LOS ANGELES – It's going to be all "Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll" when Denis Leary takes on the role of Johnny Rock in a new FX series about a middle-aged rock 'n' roller who almost made the big time in the '90s. But, just as success was within his grasp, his band, the Heathers, broke up the day its first album dropped, because Johnny was caught in bed with the lead guitarist's wife.
To research the role, Leary, who was in a band when he was 17 and wrote a three-chord song called "Chainsaw Love," read bios of all the greats like The Who's Pete Townshend, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, and the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards, to get a straight-from-the-horse's-mouth look into the debauchery that comes hand-in-hand with the rock 'n' roll lifestyle
"I can't go on stage after swallowing half bottle of vodka, I just can't," says Leary, who admits that some of the stories are just amazing. "But I've seen guys do that and then go out in front of a full arena or a football stadium and just play an unbelievable show."
Leary knows of what he speaks because there actually was a point in his life when he considered music as a career, rather than comedy, back when he was attending Emerson College and a member of the Emerson Comedy Workshop, but also playing in a band.
"One night I said, 'I think I want to be a lead singer in the band with you guys.' And they were like, 'Dude, then you have to quit school and quit acting and quit everything else and just be a lead singer, because it's all in or not,'" Leary told FOX411. "And I was like, 'I'm not f---ing doing that. Forget that. That's a lot of work.'"
"Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll" begins 25 years after The Heathers' breakup when Johnny is broke and no one will hire him as a musician. But then a talented young singer named Gigi (Elizabeth Gillies) shows up with enough money to cut a record, and -- surprise, surprise -- she wants The Heathers to be her band. The twist is she will be the lead singer and she only wants Johnny, who it's revealed is her biological father, to write songs -- and she wants him to write stone, cold sober.
"If you take all the drugs and alcohol away, what's going to happen?," Leary says. "I don't know if I want to find out because I'm pretty happy with watching The Rolling Stones as they are. Keith still plays great, so why would you take that stuff away? I'd be afraid to mix with the chemical setup there. I think Johnny definitely feels the same way. In the second episode, his daughter has that discussion with him and he has to defend why a guy like him has to have certain chemicals to write."
To give the series an authentic feel, "Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll" has a number of real-life rockers making guest appearances, including Joan Jett, the Foo Fighters' David Grohl and Afghan Whigs' Greg Dulli. But topping the wish list for Season 2, if there is a second season, is David Bowie.
"I'm a huge Bowie fan and he lives in New York," says Leary, who also serves as executive producer and writer. "I don't have his number but I'll, hopefully, find it. I could write a great episode for David Bowie. In fact, I've already outlined it, but you know, we've got to get picked up."
The backup band members on the show serve as tech advisers because, also in the name of keeping it real, it was important to Leary that everything looked right down to the last piece of equipment.
"I want to have a show that when crazy music fans or crazy musicians are watching and they're checking out our amps and our hook ups that it looks and, definitely, sounds the way that it should," he says. "That's crazy stuff that the general audience wouldn't know about."
Along with the TV series, another idea that Leary finds intriguing is the possibility that he and the guys who make up The Heathers -- John Corbett as Flash, Robert Kelly as Bam Bam, John Ales as Rehab -- and their backup band could actually take the show on the road.
"I think the people that we have, the actual musicians that work on the show, were so good that if we could get their schedules opened up to match ours, I think it would be a great thing to do," Leary says. "Even if we just did a premiere party and played one or two of the songs just to get some press out of it, but we'd have to play one of the comedy songs, as well, because I think that would get a lot of press."
"Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll" premieres Thursday, July 16 on FX.