Glenn Howerton was conspicuously missing on Friday as the rest of the Gang from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia came together to give a glimpse of the upcoming 13th season that picks up after Howerton’s character Dennis decided to leave Paddy’s Pub and Philadelphia.
Rob McElhenney (Mac) and Charlie Day (Charlie), who co-created Always Sunny with Howerton, joined Kaitlin Olsen (Sweet Dee) and Danny DeVito (Frank) to discuss the first season with Mac fully out of the closet after he revealed last season that he’s gay — and now he’s rocking six-pack abs.
“In the last eight years, every time a man takes off his shirt in a scene, he tends to be insanely ripped like a Greek god… I don’t understand how teachers and engineers take their shirt off and are insanely ripped, and I thought it’d be funny to play with the vanity of that,” McElhenney said at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Los Angeles.
He also added that he thought it’d be funny that after Mac takes his shirt off in the first episode of the new season, the Gang tells him to put his shirt back on and he stays covered up for the rest of season 13.
In addition to Mac coming out, last season of Always Sunny saw the Gang’s dynamic shift drastically as Charlie finally had sex with the Waitress, whom he spent 12 seasons lusting over with little success, and Dennis hitting a new low and deciding to move to North Dakota to raise his child that he found out he had with a woman he slept with while on a layover from the tenth season’s “The Gang Beats Boggs” episode. Dennis’ future has been up in the air since.
The first episode of the upcoming season will introduce Mindy Kaling as the new fifth member of the Gang. Fans can also look forward to an “all-female reboot” of the Boggs episode, this time with Dee (Olsen), Artemis, the Waitress, and Mac and Charlie’s moms trying to beat Boggs’ beer-chugging record as they fly to Los Angeles to attend the Women’s March.
This season will also see some of the characters deal with “genuine emotion,” Day said. “Our characters rarely change or learn and most episodes are still in the typical format where they’re there to be funny, but it was nice to try something that, for lack of better term, was heartfelt,” he explained.
The foursome did a live read during their TCA panel of a forthcoming episode called “Mac Finds His Pride,” centered around Frank trying to help Mac feel proud of being gay. After going to a gay bar, Frank concludes that Mac’s problem can only be solved if he comes out to his incarcerated father Luther (Gregory Scott Cummings, who joined them on stage). Mac decides to visit Luther in prison and ends up performing a meticulously choreographed interpretive dance with a trained female dancer in the rain to a haunting melody by Icelandic band Sigur Rós.
According to McElhenney, the dance took him about six months to learn and about 50 takes to get right on the show. The episode was inspired by the reaction of the show’s LGBTQ fans when Mac finally came out last season, after 12 years of teasing his underlying homosexuality.
“We had a massive response from our fans in the LGBTQ community that reached out to say how moved they were and how they felt represented in a show they loved,” McElhenney said. “I didn’t expect that and Charlie and I wanted to honor that and do something that felt very different from something we normally do.”
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia will kick off its 13th season Sept. 5 on FXX.