'Sirens' producer Denis Leary 'had to draw personal boundaries'

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Actor and comic Denis Leary is not a man known for self-restraint, either on the screen or off -- and especially in his choice of vocabulary (be warned).

Even though he's not in the cast of the USA Network paramedic comedy "Sirens," premiering Thursday, March 6, as executive producer and co-creator (with Bob Fisher), Leary ensures that the safe option will seldom, if ever, be taken.

For example, in the show's trailer, a patient begs a trio of Chicago EMTs -- sports-loving Johnny (Michael Mosley) outspoken Hank (Kevin Daniels) and eager new recruit Brian (Kevin Bigley) -- to go back to his home and clear the browser history on his computer.

When the guys turn it on, the sound makes it obvious that there is some sort of a porn video playing. And then a horse is heard, and the EMTs are seen reacting in shock and horror.

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"Had to draw some personal boundaries," says Leary to assembled TV critics in January in Pasadena, Calif. "The porn episode's a good example -- we would pass in, we would discuss the idea, and some people at USA would go, 'How far are you guys going to go?' We said, 'Well, let us write it,' and we would write it.

"And you could jump on a notes call, you hear, 'OK, listen, you can't show the horse actually getting a b*** j**.' We're like, 'We know we can't show the horse getting a b*** j**.' But secretly we were like, 'F***. We can't show the horse getting a b*** j**.'

"[The network] has been great, though. USA's basic thing is, 'We're worried about how far to go with this, but you guys go out and shoot it, and we'll pull back from there.' There's some stuff in these shows -- again, only if it's funny. We can only really get away with it if it's funny. If it's not funny, it's not going to fly.

"Part of the fun of that is watching these guys. One of the things I loved about that porn episode is that these guys think they're so, 'Yeah, we can take anything. We've seen everything.' Then all of a sudden, they see something that really takes them over the edge."

If Leary is unrestrained in speech, on the set, the action also never stops moving - and Mosley admires that.

Calling in from Brooklyn, N.Y., Mosley tells Zap2it, "Denis moves really fast, which is great. We do four takes and then move on. At one point, we shot a wedding scene that was 15 1/2 pages, which is half an episode, in one day. Usually it's a 12-hour day, 12 1/2 hours -- I've done other gigs where we'll do four pages, and it'll take 15 hours.

"So yes, he moves really fast, and also, he's an actor. He's a comedic legend. It's fascinating to watch where his brain goes and watch where he finds the joke. But he's also an actor, and that's a very good thing. He knows how to talk to us, and he knows how to get in our heads, motivate us to do what he likes.

"Also, he's open to what our instincts are -- very egalitarian. He lets the funny flow."

While the daily lives of paramedics might not be tops on everyone's list as a source of comedy, Mosley says he found both laughs and camaraderie.

"It's about three friends who are riding around all day. We get a call, we flip the sirens on, and 90 percent of the time, somebody's having a panic attack and thinks they're having a heart attack, or fallen down or whatever.

"Then there's other times when it's the worst day of their life. There's a little margin where you get to move around, so it's fine. And they have to be close. There's big gallows humor in there, but they have to be close.

"It's a unique experience, to grow so close to these guys. I can really call them my friends."
Mosley is also acutely aware that he's representing people who hold the lives of others in their hands.

"I did this movie where I played a fireman," he says. "We were on a firetruck, and we were driving around Astoria, Queens, and we drove by this little kid. He's looking up at me in awe. He thought I was a real fireman, so I waved at him. He waves back, and you can see his eyes light up.

"These guys are real guys, and they're the real deal. We're actors. We get paid to say lines and hit a mark and have run, but none of us is curing cancer or running into burning buildings. I've played a cop; I've played a detective, done ride-alongs with detectives.

"I have such awe for what they do. It's so humbling, because it's the real thing. We're just playing pretend."
Photo/Video credit: USA