Jon Cryer has proved himself a marketable quantity in the network sitcom game, a success most recently reflected in his starring role on the new NBC and Peacock show “Extended Family.”
Cryer, in an interview on the “WTF With Marc Maron” podcast, recalled a key effort that helped cement that status — his part on the hit Charlie Sheen-starring sitcom “Two and a Half Men.”
Cryer said he remembered how Sheen’s role came together and how CBS played a big part.
“CBS wanted Charlie Sheen on the air so badly, and you could sense that,” Cryer said. “Based on, he had done ‘Spin City’ for a couple of seasons, and everybody was like, ‘Wow, he’s really good.’ Cause he took over for Michael J. Fox, and everybody said, ‘That is a bad idea.’ And then he turned out to be good on the show, with a totally different character. Also, Les Moonves at the time was champing at the bit … to have movie people in TV shows. That was what he wanted.”
Maron pointed out the former CBS CEO was “ahead of the curve on that — that’s all that happens now.”
“Spin City” ran 145 episodes from 1996 to 2002, the last two of which starred Sheen after Michael J. Fox left the show when his Parkinson’s symptoms began to progress. “Two and a Half Men” then went for 262 episodes from 2003 to 2015, the last four seasons and 84 episodes of which starred Ashton Kutcher in place of Sheen.
Cryer and Maron discussed how “Two and a Half Men” played into the timeline of the 58-year-old actor’s life and career, which started with a commercial at the age of 4 and now includes more than 70 film and TV credits.
Cryer said, like his character in the show’s storyline, he was going through a divorce when production for the pilot and first season began.
“And at one point, Charlie, who is still married to Denise (Richards) at the time, said, ‘Hey man, if you need a place to stay you can come stay with us.’ And I was like, ‘How much like the show do you want your life to be, Charlie?'” Cryer said.
Cryer did not take Sheen up on the offer. But they maintained a social relationship during the production of “Two and a Half Men,” periodically having dinner.
“We didn’t hang out every night,” Cryer said. “We were very different kinds of guys. And then his marriage fell apart, so we were both single for a little while. And we commiserated about that a bit. But then — this happened with a lot of my friends growing up — whenever they got into drugs, because I was not into drugs, they split off, you know, and kept that part of their life from me because they always just thought of me as a Boy Scout, I guess. And Charlie was the same way. He never talked to me about that stuff.”
The “Pretty in Pink” star assured Maron that Sheen wasn’t a toxic presence on the set of “Two and a Half Men.”
“He was still good at the job, and he was still a nice guy to be around,” Cryer said. “He didn’t like take it out on everybody. He didn’t show up and scream and yell. In the last season he started — you could see that something was up. I was a little worried about his health. His timing was a little off. He had started using again at that point, and stuff was starting to fall apart.”
Maron revealed to Cryer’s surprise that he had been offered a consulting job by Live Nation to help with Sheen’s brief one-man show and road tour that followed his public 2011 meltdown, in which he was fired from “Two and Half Men” by producer Chuck Lorre (they have since mended fences, with Sheen even appearing as a guest star in the first season of Lorre’s Sebastian Maniscalco-starring Max show “Bookie”).
“Well that was the burning, was the ‘Winning,’ the midnight rants,” Cryer remembered. “He would just say horrible things about everybody.”
Sheen and Maron initially met at a hotel to discuss the road show and the plans for it, with Maron later going to Sheen’s house in Los Angeles, which had become ground zero for Sheen’s debauched undertakings.
“I’m sober, and I was definitely sober then,” Maron said. “So I met with him, and then I get the call, ‘He loves you, man. You have to go up to the house.’ So I go up to the house and it’s crazy — there’s people working, they’re building bits around this meltdown that he’s having. And I had a cold that day, because I remember he had all these amazing cigars, and I couldn’t enjoy them.”
Maron also couldn’t take the gig but did have a friend in mind whom he eventually recommended.
“You knew you were working with someone who was an addict,” Cryer said. “The very first day that we started working together he showed me his sobriety coin. He’s like, ‘I’ve been two years sober.’ You know, and I was like, ‘Fantastic, that’s great. Congratulations, man.’ Yes, what could possibly go wrong? But he did last four seasons before he started sliding into the abyss.”
Listen to the more of Maron’s podcast conversation with Cryer here.
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