After graduating from Juilliard’s Drama Division in 2000, Glenn Howerton (Group 29) has kept himself busy with starring roles in more than a dozen theater productions, supporting roles in films such as Must Love Dogs and The Strangers, and television appearances on That ’80s Show, ER, and Monday Night Mayhem. After spending some time as a working actor in Los Angeles, his passion, talent, and curiosity led him to a collaborative role (with Rob McElhenney and Charlie Day) as executive producer, writer, and actor on a television series comedy, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. In its third successful season, it is hard to believe the show began with a 10-page theme, a lot of improv, and a home video camera. Howerton, 31, took the time to share his inspiration and enthusiasm for the hit FX network series with The Juilliard Journal.
Where did the inspiration come from to shoot with multiple cameras all at once?
We liked the way Curb Your Enthusiasm was shot, because they seemed to be shooting multiple cameras all at once, to capture the improv. We’re all actors and the importance was always in capturing the best performance. We always felt very strongly—all of us having acted on stage, and coming from New York—that you’re going to get the best scene out of two people, if both people are on camera at once. It always felt very stilted to us, having someone stand right next to a camera lens, talking to somebody else who was practically looking right into the lens and acting a scene. And we liked the idea of shooting multiple angles and being able to edit within one take because of the magic that can happen; almost like capturing a live performance, in a way.
As a writer, executive producer, and one of the main characters of the show, what kinds of pressure are you under to keep up the show’s success?
I’ve come to learn, in a very acute way, that we (as writers and producers) can only control so much in terms of whether people are going to watch it or not. We can only control so much, really, in terms of how many people—if they do watch it—are going to stick around. People are fickle and they like to change the channel. The only thing we can do, and this is where we really try to put our concentration, is make the funniest show on television. We try to keep it simple. If we try to make a show that we think other people will think is funny, then we’re constantly playing this game of what do other people want. It’s almost like a life philosophy, in way; you have to stay true to who you are and just hope, and that’s what we always we did—we just hoped that other people thought that what we thought was funny was also funny. And it’s worked up to this point.
How has Juilliard helped influence your roles on the show?
The kind of discipline that I learned at Juilliard, the kind of discipline that I had to have to get through those four years there, taught me to strive to be the absolute best actor that I could possibly be, to really not let myself off the hook, and to constantly be challenging myself as an artist—because I really considers actors to be artists. I knew a lot of kids that, while I was at Juilliard, were constantly complaining about the school, and I think that is not helpful. You know, if you don’t like it, leave. Sometimes even I got very rebellious at school and was like, “I’m going to throw all the training you guys have taught me out the window. And I’m just going to go into this show and I’m going to do my thing.” And what ultimately ended up happening was that I found myself letting go of all the training in a really good way, and using it only when I needed it—which is what it’s really all about anyway. But you know, I needed to be pushed like that. Weneed to be pushed like that at times. We need to be provoked. We need to be provoked to be rebellious, in order to discover ourselves and what we’re capable of—and those are things that happen at Juilliard.