Interview: ‘Parks and Recreation’ co-star Nick Offerman

Senior Television Writer
08.30.11 12 Comments


(Reminder: I’m on vacation this week, but transcribed a few press tour interviews to keep the blog from going totally dark while I’m gone. I’ll be back after Labor Day.)

I’ve written before about how the nightly parties at press tour are this weird hybrid beast that’s half-party, half-working event and not entirely conducive to either thing. Some of the venues are so crowded, dark and/or noisy that it’s difficult to find people you might want to interview, and even harder to hear them if you do. NBC’s shindig at this summer’s tour – a party that featured talent not only from the broadcast network, but Bravo, Syfy, E! and most of the other channels in the new Comcast empire, and that took place in the very strange space that is The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel – was particularly tough to navigate.

Eventually, I realized that the only place where I could both breathe, see and hear was at the Bazaar entrance closest to the red carpet – which is where I happened to run into “Parks and Recreation” co-star (and soon-to-be TCA Awards host) Nick Offerman. Offerman not only plays my favorite character on one of my favorite shows at the moment, but is a fairly swell human being to boot. Most of the skills his “Parks” alter ego Ron Effing Swanson displays are abilities that the real Offerman can do. (Here’s a link to the Offerman Woodshop, for instance.) d

We got to talking about the state of his mustache (as you can see in the photo, he was just starting the process of growing it back after the hiatus, which he said took at least a week to get close to Swanson-acceptable levels), how wife (and on-screen ex-wife, Tammy) Megan Mullally feels about his facial hair (she’s in favor of it so long as Offerman keeps the part right over the center of his lip neatly groomed), and his experience as a young, very naked actor on an early episode of “Deadwood” (he lamented that his character died in the episode, as he and David Milch seemed to be simpatico) when it finally occurred to me to turn the damn digital recorder on. I can’t promise that what follows is as interesting as what I neglected to record (#SepinwallCrimes), but we do discuss the casting of Patricia Clarkson as Rony’s other ex-wife Tammy, about how he and Mullally work together on-screen, and the deep and abiding love “Parks and Rec” fans have for Ron Swanson.

The new season of “Parks and Recreation” debuts Thursday, Sept. 22 at 8:30 p.m. on NBC.

Patricia Clarkson is Tammy One.

Holy! Hot damn!

So you’re pleased about this?


Have you worked with her before?

No, but I’ve been an incredible fan of hers. To me, she’s a legend of the big screen, and so to have her come play the counterpart to Megan blows my mind.

Megan was saying somewhere that Tammy One should just be played by you in drag.

I was lobbying for Tammy One to be played by Megan in a blonde wig. So we’re even.

So each of you is just trying to put the other up for this job?

We’re always trying to get each other work.

How is that? I hear from some spouses who act together that it’s weird – they’re afraid that they’re showing something about their relationship that they don’t want to, and so they hold back. Clearly, you do not have that problem.

Well, no. I think, like in any good marriage, I have the wherewithal … Megan has directed me in a couple of theater settings. At first, I bristled, but then I saw, “Oh, this is how working together adversely affects a relationship.” So then I said, “Let me take your ideas,” and I tried her suggestions, and of course they were brilliant. Then I said, “Oh, honey, do you have any more suggestions? I forgot you’re a genius.” But that’s working together as actor and director. As actors, we’re two actors who love to make absolute fools of ourselves, and knowing that gives us freedom to do that together, and destroy a diner with our disgusting passion.

I’ve had these conversations with Mike Schur about keeping Ron from being Fonzie, where he’s always right and always awesome. And he says he looks to you as the barometer of that. What are your thoughts on that? Has there ever been a script where you looked it and said, “Really?”

Well, there hasn’t. I think Mike was just being humble. I am merely the mugging, ham-fisted monkey that they hired to be the vessel for their amazing writing. Mike and the amazing writers room are so genius at walking the line of having a Fonzie moment but then having a completely fallible moment. There’s more of both coming up.

The episode with Ron’s birthday was a nice example of Ron not being awesome for a while.

That was a great example of that. And the Tammy episodes, each notch I get up on the ladder, they bring me down 12 steps.

Are you aware that there are entire websites devoted to animated GIFs of you dancing in a tiny hat, at the breakfast buffet, sliding on the grass, etc?

I’ve seen some of that. It’s incredibly puzzling, but ultimately gratifying for the 12-year-old in me that wants people’s attention. It’s nice to get that for a moment.

It’s a great show and the people who watch it love it, but they LOVE Ron Swanson. It’s like an obsession, almost.

There’s no explaining it. There’s no accounting for taste.

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at

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