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Denis Leary Talks About Acting, Marriage, Kids, and Health

The star of the hit drama Rescue Me, Leary tells us about his family, his comedy, and the Leary Firefighters Foundation.

WebMD the Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Actor Denis Leary is best-known these days for his starring role in Rescue Me, the popular FX drama. But he has appeared in more than 40 films. They include The Sandlot, The Ref,Dawg, Wag the Dog, and Demolition Man, and his voice-overs have enlivened such animated films as Ice Age -- he plays saber-toothed tiger Diego -- and A Bug's Life -- he's Francis, the ladybug. Well-known as a comedian (as well as a chain smoker), Leary talked to WebMD the Magazine about the secret of his long-lived marriage, what he has learned from raising children, his non-profit work, and how he stays healthy and sane in the busy world of acting.

You're the creator and co-star of FX's acclaimed drama Rescue Me, in which you play a firefighter in New York City who has post-9/11 issues ranging from alcoholism to seeing ghosts. How important is acting for your own mental health?

The tricky part of anybody's health is loving your job, and I do. My father came to this country from Ireland. He would always say to me, "You've got to wake up in the morning looking forward to what you're going to be doing all day. That's the most important part of being happy." So when I said to him, "Hey Dad, I think I want to be an actor or a writer," he looked at me and said, "Give it a shot. Hope it works out." A lot of guys, in his position, would have said, "What? Are you nuts?"

You and your wife have been married for about 20 years. What's your secret for success to a healthy, long marriage?

A sense of humor is key, and the children help; they make you forget about a lot of your own problems, because you have to focus on them. It's also a fighting spirit. You won't walk away, you're going to go right back into it. It's the same mentality that a boxer has, really: You go back into the ring for rounds 13, 14, and 15 and sudden-death overtime.

Your kids are 18 and 20. What did you learn in bringing them up?

Everything your parents tell you is true, which is that it's over before you know it. Also, there's no such thing as a cool parent, no matter who you are. Even the coolest person's children look at him or her and go, "Oh, my God, I can't believe they're wearing that. I can't believe that they just said that."

Who influenced you most when it comes to your health?

Hands down, it was my parents. They are the people who influenced me the most in every aspect of my life. In terms of health, my dad was a very active guy. My mother is 84 and she walks three miles a day.

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