He has been on and off television shows for the past 14 years. He's been an out-of-sorts talent agent (''The Famous Teddy Z''), a jealous architect (''Partners''), and a paranoid pest (''The Trouble With Normal''). However, there is one role Jon Cryer did NOT get the chance to play. But, man, was he close.
''I was doing a play in London and got a call at 3 a.m. saying 'We've got this show called ''Six of One,'' and we'd really like you to audition for it,''' recalls Cryer. ''So they faxed me the script, and I said, 'Sure, I'd love to go in on this.' I went in and read with a British casting person; they took the tape and said they'd get it to L.A. So I went home, and a few days later was told the tape didn't get there in time for the network executives to see.'' Too bad. That role went to Matthew Perry, and the show ended up changing its title. To ''Friends.''
''So that was my pathetic stab at Chandler Bing,'' chuckles Cryer. Of course, the 38-year-old can laugh now, because after years of floundering in series that never caught on, he's landed a hit with CBS' ''Two and a Half Men.'' Cryer stars as the greatest of all oxymorons, a spineless chiropractor who, along with his son (Angus T. Jones), moves in with his party-boy bachelor of a brother (Charlie Sheen).
Summoning his inner geek is not new to Cryer, who still incurs shout-outs of ''Duckie!'' on the street thanks to his role in 1986's ''Pretty in Pink'' -- ''although the ferocity of the pointing and yelling has diminished somewhat, just with people's age,'' he says. After ''Pink,'' Cryer continued to geek out in several TV series, none of which made it past a full season. Initially, his lack of small-screen success stung the actor. ''When 'Teddy Z' didn't catch on, I was mystified and bitter,'' he recalls. ''But if you don't love the struggle, you have to get out of the business. Sometimes it seems like rolling a boulder uphill, but until you can love the boulder-rolling, you're gonna be disappointed.''
Disappointment is no longer a problem. ''Two and a Half Men'' debuted in the top 10 and has netted 16.5 million viewers per week. According to Cryer, ''It's exciting. There's a palpable lack of terror, which is very nice.'' But just because he's now on top, don't expect Duckie to become too cool for school. ''My inner geek is hardwired to my spine,'' insists Cryer, who lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Sarah, and 3-year-old son, Charlie. ''He won't go away. If there's an upside, it's that I'm confident enough to be a dork.'' A dork? Perhaps. But a dork who finally finds himself with plenty of friends.