Jazz talks to David Sullivan about his role as Will Arnett’s Flaked sidekick
David Sullivan has appeared in films such as Argo and The Astronaut Farmer. On the small screen, he’s also appeared on The Fosters, New Girl, and, most recently, Will Arnett’s Netflix dramedy Flaked.
I caught up with Sullivan to discuss his real life friendship with Arnett. We find out why his character Dennis goes after women who are out of his reach. Sullivan also gives some of his favorite spots in Venice where the show is set. More importantly, he answers the question, “To binge or not to binge Flaked.”
AwardsDaily TV: The show is actually set in Venice which is an area that I like a lot. I like the food and the beach is interesting down there.
David Sullivan: It’s fantastic. I come from a really small town in east Texas. When I decided to move to Los Angeles I was like “Well, I have to be near the beach.” I moved to Venice 11 years ago when I first came out here.
AD: Oh my gosh, that’s really interesting.
DS: Yeah, it’s really cool. I already had the lay of the land so by the time the show started I was like “oh yeah, my old stomping grounds!” I love it!
AD: What are some of your favorite spots there?
DS: I literally lived right across from the ocean at like Pacific and Rose so The Rose Cafe was somewhere I went to a lot. I was mainly just up and down Main Street. Dagwood’s was a good pizza joint that I always went to. Finn McCool’s was a cool bar. There was just so much all up and down there. I had so many options over there it was great. But, then, I had to start working, and once I started working, every place that I had to go was like a 45 minute to an hour and a half drive into Hollywood, you know? My time there was limited, but I loved every second of it.
AD: That’s great. I’m actually in Hollywood so I don’t get out the beach as much as I would like to.
DS: Right? Isn’t it a shame, though? It’s only like 30 minutes away, but for some reason once we’re no longer there we stop going [laughs]. You have to make a day out of it!
AD: Exactly. So Flaked was great. I had not seen it before so I binged it one weekend. What do you, or what does your character, think Flaked means?
DS: Oh, wow. Those are two totally different answers. To Dennis, it’s the life and world that we grew up in. It’s the life that he loves and kind of the only way that he knows how to manage. You find out later in the show that, before you meet Dennis, he had a tough upbringing with his mom and she was not really available to him in a motherly way. So he decided to travel the world for a little bit and then his mom sent him vindictive emails and texts blaming him for stuff so he came back. He adapted and became a drunk and met people that enabled his behavior. He eventually meets Chip who helps him turn his life around and helps him get straightened out. That’s kind of the only way that he knows how to live responsibly.
Dennis is very different than me. I see Venice as this cool place where anybody can go and do anything that they want to do and start fresh. It’s a great melting pot of people from all over the world from all classes of life with the very low class and all the way to highest class because you have the beach which attracts all different types of people. I think both Dennis and myself love [Venice]. If I had a way of living there that made sense, I would probably buy a place over there, but right now it doesn’t make sense for David.
AD: Are you a pet owner?
DS: No, I have a son who’s ten years old now. I call him my little pet monkey. When I met his mother, I actually lived in Venice.
AD: There’s that scene [in Flaked] where Cooler sticks his finger up the dog’s butt. Would you have still freaked out if that happened to your pet?
DS: Oh, of course. Especially from a dude like Cooler. George Basil, who plays Cooler, played that role perfectly. He was so fun to work with it was actually frustrating. Every time that I had a scene with him, I had to try so hard not to laugh. I was like biting the insides of my cheeks just trying not to laugh. Dennis’s family is his mother, who is in Palm Springs with some new boyfriend, and Chip. His dogs are his family so he entrusts his dogs with one of his friends, Cooler, and last thing that he thinks is that they’re going to get violated! That thought never even crosses one’s mind. Maybe the dog might poop on the floor or maybe forget to eat breakfast, but to think about your dog possibly getting sexually violated by one of your friends [laughs] is ridiculous! It wasn’t hard to play that scene because if you just had a visual image of that it pretty much tells the story for you.
AD: Absolutely. It stuck with me. The other thing that strikes me about Dennis is why does he choose women who are unattainable?
DS: See, that’s the thing. I think because he never attained the love or affection from his mom – he always wanted more from his mom but never got it – he developed a pattern at an early age. When we develop these patterns or certain ways of life, you start to repeat them. So, consciously, I don’t think that he thinks that she’s out of his league, be it Kara or London or whomever. I just think that he thinks with enough planning and with the proper focus, that he can attain these women he wants. You actually see him start to do that with Kara. What you find out in the show is that he had a crush on Kara and Chip swooped in and started dating her. Once Chip starts spending time with London, Dennis has the opportunity to start spending time with Kara again. There is a moment when they’re eating pizza – I think this is a perfect moment – and, unfortunately, pizza gets caught in my throat and I end up almost throwing up on her [laughs]. It’s not because he thinks they’re unattainable. He just thinks with the right preparation and enough patience, it’s something that he could pull off.
AD: Yeah, that was a great moment. Do you believe that Chip is a good friend to Dennis?
DS: David doesn’t. Dennis does. Dennis needs Chip in his life. He needs that camaraderie and friendship and support. The audience sees Chip clearly manipulating Dennis, but Dennis just sees Chip being Chip so there are some things that he forgives and some things that he doesn’t forgive. As the show goes on and as the lies start to become more evident to Dennis, you see Dennis start to realize “Wait, my friend is not who I think my friend is.” As the show continues, you start to learn that Dennis does see Chip for who he actually is and that he’s been lying this whole time. It was hard for him to believe and understand who Chip really was. Chip did a great job of fooling him.
AD: Let’s talk about Chip and Dennis. They’re not the most likable people.
DS: I think a lot of people in life choose to put forth what they want everybody to see. The difference between real life and TV is that in real life, you can get away with that for a long time and people won’t know that you’re being dishonest. In TV, you have a story to tell. In this Netflix show, there was definitely a story to tell and, up front, we see Chip being a certain way. When he’s by himself, you see him being somebody completely different. I don’t know if I’d say I’m likable. I would say that they’re not people I would necessarily want to get to know better because I can’t discern what’s real and what’s lies. I totally see how they can come across as unlikable. I don’t think Dennis is unlikable; he’s just searching and wanting something to be true that just may or may not be true to the audience.
AD: I like that description a lot [laughs]. So what’s your relationship with Will [Arnett] in real life and off-screen?
DS: It’s so great. He’s such a professional. He had so much on his plate between writing the show, producing the show, obviously leading the show, overseeing the music. So much of the show is on his shoulders and so he’s such a hard worker. It’s so inspiring because a lot times you do scenes with people and you leave and go back to your trailer, but the cool part about Will is the time in the hair and makeup trailer before the day stay or riding with him from one location to the next and just talking about our kids. He’s a great dad and a great guy. And he’s very smart and unfortunately I didn’t get to spend enough time with him. We shot the show over two months and then it was done. We’ve hooked up a couple times since then, but it’s like I can’t seem to get enough of this guy. It’s tough to make time because he’s so busy.
AD: You shot it over two months. What was that like? Most shows shoot over six months.
DS: It wasn’t really that difficult for me. I’ve done a lot of indie movies and a lot of times with them you try to get as you can in the day because obviously you don’t have the funds or resources to make it an incredibly long shoot. The majority of the work is done before the camera is turned on. I had a couple of weeks from the time that I got offered the role to the time we got started shooting where I got to devour the script and break it down and understand where Dennis came from. In all honesty, as an actor, when the cameras are turned on that’s the play time. All the time before and after that, that’s when you do the work. Whether it’s a two day or two week or two month shoot, its like “Oh, we get to play for two months.” So for me, it was just the time of my life. Yeah, we had stressful days, but that’s all part of the job.
AD: That’s incredible. So for people who haven’t seen the show yet, should they binge it or should they watch it in installments?
DS: That’s what’s great about this format that Netflix has set up. They leave it up to the consumer. I couldn’t watch just two episodes and turn it off. It was killing me! I watched it the very first night it was available. I was lucky enough to see the first two episodes. We had a small premiere for some of the cast and crew and then I had to wait two days for it to come out on Netflix! During those two days I was like, “I want more! I want more!” If you’re the type of person who can’t wait for dessert, then you should probably binge it. But, if you’re the type of person who likes to sit and think about things and enjoy each little bite and swish it around in your mouth with a little swig of wine or whatever, then maybe just watch one episode a week. That way you have something to look forward to. But I couldn’t. I got hooked by the story and I was all in.
AD: It draws you in. I liked your comparison with the food!
DS: It’s true! I’m the type of person where when I sit down to eat lunch or dinner, I’m already thinking about dessert [laughs].
AD: I love it a lot [laughs]. So what’s next for you?
DS: Well, right now it’s back to the job hunt. We haven’t gotten a second season announced yet so I can’t say if we’re going back to work or not. The life of an actor is going from job to job to job. Love it or hate it, that’s what you have to do. I just auditioned for this movie that Jason Bateman is doing with Speck and Gordon, who directed our third and fourth episodes and I’m waiting to hear back from that. It shoots in Atlanta for a little bit. That would be awesome to be a part of. I also auditioned for this new role on The Mindy Project. There’s all kinds of stuff out there; it’s just a matter of if I fit the role or not. Fortunately, Flaked just came with the right role at the right time and I happened to fit it and I was able to work on it for two months. Right now, it’s back to the grind of teaching acting and I’m writing and reading a lot of scripts. Just looking for the next project.
AD: That’s exciting. I wish you all the best. It’s been a pleasure speaking to you.
DS: Thank you. The pleasure is mine. Thanks for taking the time.
Flaked, starring Will Arnett and David Sullivan, is currently streaming on Netflix