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My Name Is Earl - Ethan Suplee interview

Ethan Suplee

Compiled by Jack Foley

ETHAN Suplee discusses playing the character of Randy – Earl’s brother – on the second season of My Name Is Earl and why he thinks the show is going from strength to strength…

How was shooting the second season of My Name Is Earl? Is it possible to surpass season one?
Ethan Suplee: I think it’s better than Season One. It’s become more serialized. We now have multi-story-arc episodes. I have a running thing pursuing Catalina now. Joy, Jamie (Pressly’s) character, her going to jail. Just nice things that tie in more, so it’s not just an episode, start and finish with a total story unto itself. There still is that. But they carry on and link in a little bit more. I like that. So that’s been the biggest change, I think. There’s always Earl, dealing with his list and trying to be a better guy. But then there’s also these little story lines sewn in there too, which is nice.

So every episode isn’t tied to his list?
Ethan Suplee: There are episodes where there are ideas of things to cross off, but nothing ever happens. We went down to – in the universe that we’re in – we went somewhere South of the border. I think there were two episodes where he wound up not crossing anything of his list, initially. And then finally at the end of those two episodes, he does wind up crossing something off.

Were you expecting the show to be so popular when it started?
Ethan Suplee: It’s one of those weird things. My experience with television was 12 years ago when I went onto an already established show that was already doing well. So I had no idea. I had never done a pilot before. And I did the pilot. And I just thought: “OK we’re making a TV show. And from watching the TV that I had, I thought this is really good compared to most half hour stuff. And then I started hearing all the statistics. “Oh, there’s a great show, Arrested Development – nobody watches it.” I was like: “Oh… Well, maybe nobody’s going to watch this too.” So I had no idea. When we shot it, I just assumed it was going to be on the air. But then my wife is a manager. And she said: “Oh no, they’re shooting 100 pilots this year and three of them… So don’t even think – let’s go find you a movie.” But then it did and it’s going well. Yeah. It’s way more than I anticipated.

Are people attracted to the idea of redemption?
Ethan Suplee: I hope so. I think that’s where we get away with a lot. Because if we were to do some of the things that we do on the show and there was no aspect of redemption, it would kind of be a bummer. It would be down. It wouldn’t be uplifting at all. But because, at the end of the day, it’s about a guy trying to be better, we can do a lot more. I hope people like it for that and not just the silly poking fun at America. I like that too. But yeah, I hope it’s because of the redemption.

Do you have a favourite episode?
Ethan Suplee: I still like Randy’s Touchdown from the first season.

Does Randy have a favourite DVD? What would be watch on a Saturday night?
Ethan Suplee: Scooby Doo, probably. Something like that. Puff The Magic Dragon!

What kind of reaction do you get from the public?
Ethan Suplee: It’s strange. I was out the other night with a friend who is vastly more famous than I am. He said: “I think you have it easy because you’re so not like the character you play on TV.” It’s true. I’m going bald, so I wear a hat, typically. I don’t see well, so I have to wear glasses to drive or just to see people’s faces clearly. I’m kind of unassuming. I don’t really get… The other day, I was out with my 2-year-old daughter and a woman came up and said, “You’re so funny, your daddy is so funny on TV” That’s about the biggest reaction I’ve gotten. There was one person who started to talk to me and was really surprised that I really wasn’t a slow person. But it doesn’t seem like that happens that much.

Do you wish people recognised you more?
Ethan Suplee: No. I’m fine with it.

What’s it like on the set for the show?
Ethan Suplee: I think if somebody who didn’t spend a lot of time with us and came and saw us working, they’d be shocked at how much goofing off there is. But we make our days. I hear of other shows where they push scenes off to the next week, ‘cause they don’t have time to get them all. But we get all our work done, amazingly, but still have time to have a lot of fun, goof off and tease each other.

Do you hang out after work together?
Ethan Suplee: Yeah. Jason I’ve known for 15 years. We’ve been friends that long. I see him certainly more than anybody else. But we have gotten together a little bit. We all kind of have families. So it’s not like we’re going out to the bar on a Friday night. We often try to race home at the end of a day.

Do you ad-lib much on the show?
Ethan Suplee: No. Not much at all.

Why doesn’t Randy have a list of his own?
Ethan Suplee: During Season One, as a joke, I made up a list and gave it to the Executive Producers. It had five things on it. Four of them were very small and ridiculous. The fifth, I think, was something huge – like I felt responsible for some war somewhere? In Randy’s mind, he realized that one thing he did led to that war.

You’ve also done a lot of film work. Is that completely different to filming a series like Earl?
Ethan Suplee: Much different. I haven’t been a lead in a film. So if I do a movie, it’s mostly out of town. It will be working three days a week in some far away place. This is exactly the same hours, but non stop work. In the first season I had two days off. This last season, I’ve had maybe three days off.

How long is the shooting schedule?
Ethan Suplee: Seven months. It’s great. Being on location, it’s not fun when you’re just sitting around not doing anything. So it’s great to work every day. Being here, it would be fun to have a few more days off, but it’s nothing I would trade in.

What are your likes and dislike about Randy?
Ethan Suplee: There’s not really anything that I dislike about him. I like that he’s just an innocent guy. And that some of the things I get to say or do through him, I wouldn’t be able to. Because they would be in poor taste if he wasn’t kind of an innocent guy. And that makes it fun. I can make jokes that aren’t really appropriate. But because he’s not saying that from a place of malice, it’s kind of OK.

Read our interview with Jason Lee