Sam Loudermilk (Ron Livingston) is the kind of guy you love to hate. You’d avoid if you saw him on the street, but when he’s telling off a millennial holding up the coffee line, you quietly cheer. He is also the central figure of the new Audience Network comedy Loudermilk, from director Peter Farrelly.
A recovering alcoholic, Loudermilk has an impeccable reputation in his AA group for helping others get clean. The process isn’t pretty, but now Loudermilk turns his attention to Claire Wilkes (Anja Savcic), who may be his toughest case yet.
Livingston spoke with Rotten Tomatoes before the premiere of Loudermilk. Here are six things you might hate, but you’ve got to love him for it.
What’s worse than an obnoxious loudmouth? An obnoxious loudmouth who has a point. Loudermilk is past worrying about making people happy. They found the right actor to play him because Livingston is about 20 years beyond wanting to make his characters likable.
“Honestly, I learned a lot on Swingers by watching Vince [Vaughn] do his thing,” Livingston said. “He’s such a d— in that movie, in a lot of the movies he does, but that’s the guy that everybody wants to hang out with. It’s not that he’s likable. It’s that he’s confident enough that he doesn’t give a f—. He says what he thinks.”
“I think there’s something that people [respond to],” he continued. “It’s not like they want to like him. They want to imagine themselves being able to do that and then they like themselves, imagining they can do that. After that, I felt a lot more free about Jack Berger doesn’t have to be likable. He just has to be trying his best.”
It works for acting, but in real life even Livingston still wants to be liked.
“I know that feeling well and wouldn’t it be great to be free of that?” he said. “We all want to be liked but there’s something about I think we all sort of envy that guy that doesn’t give a f—.”
When an addict is spiraling out of control, it does them no good for a friend to say, “Hang in there. You’re doing your best.” That’s enabling.
“There’s all kinds of people trying to pat them on the head and say it’s going to be OK, it’s not your fault,” Livingston said. “There comes a time when sometimes people just need to be told, ‘Look, you f—ing —hole, this is what’s going down. Do you see what’s going down? This is what’s going on. You can do something about it or not but it’s not doing you a service in hiding it.’”
Loudermilk certainly isn’t making fun of 12-step programs. These meetings provide a vital resource for people in need. Still, there’s a good-natured comedy in Loudermilk’s frustration with his own attendees.
“It’s a world that we haven’t really looked at, at least in a comedy way, because it’s been sort of either a dirty little secret or a sacred cow,” Livingston said. “We’re poking fun at it, but we’re doing it lovingly. We’re doing it with love.”
Even at its most comical, the AA meeting is still a support group. Any group of well-meaning people trying to help, but maybe screwing up just as much, can be dysfunctional.
“It’s a community of people who are wrestling with many of the same demons and sharing war stories, mostly just being there for each other,” Livingston said. “There’s a certain brand of gallows humor. There are some great anecdotes. There’s something kind of magical about when a new person walks in and everybody knows exactly where that person is because they’ve all been there.”
Creating Loudermilk’s AA group didn’t have to mimic an actual support group too strictly. That’s because every meeting is as unique as the individuals who show up for that meeting. Loudermilk just has to make do with what he’s got.
“They’re all so different but there is a common theme,” Livingston said. “They’re not only different from program to program, just from room to room and group to group, it’s a different animal. But they all have a component that ties them together which is it’s people who are in a very humbling position having to admit that something is out of their control and taking over their life. And yet, not only coming together to try to change that in themselves but to try to be of support to other people.”
In AA, rock bottom is the lowest point where an addict decides it’s time to change. Sometimes it can be catastrophic but not always. It was pretty damaging for Loudermilk. So just imagine how much worse he was before then.
“I think his bottom was when he got in a car accident with his wife,” Livingston said. “I think that’s the thing that haunts him, and I don’t even think that’s when he turned around. I think it probably took him another year or so after that to turn around. This is all actor bullsh– backstory. Maybe it’ll come out in season 2. If there’s a ghost that’s haunting him, that’s the one that he still has to work with.”
That’s not the end of the story of Loudermilk’s wife. Look for her to factor into later episodes of the series.
“I think in his head that something changed in that moment,” Livingston said. “It factors back in later in the season, so I don’t want to spoil it too much. I think in many ways, he’s more torn up about that accident than his ex-wife is. She’s put it behind her.”
This is a bit of a more healthy obsession than substance addiction since he can use it to better his work. Livingston admitted to obsessing over character details, and Loudermilk lets him go wild.
“You’re trying to crack the character and do all this work of what would he do, what would you do?” Livingston said. “Ultimately, you don’t have any idea. You really only know what you think you would do. To get all that, not only in your head but sort of in the body so that it’s happening without thinking about it, it just never ends. How would he pick up the bottle? How would he open the car door? There’s something about that process.”
Livingston hopes Loudermilk doesn’t pick up any bottles, but the car door applies. “I think probably his favorite way is to reach inside and open it from the inside,” Livingston said. “The car door’s broken, and he’s too lazy to fix it.”
No matter how much prep he puts into it, Livingston ultimately has to just stop and do the scene.
“Now the beauty of it is, there’s something about being an actor, having a deadline,” he said. “They turn the camera on and then after a little bit they turn the camera off. That’s it. That’s all you got. You’ve got that much time to do it, you hope it’s good.”
Loudermilk premieres October 17 at 10:30 p.m. on Audience Network.