'Parks and Recreation's' Nick Offerman on Mustaches and Being Tackled by Robin Givens (Q&A)
The Hollywood Reporter: You're best known for Parks and Rec, but you've been a busy working actor for more than 14 years. What was your career like before the show?
Nick Offerman: I'd been making a really nice living for about 10 years here in L.A. I always felt successful just doing that. I've been working steadily as an actor since around 1998. I wasn't well known in the public, but I was a dependable working journeyman. I was working more than all the people I knew from college and my Chicago theater community, so I didn't notice that I wasn't "successful" enough. When I got my job on Parks, it was so dreamy, kind of unfathomable. I didn't think a job that excellent could exist for me.
THR: Is acting something you've had to work at, or does it come naturally?
Offerman: I felt like I was pretty good at it, which is another way of saying that I was full of it. My dad always said I had a good line of BS, so I figured I'd make a good lawyer or actor.
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THR: What was your first SAG job?
Offerman: A show called Angel Street for CBS, starring Robin Givens. Robin is as big as my pinky, and she had to, at one point in this episode, tackle me in an alley. It was filmed in Chicago. The show didn't last very long.
THR: How have those years of journeyman work helped fine-tune your craft?
Offerman: The biggest lesson I've learned is that there is absolutely no better training ground than the theater. And the most important thing I learned from working SAG jobs is simply ... patience. If you're an original thinker, you are going get told no a lot, and you have to be able to hear no many times from the bankers and trust that at some point, someone is going to recognize that you are an artist and not a can of soda.
THR: How does it to feel to finally "arrive" at age 41?
Offerman: I'm glad I took a long time to get here. If it had happened at a younger age, I probably would have self-destructed in some way. I'm barely hanging on as it is at my age now. You give an idiot a couple of dollars, and he and his money will soon be parted.
THR: The writers have worked a lot of your interests, like woodworking, into
your character. Is Ron Swanson a heightened version of you?
Offerman: There's been a lot of opining about that, but it's like saying Homer Simpson is a heightened version of a human being. Ron is sort of an epic mythological character in a TV comedy. But if I were a set of paints, they would be using the same colors to paint Ron but in a much larger and bolder fashion.
THR: How do you prepare for scenes?
Offerman: It doesn't take much. Ron is always inside me, waiting to exact his righteous indignation. There's a little bit of my dad and grandfather and every school principal I've ever come in contact with in Ron -- people who have a pomposity about being an administrator.
THR: OK, your mustache. Why do you think it's becoming such a talking point?
Offerman: Sadly, our country has become so emasculated that a national audience can be astonished by a man merely growing whiskers, as though I were growing diamonds on my face.
THR: You work with hilarious actors like Amy Poehler. Do you have any tricks
to suppress laughter during filming?
Offerman: I pretend I'm annoyed by how funny they are. Your brother or sister could be the most fantastic person in the whole world, but if they are being hilarious and everyone loves them, you can think, "Oh, God, barf." So I try to put myself in that head space -- "Oh, America loves you. You're so funny" -- and try to be annoyed by how talented they are.
THR: Your wife, Megan Mullally, has been in several Parks episodes as Ron's insane ex. What's it like to work together?
Offerman: It's a ridiculous dream. My wife happens to be probably the greatest working woman in comedy. I can't think of anyone who even approaches her achievements and her abilities. I feel like a college basketball player getting to play with Michael Jordan.