Elizabeth Perkins, left, and Denis Leary play Ann and Sean Moody in Fox’s ‘The Moodys,’ a three-night comedy miniseries that centers on a Chicago family’s topsy- turvy Christmas celebration. (Photo: Jonathan Wenk, Fox)

For “The Moodys,” Christmas means decorating the tree, singing carols and driving each other crazy.

Sean Moody (Denis Leary) and his wife, Ann (Elizabeth Perkins), welcome their three adult children (Jay Baruchel, Chelsea Frei and François Arnaud) back to their Chicago home for a wintry mix of merriment and mild mayhem in the three-night Fox miniseries (Wednesday, Monday and Tuesday, 9 EST/PST).

Actor-comedian Leary (“Rescue Me,” “Animal Kingdom”), 62, talked to USA TODAY about the “The Moodys,” Leary holiday traditions and what it’s like to have John Slattery play a (slightly?) fictionalized version of him in Amazon’s “Modern Love.”

Question: How dysfunctional are the Moodys?

Denis Leary: Pretty dysfunctional. Obviously, they love each other, but it shows itself in some strange ways. There’s a lot of yelling. There’s a lot of secrets and angst, but they’re always together no matter what at Christmastime. … One of the reasons I fell in love with it was … I got the same feeling I got about “The Ref,” (it’s) like a working-class version. (That) was one of my favorite projects.

Q: Have you had any messy holiday experiences?

Leary: I’ve got a million stories. I come from a big Irish American family. It was about 25 of us cousins that grew up in the same neighborhood and went to the same school, celebrating Christmas together. There’s always somebody getting poked in the eye or hit in the head with a new toy. There was always an argument, always a drunk relative who was a little out of control. That’s why I relate to it.

Q: How does “The Moodys” fit into the cornucopia of Christmas programming?

Leary: There’s an overwhelming number of traditional Christmas stories that are a little soft-centered and twee and saccharine. That’s never been my cup of tea when it comes to Christmas movies. I like things that have a little more edge because I think it’s a more realistic portrayal of what we all go through. Everybody always has the best-laid plans when it comes to Christmas and there’s always a wrench that gets thrown into the works, at least in my family experience.

Q:On a scale of 1 to 10, how does “The Moodys” dysfunction compare to “Rescue Me” dysfunction?

Leary: Oh my God. Tommy Gavin dysfunction is a 10. I’d give “The Moodys” an 8.

Q: For you as an actor, the tables are turned in Amazon’s “Modern Love,” when  John Slattery of “Mad Men” plays a fictionalized version of you in an episode based on an essay by your wife, Ann Leary. Have you seen it?  

Leary:  I haven’t seen it. I’ve been so busy finishing this project I haven’t had a chance to look at it, … But John is a good friend of mine, so I was aware of him doing it. I felt like no matter what happened, I was in good hands. … Now I need to play John Slattery in a movie. 

Q: You returned as Billy, who has an adult son with Janine “Smurf” Cody (Ellen Barkin), in the Season 4 finale of “Animal Kingdom.” What’s on tap for him after her surprise demise?

Leary: Season 5 is going to be very interesting. … I didn’t see that (Smurf) twist coming and I think the audience didn’t see it, either. Now, you have a gigantic power struggle, not just between the boys but in terms of their parents: Who’s going to take over?

Q: You’ve voiced saber-toothed tiger Diego in five “Ice Age” animated films, the last coming in 2016. Any more on the horizon?

Leary: I’ve been joking for years about “Ice Age 9,” but nobody’s called yet. That was one of the most fun things I ever did. John Leguizamo and Ray Romano and I knew each other from our comedy days in New York. … It was fun and I don’t want to say it was easy, but as easy as you could hope something could be. The last time Ray and I spoke about it, a few years ago, we were like, “Hey, ‘Ice Age 6,’ let’s go!”


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