Kaitlin Olson, star and co-executive producer of FOX’s The Mick, talks to ADTV about relying on her improv background to create a comedy tour de force.
FOX’s The Mick might be television’s most irreverent new comedy, and star Kaitlin Olson is at the center of it all. Her Mackenzie “Mickey” Molng is textbook crude, rude, and sometimes downright awful. However, in the hands of Olson, she’s a character you end up rooting for. I tore through all of the first season’s episodes easily, and I would classify The Mick as a show you should be watching. You’ll have a great time.
Olson has been a part of FX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia since 2005, but this is the first time she’s front and center with her own series. Mickey is in almost every scene, so whether she’s childishly battling it out with Sabrina (Sofia Black-D’Elia) and Chip (Thomas Barbusca), or trying to steer young Ben (Jack Stanton) in the right direction, Olson is the one with the most screen time. Though she’s a season pro, she admitted she was a bit nervous.
“To be honest, it’s kind of surreal. I’m floating, and it’s awesome,” Olson said. “My big fear is that I will end up letting everyone down or I’ll start feeling like I’m blowing it. But I’m very, very proud of it.”
In the pilot, Mickey goes to visit her married-into-wealth sister in Connecticut, and she takes everyone by surprise. No one thought that irresponsible, always-in-need-of-bailing-out Mickey would actually show up to a ritzy annual function, but she is left as a makeshift matriarch when her sister and her husband flee from the feds to avoid charges of tax evasion and fraud. Mickey is reluctant to take care of her niece and nephews, but she plans to stick around to enjoy the glitzy lifestyle. It’s sort of the anti-Raising Helen.
The very first time we see Mickey, she is roaming around a grocery store refreshing herself after what appears to have been a rough night. She swigs some mouthwash, shaves her underarms, and, quite literally, inhales a few snacks along the way. I joked with her that I hoped she just went into a random grocery store and freaked out some local people, and she expanded on the improv nature of the show. As a former member of The Groundlings, coming up with stuff on the fly is very different with both shows she’s on.
“Don’t worry – the grocery store knew we were there, and they were aware that we were filming [Laughs]. I didn’t freak anyone out. What we do on the set of The Mick is very similar to what we do on Sunny. We have amazing writing staffs on both shows—the main difference is that it’s easier on Sunny because we’re all adults. On The Mick, most of my scenes are with kids, so they are a bit more nervous. Sometimes if I go off script or change something, you can sense some hesitation, but then we work together and go with it. But I like to play around with the script. Sometimes I just say whatever I want.”
Mickey looks like a blast to play–what actor wouldn’t want to be a loose cannon telling off bratty kids while living the high life? Some viewers might easily write Mickey off as a mess, but she has some qualities that Olson truly admires.
“What I truly love and admire about Mickey is her confidence. She doesn’t care what people think about her, and she does it all as she goes along. She’s scrappy, she’s independent,” Olson said. “Mickey throws everything up in the air and picks it up later. In real life, I do care what people think. I’m not a disaster in public. I don’t drug and beat people.”
Olson has great chemistry with everyone on The Mick, but the breakout pairing is her with Carla Jimenez. As the Pembertons’ timid maid Alba, Jimenez begins the season at everyone’s beck and call, but she finds an unexpected ally in Mickey. With each episode, Alba expresses herself in a more confident manner, and they become buddies. It can be totally dysfunctional–but almost every relationship on this show shatters the idea of picture perfect. Hey, FOX, if you need a Thelma & Louise remake or a Mickey and Alba spin-off series, you have one devout viewer already.
“That’s one of my favorite relationships. I am actually pushing for Alba to fall totally in platonic love with Mickey. You’ll notice that Alba is always hating on Jimmy, and I’m always asking the writers why she hates him. They haven’t told me yet, but I keep asking. I love how Mickey sees Alba as an equal and doesn’t want her to be a slave—she turns the dynamic upside down from the very beginning. Carla’s also just very giving and fun and talented, so it’s a great relationship. She’s such a joy.”
In addition to being the face of the show, The Mick also marks Olson’s first time co-executive producing, a role, it seems, she relishes as much as she does performing. We discussed that Sofia Black-D’Elia can play around with her age (“I mean, I grew up on 90210 where no one looked like a teenager!”), but she briefly mentioned that she’s not going to take her newest role lightly.
“If I’m proud of the product and it failed, I would have been fine with that. It turned out that we are great partners and we make a really good team. I love giving notes on scripts and costumes and little stuff like that.”
As the first season played out, Mickey became closer with all three of the Pemberton children. You realize she imparts wisdom on them that they wouldn’t receive if their actual parents were around. Sometimes it takes on the theme of an entire episode like when Mickey and Sabrina struggle to stop smoking but burn down the neighbors’ guest house, but sometimes it’s just in a simple line. In one instance, Chip is stood up by his internet girlfriend, and he calls her a derogatory name. The first thing Mickey tells him? “First of all, don’t talk about women like that.” If Mama and Papa Pemberton were still in the picture, Chip would surely be on a path to becoming a Trumpian nightmare.
Mickey’s relationship with Ben is the most endearing. Within the first half of the season, the poor kid has gone through a lot–he burns his mouth on a hibachi and flies over his handlebars within the first 3 episodes. It’s just a sliver of what could happen to a child without proper adult supervision. But The Mick slyly explores some pertinent issues without becoming “after school” or remotely cheap. Ben happens to like wearing high heels and skirts, and that’s just fine with Mickey because she wants him to be happy.
“I wasn’t nervous at all. Originally, we were going to take it further and have Ben at an all-girls school. We were interested in having him question why he’s comfortable without landing on it at all, and we wanted to let him experience it. That was very important to me. I honestly don’t know where we’re going with it, but we wanted to make sure that Ben is ok with it. And it’s also very important that Mickey is cool with it too. When Ben asks Mickey if he can still wear skirts, she tells him “you can do whatever you want.” It was important that transgender youth are represented and they are normalized. It’s very important to me that we show that.”
Several characters have a hard exterior, and they are resistant to becoming a new, makeshift type of family. That’s a tricky thing to pull off well, and, with Olson front and center, takes a lot of fearlessness. Kaitlin Olson is a lot more like Mickey than she thinks.
FOX’s The Mick airs Tuesdays at 8:30PM ET.