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Friday, February 25, 2011

TWO MEN

I've watched the Charlie Sheen, Two and Half Men drama unfold for over a year now.  I've resisted commenting because I know Charlie and Chuck and have deep respect and admiration for both men.  It saddens me deeply to see it play out the way it has this week.  

As a man who understands the pain and power of addiction, I am empathetic to Charlie's struggles.  Getting clean is terrifying and difficult -- physically, mentally and spiritually.  I watch his bold actions and I try to feel more compassion than outrage.  

I am also a showrunner and know what it's like to invest so deeply in a show and a cast.  They become an extension of who you are.  You imbue your words with little pieces of your soul and hand them over to actors whom you learn to trust and respect.  Having your star verbally assault you is a tremendously egregious and hurtful thing.  

A showrunner-star relationship is like a marriage.  Two people giving 100%, two people taking ownership of all it creates, two people with one goal -- happiness and success.  And like a marriage, it can be symbiotic bliss, or a hellish fuckshow.  I saw Shawn Ryan and Michael Chiklis maneuver that relationship on The Shield.  The success of that show happened very quickly.  Both men flooded with accolades they never had before.  Shawn, an unknown writer, Michael an actor previously known for softer roles.  Shawn and Michael had enormous respect for each other, but both men had to navigate that success very carefully.  It was a cautious, proprietary back and forth that I feel both Shawn and Michael did with dignity.  On Sons, I love my cast.  Truly.  They've become a big, lovable dysfunctional family to me.  I give them every drop of my blood and they do the same in return.  My, star, Charlie Hunnam, is the consummate professional.  Yes, he's got opinions and feeling and desires about the show, but our creative discourse (when not being twisted by cunt bloggers) is always respectful and productive.

Showrunner and star.  Two men.  One the mind, one the body.  Without both, there is nothing.  The ego in constant struggle with humilitas.  Trying to maintain a balance between "Look what I did" and "Look what we did".  

With Two and a Half Men, there's more than just a TV show at stake, it's a fucking money machine.  So along with awards, critical accolades, great ratings, you have a creative entity that generates billions.  So as a creator and or star, you suddenly become aware that you are responsible for a huge chunk of a corporate bottom line.  That's pretty intoxicating.  When you have Les and company licking your sack, it's hard not to feel like king of the fucking world.  

To coin a Peter Parker cliche, "...with great power, comes great responsibility".   In my opinion, the biggest responsibility of success is staying humble.  For me and my healthy ego, it's a daily struggle.  The old saying, "don't start believing your own press" is very true.  You must take a step back and realize that you may be the top of the pyramid, but it takes thousands of others to support your point.  It doesn't mean you can't have a passionate ego or you have to give away your money to starving children, it just means you have to stay aware that there is something greater than you spinning the plates.

I have no advice for Chuck.  I consider him a friend.  He is a smarter, more evolved man than I am.  I think he's done the best he can under the circumstances.  Pulling the show, as devastating as it will be to the thousands it employs (including my sister-in-law), is the most humane thing to do.

I have no advice for Charlie.  I consider him a friend.  He is on his own path and I just hope he doesn't harm himself or others.  Somewhere under the anger and deep-seeded discontent, there's an awareness of the right action.  I hope he takes it.  


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