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Over the course of twelve seasons on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (so far), Glenn Howerton has inspired millions of guttural laughs and cringe-filled groans while portraying the self-proclaimed golden god Dennis Reynolds. For NBC's new comedy A.P. Bio, the actor will play a completely different character in a completely different setting, but viewers will recognize some familiarly narcissistic qualities on display. CinemaBlend spoke with Howerton about bringing A.P. Bio to audiences, and we discussed why he's so successful at playing enjoyably arrogant jerks. In his words:
I don't know, I've always found arrogant people to be extremely funny. I guess it's not so much arrogance as it is people who have very large egos who are actually quite fragile underneath it all. And I do think that's something that these two characters, Dennis and Jack, have in common, although Dennis is arguably a monster, and Jack is not a monster. But I do think that -- and this is sort of getting behind the scenes here of what's behind the character -- I think that [Jack] has probably been hurt many, many times. But he's so very, very smart that he's able to get through life on his wits and his intelligence, which I think has made him a bit emotionally underdeveloped, emotionally immature. I think that dichotomy is really funny to watch, somebody who's extraordinarily intelligent but emotionally immature.
He's definitely not alone in gaining pleasure through these particular kinds of self-centered characters, which is proven by the hordes of It's Always Sunny fans who adore the master-creep Dennis more than the Gang's other misguided characters. And similarly to how Kaitlin Olsen's role on The Mick offers reflections of It's Always Sunny's Sweet Dee, a bit of Dennis' unencumbered pride shines through in A.P. Bio's Jack Griffin, a Harvard graduate who (after a rival philosopher gets his dream job) slums it back to his hometown of Toledo, Ohio to take a gig as a high school biology teacher for advanced placement students. As Howerton implied, Jack is a very smart person when it comes to certain issues, but he's a social and emotional mess, and the part feels tailor-made for that section of the actor's skill set. (Though Howerton might be perfectly fine as a high school teacher.)
A.P. Bio comes from the SNL trio of Seth Meyers, Mike O'Brien and Lorne Michaels, which is fitting, and in some ways, the comedy also resembles NBC's other cynical school comedy, Community. Not only for the bizarre and illogical ways in which the education system works, but also in the way that Jack shares ego-centric personality traits with Joel McHale's Jeff Winger. However, while Jeff usually avoided problems and still managed to deliver empowering speeches by the episodes' ends, Jack is given no such narrative leniency, and he's constantly facing the consequences of his shameful actions and words, both with physical repercussions and emotional letdowns.
Those letdowns end up weighing on Jack, too, since he does have feelings somewhere inside. And that kind of poetic justice is another element that Glenn Howerton enjoys about playing these roles, as he's pleased when assholes get a taste of their own medicine. Here's what he told me about trying to give his characters some heart, and why they need to fail.
I like to think that I always try to play the jerk, the heartless guy, as somebody who you can ultimately tell underneath it does actually have a big heart. He just doesn't want to show it, he doesn't want to make himself vulnerable. I hope that comes through. That was always my intention. . . . I think it's always important to, when you're watching somebody who's playing a heartless jerk, to watch that person get their comeuppance. Otherwise, it's just a horrible person getting away with horrible things in the world. That's just the news.
Audiences will be able to judge just how much heart Jack Griffin has whenever A.P. Bio makes its special preview premiere on NBC on Thursday, February 1, at 9:30 p.m. ET. The comedy will then kick off in earnest on Sunday, February 25, before settling into its regular Thursday night slot on March 1. To see when other new and returning shows will hit the small screen, head to our midseason premiere schedule.