TV

Danny DeVito On Playing Satan In FXX’s ‘Little Demon,’ And His Killer Music Video Moves

There really are endless things you could talk with Danny DeVito about, considering the man has been a TV legend, a big screen star, director, mega-producer, and honorary member of One Direction. So how did we wind up talking about snakes with arms, Satan, heartfelt parenting advice, and lipsynching with Michael Douglas? Well, some of that can be explained and some of it is just the flow of a conversation when you’re talking with an icon and trying to ask him something he doesn’t normally talk about.

With the whole parenting thing, it’s natural, DeVito is a dedicated father of three grown children who have, themselves, taken to creative paths much like their parents, DeVito and his wife, Rhea Perlman (Cheers). He’s actually working with two of them on his most recent project, an animated sitcom called Little Demon produced by (among others including DeVito and his son Jake) Dan Harmon for FXX, the home base of DeVito’s other TV family, Always Sunny.

In the show (which debuts tonight at 10PM on FXX), DeVito voices Satan, an absentee father looking to connect with his daughter, aka the anti-Christ (who is voiced by Lucy DeVito, Danny’s daughter). Standing in the way is the child’s mother, who DeVito describes as a Sarah Connor type dedicated to protecting her daughter even as she starts to take after her father in some ways (the mother is voiced by Aubrey Plaza). It’s a show that, true to its wild premise, pushes envelopes in the outrageous ways one might expect from the likes of DeVito and Harmon. But maybe not as far as the Always Sunny guys have pushed DeVito before.

To hear about that, DeVito recounting a legendary (and utterly fucked up) Always Sunny prank, his scene-stealing role in a classic ’80s music video, and a little more about playing the Devil, keep reading.

What do we have there [on your hat]?

That’s a snake in arms.

That’s going to freak me out the whole interview. That’s going to distract me. Snakes. Did you see the video with the snake in the tube that was walking? It was a paralyzed snake that had arms and legs.

Snake with arms is one of [our characters]. Snakey. He’s my bartender. He’s my confidante. He’s my everything. It’s fun.

So, how did Little Demon come to be?

Well, Lucy DeVito, my darling daughter who plays Chrissy, the antichrist in Little Demon — she’s good friends with Darcy Fowler and Seth Kirschner and Kieran Valla who are the creators of the show, and also with Aubrey Plaza, who plays Laura [the woman Satan impregnated 13 years prior]. I can’t remember exactly when, four years ago or something, Lucy called me and said her friends had this idea for a show, would I be interested in listening? And then she pitched the fact that I would play the devil. I immediately said “Yes.”

I’ve always dug Aubrey. I like whatever she does. And I always want to work with Lucy. So we started putting the thing together, the demons — we call Seth and Darcy and Kieran the demons. So I’ll refer to them always as the demons. And they put together a pitch, whatever, blah, blah, blah, blah. We brought it to [John] Landgraf at FX, who I’ve been working with forever.

This whole story is about being a family that’s torn with the devil and the antichrist. Chrissy’s in the middle of Laura and Satan. I want her, she wants her. She’s trying to protect her. And then the pandemic hit. And you realize that animation in the pandemic seemed to go hand in hand because you do everything on this [via Zoom]. I mean, it’d be great to hang out and be together and pitch and do story stuff.

This is our first time producing an animated show. I’ve done many movies and television things. What a learning curve. Amazing what goes on to put an animated show [together]. This is like doing a feature every week almost.

What’s the approach to playing Satan?

Well, it’s complex. There are so many things coming at me [Satan], whether it’s demons who want my shit, or the realms, hell and temptations, and things that I’ve got to deal with in a Tony Soprano way, where there’s a lot of people gunning for me. But needing allies is a real big thing. And when I fall head over heels, which is not hard to imagine, for Aubrey (Laura). [Satan has] had many women.

He’s a bad boy. Women love the bad boy.

The bad boy.

Yeah. You know.

I know. We know. So, when Laura gives birth to the antichrist, I mean, not that I [Satan] haven’t tried before, which I won’t get into because I don’t want to spoil anything down the line in the show. But the idea is that it’s my dream come true. I was looking for a boy, but as Satan says, that future is female. So let’s embrace it and go with it. And I need an ally. And Chrissy is proving to be very formidable. Of course, because she was raised for 13 years by Laura, who is a force to be reckoned with. She’s created this Sarah Connor-esque kind of [character]. She has to be on top of things, knowing that down the pike, this guy [Satan] is coming, and he’s going to show himself or find them.

Little Demon
FXX

I love the family dynamic and the parallels of broken families and stuff like that with the bad dad trying to overachieve in certain ways. Again, that’s really cleverly done.

Yeah. “You’re trying too hard, dad.” That kind of thing.

That domestic relatability, I did not expect that coming into the show and it was nice.

Yeah. It’s a good touch. And these demons — Darcy, Seth and Kieran — they have that in mind. There’s this nugget of turmoil with the family unit, which a lot of us go through. Everybody has their own little things that they have to navigate in their family dynamic. And then it broadens out into the realms of the magic world and these realms that Satan brings into it, which pushes certain buttons that we have to deal with. So we’re having a good time actually pushing that envelope, which I always like in projects. I always like it when we are going to tread on things that are not going to make everybody comfortable.

Well, obviously, Always Sunny.

Yeah. Just go. You want to shoot me in the back of the head and take part of my memory away, or I fall down? I always say to them, the Sunny guys, take it as far as you they’ll let you. And Landgraf and FX have been very, very good about all that. We once in a while, run into things. There was one show that we didn’t do. That was a joke that they did for me. It was an April Fool’s joke. “I’ll do anything, basically,” I said to them. Come out of a couch naked. You do this, you get slimed, whatever it is.

They once put me in a situation that was like, I was in jail being raped by various inmates and I was at the end of my rope. This was not recent. This was a while ago. Somewhere in the middle. And I got a script that my assistant said, “Oh, the guys, Charlie and Glenn and Rob called up this morning.” I was going to work that day. We were going to read through. He said, “Well, they’re changing it up. They’re doing this one first instead of that one. So you should read it.” And I thought, “Really? It’s like 10 o’clock in the morning.” I said, “Well, I’m going to work at 1:00.” “No, you should read it. They want you to read it.” So I read it and I go to pick up a hooker and I get busted and I get raped in the jail, in a shower. Then they throw me in the lockup, the big lockup. I get raped by everybody and the cops. And they kept going back to the bar and then Frank would get raped. And I go back to the bar, Frank would get raped. And I said, “What the fuck, man? Call my lawyer.” Right? And then I got to the end of the script. And the last guy that nailed me leans in. Well, Frank is now laying on the ground, [his] face is on the ground. He’s been fucked by every… And the guy leans down and he says, “April fools, bitch.” And I realized it was April 1st. They wrote this script in order to break my balls.

The amount of craft and time that they put into that, that’s love. To put that much time into something, that’s love.

It’s love. They love me. I called them up. They were all on the call, laughing their asses off. And then we went and did some other crazy show.

Your daughter’s involved in Little Demon, your son is also a producer, right?

Right.

With your kids working in the industry, how anxious does that make you? How much do you offer as far as advice?

Our kids are all our treasures. I have a couple of things, adages. If you raise your kids right they leave you. That’s one of them. And the other one is, when your kid is born, it’s like birth and death. You die and the I, the id, and everything, all the focus goes on your children. I have three great kids and they were raised here in Hollywood. They went to school in the valley. They’re great, great kids. Oh, Lucy was always the actress. I mean, even in kindergarten, grade school. And Jake did music, all kinds, was a movie buff, loved the movies. They all went to different colleges. Gracie, my middle daughter, is a painter. She’s an artist.

Every moment, a parent has anxiety about the well-being of their children. That’s it. I mean, that’s what you live for. Basically, you want to create, and you want to do your thing and you are yourself and you keep that and you embrace them. And you know that you will try to be always there. I’ll be there, try to be there. And they go off and do their thing.

In Lucy’s case, we’ve worked together several times. We’ve always done things. When she does an audition, we’ll talk about it or whatever. And it’s always been that way. And Jake was riding a dolly when he was a little boy. When I was doing Matilda, he was nine. He was always there. In fact, Lucy and Gracie brought me the book of Matilda when we started reading chapter books. That’s how I got introduced to Roald Dahl’s work. Rhea being in Cheers, they were always on the set. They were always in the middle of all that. So it’s all born in the trunk, born in that kind of thing. Do you have kids?

No, not yet.

You’re a baby. You’ll get there. It’s a great thing. I mean, if you’re planning on it, if you’re thinking about it, it is a great thing because it’s like you watch it all. I’ll tell you one little story about kids. The girls were born. Jake, I don’t think was born yet. And I was in an airport waiting for the plane. And we had a blanket laid out and I had the kids on the blanket. I had the toys and they were two and four maybe, or maybe younger.

Rhea went to get magazines and some guy came over and he said, “Red Buttons [legendary comic and actor] would like to come and talk to you.” And I said, “No kidding, man?” Red Buttons. I remember him from when I was a kid. And he came over and he said, “I was watching you play with your kids. And I think it’s great that you’re down on the ground playing blocks,” or whatever we were doing. He said, “I’ll give you some advice. I just had the occasion to do therapy with my children.” And he was an old man at the time. And he said, “we figured it out with the psychiatrist that being on the road, doing movies, doing everything, going out of town, I took 15 years away from my kids.” Well, that sunk in. It really hit. And from that bit of advice, I tried to tailor whenever I could.

I have a weird question. I’ve always been fascinated by this. The Billy Ocean music video, when you and Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner played backup singers.

So much fun. The big saxophone.

How does that come together?

Okay, what happened was we were promoting Jewel Of The Nile. They had the Billy Ocean song, “When the Going Gets Tough the Tough Get Going.” This was in the early days of music videos, right? Michael said, “we’re going to go to London when we’re promoting the movie and we’re going to do a music video.” And we went to this really cool rundown place that obviously is always used in London for videos and various and sundry nefarious things. And we went and shot this video and we had so much fun, man. We had a ball doing that and it worked out great. I haven’t seen it in a while.

The moves are amazing. The choreography is great, you were like The Supremes.

We were like the Motown kind of [thing]. Yeah, we did all the moves. We had a great choreographer.

I got to say, I feel like Michael Douglas was the most invested in it. I feel like he was really giving it his all.

He was really into it.

‘Little Demon’ premieres with its first 2 episodes tonight on FXX at 10PM. They’ll be able to stream the next day on Hulu.

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