”
Elaine has a history playing such women and always tries to find a bit of humanity within each one. She comments, “I think very specifically we’re talking about bitch roles… As an actress you have to bring some of you to each role that you do… I can only create to a certain extent and that’s also part of what makes for good acting, is that you do bring something that’s truly authentic that you can relate to on some level.”
She continues, “I think these women… played out an alter ego of mine where I do get to be the hoity-toity, unlikeable one and not care. And with Ava I get to be the fun chick who doesn’t care. And sure, there’s definitely parts of me who can identify with that.”
Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll airs Thursday nights at 10 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time only on FX.