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January 09, 2012 at 06:32 PM EST

Charlie Sheen took a few steps into Fox’s press-tour party Sunday night at Castle Green in Pasadena, and was quickly swarmed. A blizzard of recorders shoved into his face. Some questions were vaguely hostile. “How does it feel to lose $2 million a week?” one reporter barked.

Sheen seemed a bit overwhelmed, but kept it together.

“You can’t lose it if you never had it,” Sheen said. “I went from $2 million a week to $1,700 a week [on the indie film A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III] and I’ve never been happier. It’s not about the money.”

After a few minutes taking incoming fire, Sheen escaped to the back patio for a private smoke. He bumped into his former Young Guns costar Kiefer Sutherland, on hand to promote his new Fox drama Touch, while Sheen was there to support his upcoming FX comedy, Anger Management. The actors shared a hug. “We threaten to get together but never do it,” Sheen said.

Network PR wranglers determine that perhaps it’s better to let only a handful of reporters interview the star at one time. Otherwise things get, well, kind of crazy. And while the media was more than willing to fulfill its role in the usual Sheen frenzy, the actor was having none of it.

“It was a lot about what had been going on for all those years on the [Two and a Half Men] set,” the relatively mellow Sheen said, when asked to explain his wild behavior over the past year that led to his exit from the CBS hit. “It was also about the pressures cooking up 30 years in the business and finally wanting to say all the things — and I said them all at once, and it created a tsunami of bizarre proportions.”

Asked if he had any regrets, Sheen said he wishes he would have been “a little less vocal about the people I worked with” and has since learned to “try to pick my spots and think a little longer [before speaking publicly].”

“But the reason I pushed it is was I knew I was right. I knew I was absolutely right in my stand, about what they had done,” Sheen said, referring to his Men dismissal. The actor eventually reached a settlement deal with studio Warner Bros. for an estimated $25 million. “That’s why I pushed it so hard. I knew there was victory at the end.”

On FX’s Anger Management, Sheen is a baseball player-turned-therapist with an ex-wife, a teenage daughter, and plenty of problems. If Charlie Harper was a Bad Boy type, Sheen joked that his new character (who will also be named Charlie) will be “Bad Boy Lite.” Sheen frequently drew comparisons to his experience working on Men, which he’s portrayed as a creatively stifling environment, to the new show headed by former Drew Carey Show writer Bruce Helford.

“To have my input welcomed is an alien concept for me,” Sheen said. “[Helford] said, ‘I’m never going to make you say something you don’t want to say.’ I said, ‘I’m never going to say something that’s not on the page.'”

Added Helford: “Anything I do, I run by Charlie. He’s got great ideas.”

“They’ll be no fart jokes, no dick jokes, no poo-poo jokes,” added Sheen, in a not-so-veiled reference to Men. “That’s when writers get lazy … we’re going to stay away from the obvious.”

Helford was asked whether he was worried about working with Sheen given the actor’s public meltdown and the suggestion that he was unprofessional (read: high as a kite) on the Men set in recent years. “I knew a ton of writers and crew members on [Men] and everybody loved Charlie, said the guy comes to work and works his ass off,” Helford said.

And what about Sheen? Does he feel the need to restore his reputation as a professional? “I’m doing it right now,” Sheen said, gesturing to the reporters.

And not just by talking to the media. Sheen’s social-media wrangler accidentally put Sheen’s cell phone number online. He says he received “498 text messages in 31 minutes and 220 phone calls.” Naturally, Sheen phoned back the caller who was the meanest.

“There was one text that was really mean, he said he hoped I died of cancer; I called the guy,” Sheen said, drawing laughs from reporters. “I said, ‘Hey it’s Charlie Sheen, talk to me.’ Click. I called him back three times.”

Read more:

The Best TV Character Deaths of 2011

Chuck Lorre says Charlie Sheen broke his heart

5 Reasons FX Bought ‘Anger Management’

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