Nick Offerman on His 8-Year-Old 'Axe Cop' Boss and 'Parks & Rec's' Limbo Status
The actor tells THR about the young auteur behind his Fox cartoon and his NBC comedy's current hiatus: "We enjoy the cultural coitus into which NBC inserts us, but sometimes we understand that we will remain dormant within their trousers."
Nick Offerman continues to redefine his status as a 21st century Renaissance man. The Parks & Recreation star, who just published the book Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living, moonlights as a woodworker, stage actor, touring comedian and, most recently, the voice of a cartoon written by an 8-year-old boy.
Axe Cop returns to Fox's Animation Domination High-Def lineup on Nov. 2 after debuting this summer, and the latest batch of episodes should satisfy fans of Offerman's distinctive cadence who've been left out in the cold by Parks & Recreation's unexpected hiatus. (With the exception of back-to-back outings on Nov. 14 and 21, the show is likely off NBC's schedule until January.)
Taking a break from constructing a gazebo, Offerman recently spoke with The Holllywood Reporter about Axe Cop's rather unique working environment -- it's written by brothers Ethan (29) and Malachai (8) Nicolle -- his upcoming off-Broadway run with wife Megan Mullally and the logic behind Parks' frequent schedule shuffles.
How involved in the writing is Malachai, who was five when he created the Axe Cop comic?
Malachai has the brilliant imagination of a child that fuels these stories, and Ethan, for my money, is the true genius and alchemist of this series. His acumen and skill are able to bend those stories into palatable narrative lengths. Honestly, Malachai really writes all the material. Ethan works closely with him, and whenever there is a question, a hole or a story gap to fill in, he just asks Malachai leading questions. We have writers on the show, and their main job is very editorial. They figure out how to take a story from the graphic novel and turn it into 15 minutes of animated comedy. It's a really unique source material and delivery system.
What's it like having an 8-year-old at work?
Malachai is a lot of fun. What kid who loves playing with his toys wouldn't go crazy over the dream of having a cartoon made of the stories he makes up? When he's been around, he's like a kid in a candy store, if you will. I think he considers our production an extension of his toy box, because he will happily order us to pick up weapons and combat each other like his characters.
Has he shown approval of your casting?
He has. This all came about pretty organically. A lot of friends originally gave me the Axe Cop comics. My writing partner, Martin Garner, was a really big fan, and he made an incredible Wexter [Axe Cop's pet T-Rex] costume for his son, my godson, for Halloween. Through Facebook it caught the attention of Ethan. They ended up meeting online and we arranged a power lunch at Oinkster. That's how it all started.
Third graders have busy schedules. How much Axe Cop source material is there to mine?
Ethan and Malachai are still generating material as we speak. One of the great freedoms of our show, which reminds me of Children's Hospital, is that there are no narrative rules to which we feel the need to cleave. In any given graphic novel, Axe Cop might be killed, the world might explode, all sorts of calamities can befall the universe. But there's always an easy reset button in Malachai's world.
The Internet had a heart attack a couple weeks ago when Parks & Rec was pulled from the NBC schedule. Any thoughts?
We don't really bat an eyelash. It's not the first time, nor the second, that we've been shuffled around by the network. We want the best for the network. They are a larger organism of which we're a living breathing part. I dare say we are the throbbing, turgid boner of NBC. Perhaps, more appropriately, we're also the fecund ovaries since our show is a matriarchy under Amy [Poehler]. But like any organism, sometimes you're proud of your genitals, and you want to use them to give pleasure to others. And other times you have to focus on the other parts of your body -- if you have a bad tooth or an ear infection. In those instances, you don't generally want your genitalia exposed. And so you put it away while you pay attention to your haircut. If you're getting your lips or ears pierced, you don't want your genitalia stealing the thunder.
Genitalia shouldn't have any place in piercing.
Yes. We enjoy the cultural coitus into which NBC inserts us, but sometimes we understand that we will remain dormant within their trousers. As long as the lights are still on and we're still shooting, we're happy as clams. We just shot our 100th episode, which is 94 more than we thought we were going to go.
You and Megan are reviving Annapurna in New York next year. What's it like working with your wife?
It's funny because we are told quite consistently that spouses aren't supposed to prefer working together, and that makes us feel really lucky that we do enjoy it a great deal. Watching her make Will & Grace for all those seasons gave me an estimable amount of hero worship for her. To arrive at a place where we can work together as a team is just incredibly gratifying for me and makes me feel like the luckiest boy in school. I am tickled pink to be married to her and am her absolute greatest fan, whether it's comedy, drama or her incredible singing voice. To share the stage with someone I feel that way about is a dream come true. I always say of this play that she's incredible in it and I have the best seat in the house.
Do you have any plans to turn your American Ham comedy tour into a special?
I actually produced a special of it in New York's Town Hall in the spring. We just finished cutting it together, and we're exploring a few different avenues of how we might bring it to public consumption. I'm very excited and daunted by that. I never dreamed that I would perform as myself. It's quite titillating.
Have you thought about self-distribution at all?
I have talked to some of the guys about the pros and cons of that method, and interestingly, nobody is over the moon over how it's gone for them yet. The advice I have gotten so far is shop around because it's not yet ideal.
Any other plans at the moment?
I'm really looking to getting some more time back in my shop. And beyond that, whatever people are willing to indulge me in is probably where you'll find me.
Axe Cop returns to Animation Domination High-Def on Saturdays at 11 p.m. Episodes are also streaming on the lineup's new app.