Wickedly funny actress Kaitlin Olson talks about playing the devilish Sweet Dee on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and the delightfully fun Destiny in Pixar’s upcoming Finding Dory—and shares why the City of Brotherly Love will always be her adopted hometown.
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After 11 seasons of playing the debased, crass Deandra “Sweet Dee” Reynolds on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Kaitlin Olson is flipping her latest character study on its head with her outing as Destiny in Pixar’s new Finding Dory, the sequel to 2003’s blockbuster smash Finding Nemo, out June 17. “It’s been my dream forever to do a Pixar movie,” says Olson of her part as a loveable whale shark who serves as a sidekick to Ellen DeGeneres’s Dory as she sets off to find her parents. “When I got the phone call to do this movie, I was seriously just beside myself. I didn’t know what the project was, I didn’t know what the character would be, but I was like ‘Yes, yes, I’ll do it,’ because I don’t care what it is, I adore Pixar movies.” Four years later—and with endless voiceover sessions for the film under her belt—she loves the final result. “The movie’s just so sweet and goofy and silly.”
But Olson’s path to the Monterey Marine Life Institute, where Dory and Destiny navigate some choppy waters in the movie, has been anything but kiddie fare. A member of the famed improv group The Groundlings, she appeared in flicks such as Vacation and The Heat, and on the small screen in New Girl, The Simpsons, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. She has also been tapped to play Mackenzie “Micky” Murphy, a freeloader with a bad attitude who’s thrust into family life in The Mick, a prospective new series she’s starring in and co-executive producing.
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Yet it’s her role as Sweet Dee in It’s Always Sunny that not only has made her career, but also introduced her to her husband, Sunny co-star and native Philadelphian Rob McElhenney. “I find her to be so ridiculous, it’s pathetic,” Olson says of Dee, one of five scheming characters who stake claim to the imaginary Paddy’s Pub in South Philly (fun fact: In real life Olson and McElhenney are part owners of Mac’s Tavern in Old City). “But acting her out is so hilarious. If I were a character that was winning all the time, it would be so boring. I don’t know how you would sympathize or empathize with that person.”
Despite the depravity of the gang, she insists there’s one redeeming character in the cast: the city of Philadelphia. “The role of Philadelphia is the one grounded character that these five awful people have to interact with,” she says. “We can be as ridiculous as possible, but our surroundings are tough and smart and aren’t going to let us get away with anything.”
That’s just what her husband—who hails from a big South Philly Irish Catholic family—envisioned when he helped create the show. Indeed, there’s no shortage of Philly pride in their household. “It’s just such a friendly, welcoming city, and the people are so lovely,” says Portland native Olson of her adopted hometown. “The thing that stands out the most is that every time we go to Philly to shoot, everybody’s so excited to see us. One time we shut down Market Street at 5 o’clock on a Friday and people were fine with it. We were shocked. We thought we were going to get screamed at, but everybody was pulled over and watching and smiling and waving and taking pictures and saying hi.”
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The couple now calls Los Angeles home, but their Philly pride runs so deep that Olson even went into labor with her first of their two children at a Phillies game. “Because of all the tie-ins with the show, we’ve become friends with a bunch of the players,” she shares. “I had a feeling the baby might happen, but I was like ‘Oh, whatever, it’ll take forever. Let’s go to the game, I want to see our friends.’ We made it for a few hours but by the fourth inning I was like ‘OK, it’s time to go. It’s baby time.’”
The couple will be back this summer to film for Sunny, but they are already planning to return for the holidays to spend time with family and friends. “This place is a big deal for us, she says. “We met on the show, got married, and now we have two kids. Philadelphia will always hold a very special place in our hearts.”
photography by BoDE hELm. Styling by Rachel Zoe Studio Hair by Abby Roll. Makeup by Darcy Gilmore. Manicure by Sarah Chue using Dior Vernis Location: Studio 1444