Profile in Excellence: Jon Cryer
“This has been such a crazy year. I’ve never gone through anything like this before.”
Actors are, by nature, hyperbolic. But when Jon Cryer says things like “I’ve never gone through anything like this before,” you tend to believe him.
The star of “Two and a Half Men,” simply held on for dear life when the Charlie Sheen firestorm hit the top-rated CBS show in the midst of its eighth successful season.
“We all felt very helpless because of the situation last year,” the Emmy Award-winning actor continues. “That’s what was so difficult for everyone involved in the show: the writers, the producers and the production staff and the crew and everybody. Everybody wanted to help, but nobody knew how. We were all just trying to make the best of clearly a tough situation.”
That rocky road is smoothing out as the fall television season begins, with Sheen out and Ashton Kutcher in. Since the ninth season of “Two and a Half Men” launches tonight, Cryer figured it was a good time to accept the Hollywood Walk of Fame invitation to get his star on the sidewalk.
“They actually made the decision almost a year ago,” he says. “I was informed of it a long time ago, but they give you a window. They say, ‘Look, you’ve been voted in. You can choose in the next few years when you want to get your star or not,’ and I was like, ‘Jeez, when could possibly be a good time? Is there anything important coming up for me?’ Hmmmm.”
Which explains why Cryer will be accepting the tribute, just before the rebooted show returns. Plus, he’s a fan of the Hollywood mystique and most everything that goes with it.
“When I was a kid, my dad was an actor, and for a while he came to Los Angeles to do film and TV roles. I would go to visit him occasionally,” recalls the thesp, who grew up in New York. “I was probably about 8 or 9, and I recall thinking the stars were super cool, but really not even thinking in my wildest dreams that there would ever be a day that I would be among them.
“As a kid, I loved all the dumb things about Hollywood. I loved all the dumb tourist stuff, the Universal Studios tour and the hands and feet at Grauman’s. And I’ve never gotten over it and now to be a part of it and to have the honor of being in the Walk of Fame, it’s incredible. And not only that, but I’m in front of the Hooters. I can’t imagine things getting any better!”
Cryer, who expects producer-creator Chuck Lorre to join him for the ceremony, guffaws when asked about the widely circulated rumors that Sheen sent him a text threatening to show up and disrupt the proceedings.
“That is not true. It would be fun, wouldn’t it? That would be awesome, but sadly, no, I’ve not been texted at all,” he says with a chuckle. “Maybe he’ll show up in dolphin shorts, like the Hooters girls wear. Maybe he’ll just happen to be having some wings at Hooters.”
If Sheen does make the scene, Lorre isn’t too worried, either. He knows Cryer can handle himself in just about any situation.
“Jon is one of the nicest men I’ve ever known,” Lorre says. “No matter what’s going on, and clearly we’ve all been through a lot in eight years, he has always been rock solid. A total pro and a gentleman.”
Cryer is even gentlemanly when pressed about making the transition from dealing with the unpredictable Sheen factor every week to now going toe-to-toe with Ashton Kutcher.
“I will say again that I loved working with Charlie. He was always a great guy to work with. As for Charlie vs. Ashton, you cannot compare the two. They are just diametrically opposed. The only thing that I would say that’s certainly similar about them is that on show night, in front of the audience, it’s game on. They both can really put on a great show,” he says.
“But other than that they have totally different styles of working. Charlie likes to keep things very loose and unrehearsed. Ashton likes to rehearse and rehearse and rehearse, which works great for me. Charlie was really playing a writer’s imagined version of himself, where Ashton’s character is not Ashton at all really. Obviously, Ashton is being asked to make more of a stretch as an actor. So, it’s a completely different process.”
And a process that Cryer is thrilled to be continuing with, especially when he thinks back to the three one-season-only TV shows he did before getting the nod from Lorre to play Alan Harper on “Two and a Half Men.”
“You emotionally buy into every project that you do, and I was certainly doing that with all of those shows. Someone reminded me that one of the shows that I did ended up being on the critics’ 10 worst lists, but I didn’t agree. I thought there was something to it. You still have to emotionally commit to stuff as an actor, because you can’t sort of stumble through it and not care,” he says.
“I love doing sitcoms so much. I love working in front of an audience. The style of the work is what I grew up on and I’ve just always loved it and have wanted to be a part of it, and so I’ve figured that as long as it exists as an art form, I’m going to keep doing it.”
His dedication to the genre is actually what made Lorre cast him in the first place.
“You don’t get in three TV series as a regular without having serious talent,” Lorre says. “Shows fail with incredibly gifted actors all the time. Ask Tom Hanks and George Clooney. For me, Jon’s track record was proof of talent. Add to that when he read he was amazing. His instincts, his ability to nail the jokes and connect with Charlie and Angus T. Jones were flawless. He can do anything and he’s game for anything. Jon is a fearless actor. OK, maybe not fearless, but willing to overcome his fears!”
Which is why Cryer was looking at his sixth Emmy nom for “Two and a Half Men” with few expectations of winning. In some ways, he still feels like that kid walking down Hollywood Boulevard and imagining what it would be like to be a star.
“I grew up bathed in television, much to my mom’s chagrin. I watched it all the time. I always wanted to be a part of it. I developed an encyclopedic memory of it,” he says.
“That now I get to be a part of the Academy is an enormous honor to me. The nominations, however, that takes it a whole other level. I never imagined that I’d be in the company of the people that I’m in company with. I certainly don’t take them for granted. And I have to say in a year where I had really thought, ‘You know what, there’s nothing left that can surprise me,’ the Academy managed to surprise me. I really didn’t think anybody was noticing.”
But Lorre is certain that Cryer deserves another Emmy for his work on the show.
“In our little corner of the world, Jon Cryer is a master craftsman,” Lorre says.
And if the reboot of “Two and a Half Men” doesn’t fly with audiences, Cryer has a backup plan.
“I want to become an opera singer,” he jokes, referring to his recent legit stint in “Company” at Lincoln Center. “OK, no I don’t. Right now I just want to get the show back on its feet. I miss Charlie, but I’m excited about this new show. Ashton and I hit it off very, very quickly. I believe that I really get his sense of humor. And the writers have caught a really fun vibe between Ashton’s character and mine. They’ve let Alan be the same guy, but Ashton’s character is kind of odd. It really gives Alan a completely different way to be.
“They’ve taken Alan on some weird journeys in the past, and now Ashton’s character is going to go with him. It’s very different, and unfortunately I can’t get into any real detail, but it works shockingly well and that’s mostly a testament to the writers. What’s been really fun is that Ashton and I really hit it off as actors. Ashton’s going to be as much of an idiot as I am. For the writers that’s an enormous sandbox to play in.”
So really, there is no backup plan. Instead, Jon Cryer is determined to do all he can to keep “Two and a Half Men” on the air for many seasons to come.
“Ashton and I have more fun than two guys should be allowed to have, two heterosexual guys. This is a great, great opportunity. So, we’ll stick with it for as long as we can.”