back to top
Celebrity

Nick Offerman On His Wife Megan Mullally: "She's My Hero"

"They had to fix my makeup, because I was crying from laughing so hard."

Posted on
Taylor Miller / Zoë Burnett / BuzzFeed

Nick Offerman has acted in countless roles, but none have made a lasting impression quite like his Parks & Recreation character, Ron Swanson. Whether he was serenading you with the seductive sounds of his saxophone or making you burst out into laughter with his deadpan comedy, Nick always kept us entertained.

And before Nick introduces us to his latest role in his new film Hearts Beat Loud, hitting theaters this Friday, we thought it would be a great idea to reminisce with him about his time on the Parks & Rec set.

He stopped by to answer your questions and here's what we learned:

View this video on YouTube

Ade Mangum / BuzzFeed / Via youtube.com

Was the Ron Swanson character written for you? If so, what's the biggest difference between you and the character?

Ade Mangum / BuzzFeed

Nick Offerman: The character of Ron Swanson was created by Michael Schur and Greg Daniels. They met a Burbank city official who was anti-government and a libertarian, and they thought that was really funny. So they came in with that foundational principal. Then we met. Great TV comedy writers are good at taking parts of the actor and using those parts to fill out the funny idea that they had for the character. So, they didn't know I was going to play Ron Swanson when they thought of the character, but almost immediately they said, "Oh, we like Nick. He's going to have a mustache, he talks very slowly, and we should probably justify his love for red meat in a way, because Nick's spilling out of his JCPenney trousers."

There are many differences between me and a well-wrought sitcom character. I mean, he's like a cartoon or a superhero. He has very specific attributes because he doesn't have to exist in real life. For example, he can eat way more red meat than a human should. He can drink a lot more scotch than a human should. If I indulged half as much as he did, I would be dead of cirrhosis of the liver, or some problem with my arteries. Also, I'm complicated. I have to live in real life, so while I love using tools and I don't suffer fools gladly, I'm also more effervescent, effeminate — I get often accused of effeminacy when compared to Ron Swanson. I like to flit about the place and practice my ballet positions around the house, which I don't think Ron would do. That's about it. We both know how to sharpen an axe and use it.

Did you improvise a lot of your lines on Parks & Recreation? If so, what's one of your favorite improvised moments?

Ade Mangum / BuzzFeed

NO: The scripts on Parks & Recreation were so good that we never needed to improvise, but we had such a cast of amazing, creative heads that they would then encourage us once we had achieved the script, if we had any good ideas to go ahead and throw them in. Usually two or three times during the episode I would come up with a joke line.

The line when I ordered that platter that serves 12 people and I say, "I know what I'm about, son." I believe I came up with that line. They already had a line there, you know? It's all very collaborative, most of the credit has to go to the writers. I could never come up with [stuff as remotely funny] as they did.

There's this restaurant in the bowling alley that just says, "hot dog, 85 cents and hamburger, $1.15," and Ron says this is his favorite restaurant. And Ann Perkins says she would be scared to eat there. Ron says, "When I eat, it's the food that is scared." Our writer Dan Gore came up with that standing in the bowling alley. They had to fix my makeup because I started crying from laughing so hard, so I was much more on the receiving end of hilarious creativity than I was the source.

Which episodes made you break character the most?

Ade Mangum / BuzzFeed

NO: Two episodes come to mind for us not being able to keep it together. The first one was toward the end of the series. I think there were five of us: Leslie, Ben, me, Andy, and April might have been there as well. We were trying to check out at JJ's Diner and Chris Pratt's character, Andy, had some line about some Middle Eastern despot. Chris naturally just began mispronouncing it and that just became the funniest joke in the scene, his attempt to say it right. Then they changed it to Voldemort, then they tried a few different alts, and he kept pronouncing them wrong. We must've done about 12 takes where at least one of us couldn't keep it together. That was the funnest part about filming that show.

The other scene that was like that was when we were all eating ice cream. It was the episode where everybody got to pick their bachelor party and the character of Jerry, if he was indeed Jerry at the time or Larry, or Terry — Jim O'Heir [who plays Jerry] took us to his favorite ice cream shop, and we were all indulgently chowing down on ice cream and Chris Pratt had a huge cone of strawberry ice cream. He sculpted a vagina into it and just kept surreptitiously showing it to me. And you know, you try not laughing when Chris Pratt shows you his tiny, strawberry ice cream vagina.

Which of your past characters do you identify with the most?

NO: I mean, the character I got to play the most of by far was Ron Swanson, and there were parts of him that I identify with very much because they were built on attributes from my own personality. The woodworking, the incredibly smooth and sexy jazz saxophone playing, the deep reverence for Little Sebastian...that magnificent goddamn little horse — umm, let's take a moment of silence [Nick takes a literal moment of silence for Little Sebastian]. And also the sense of when Ron seemed like the dad of the group, I identify with that very much because I come from a great family with a great mom and dad, and so in a group situation I'm often prone to be like, "Okay, does everybody have a sandwich? Who needs a beer? I'm driving. Please use your seatbelts."

What was it like working with your wife, Megan Mullally, on Parks & Rec?

Ade Mangum / BuzzFeed

NO: Working with my wife is something I've written quite a deal about. She's my teacher, she's my hero. I saw her on Will & Grace 20 or 18 years ago when we met. It was like seeing Mel Brooks or Carol Burnett, or just some legend where I thought, "Oh, you were born an encyclopedia of great comedy." She's 11 years older than me so there's always been a great teacher-student relationship. Parks & Rec was the first time she played Tammy 2, the first time we got to work together as a team. We often worked together, but never the two of us, and so it was incredible. I felt like I had sort of graduated to play with the big kids. It was incredibly difficult because of all the people in the world, she knows how to push my buttons. So to then put that in a scene where she's funny and I'm not supposed to laugh at her was an incredibly difficult task, and sometimes I succeeded.

Speaking of Will & Grace, was it hard for you to keep your composure during the Thanksgiving episode when you played a plumber and Karen slapped you? Was the slap real?

Ade Mangum / BuzzFeed

NO: The first time I was on Will & Grace, which I think was 2001, I was pretty terrified. I had not done multi-cam sitcom, and that particular form in front of a live audience is very fast-paced and very high-stakes, because you're in front of an audience but you haven't had the benefit of a theater rehearsal period. So you've run through it a few times and you were waiting to go in, and Sean Hayes was offstage waiting by the door saying, "Okay, here it comes. Don't screw this up. Get ready. Get ready." And I was like, "Sean, please get away from the door." So yeah, I was really pretty nervous. I wasn't going to laugh, if anything I was going to cry.

In the scene, my character was rather charmed and puzzled by this strange lady who was kissing me and beating me about the face in a kitchen. I'm trying to remember [if the slap was real]. Usually, no. They do slapstick. Jim Burrows, the legendary director who's directed every episode of Will & Grace, he makes the slap noises offstage. We've done a lot of slaps for real onstage and it's something that's pretty enjoyable, if you know how to do it right, 'cause it's effective. But I think those were probably comedy slaps.

Who do you still keep in touch with from Parks & Rec?

Ade Mangum / BuzzFeed

NO: We all keep in touch. We have an ongoing cast thread that we text on almost daily. Somebody's always got something going on. A couple of times a year we try to get together to have dinner, but right now we're celebrating Retta having a new show on NBC. Retta also has a book coming out, so the thread's been a little Retta-heavy, but that's great. Amy just finished directing a movie called Wine Country. Everybody's always got something happening and it's wonderful family feeling keeping us all in touch. I'm very grateful.

What did you like best about each of your Parks & Rec co-stars?

NO: Much like my new film Hearts Beat Loud, opening across the country this June, Parks & Rec also had a great cast of characters. I mean how much time do we have:

* Amy Poehler is an incredible ship's captain. She's a wonderful leader. Besides being a comedy machine, she just explodes rainbows and hilarity out of her face at every given moment. She was such a wonderful team captain and I learned a lot from her about being a leader.

* Aubrey Plaza is a horrible devil spawn. As soon as she enters a room, there's a smell of brimstone and cloven hooves. And everyone starts reaching for their wallets and worrying about their virginity, to be quite frank. You really want to use hand sanitizer if Aubrey's been in the same county as you.

* Rashida Jones is a walking talent machine. She's way too good at acting for someone as good-looking and charismatic as she is. I originally auditioned to play a love interest of hers and they saw the two of us together and said, "Nah, nobody's gonna buy that. Let's make him the guy who likes bacon."

* Adam Scott is, I think, the greatest leading man I've worked with. I consider him our Jimmy Stewart. He's such a funny, subtle actor, and a really sweet guy to boot.

* Chris Pratt I didn't really notice much. He just kind of disappeared into the woodwork and didn't get much attention. He has one of those faces and his build that you're just like, "Oh yeah, I think he was there. I didn't really notice. Was he in that scene?" I'm not sure what became of him. We were always worried that that was his peak and he would probably have trouble getting work after this. Wherever he is, I hope he's doing great. Probably driving a bus somewhere outside of Spokane.

* Rob Lowe. I was always a little jealous of Rob Lowe because he had a really intense kissing scene with my wife in the movie About Last Night, from a long time ago. So I was always thinking of Rob Lowe as this actor that I enjoyed in my life, who had kissed my wife. Then in one episode of Parks & Rec, Rob and I were required to kiss one another, and now it's Megan's turn to be jealous. He's such a great old pro. He's been a leading actor for decades and so it was great to have his acumen on set. He's seen it all and you can always learn a lot from someone like that.

* Jim O'Heir...I'm tempted to say something mean about him because that was the running joke with his character, but I'm not going to. He's the sweetest, most wonderful guy. We're both a couple of actors from Chicago who worked really hard for many years before we got that big break, so it was wonderful to go through it with Jim. I couldn't say enough about him. He's been an incredible good sport to take such a hard time from us all of these years.

* Retta is an unstoppable force. She's such a kickass lady and she's so funny as a comedian. She was such a real part of our office, you know? She got so many huge belly laughs with her subtle, realistic, I've-seen-it-all-and-I've-had-enough-of-this-office-job reactions. I'm thrilled that she's doing so well.

* Aziz Ansari. I almost left off the shiniest cast member. From the moment I met Aziz, like many of us, I just marveled at how he can say anything and it's hilarious. He just has a little dial that he turns up one point and he'll say like, "Hold on you guys, I gotta tie my shoes," and it's somehow the funniest thing in the episode. So, it's no surprise that he's had a pretty skyrocketing career in comedy. It was always really fun to do scenes with him because hearing him say things was so enjoyable and I could pick him up and carry him around like a small pet, which is an enjoyable thing in any cast member.

Did you get to take anything from the Parks & Rec set?

Ade Mangum / BuzzFeed

NO: I try not to be a collector, but the best thing I took from the set was all of the trim and doors and windows from the set of the main Parks & Rec office. They somehow found their way to my wood shop and we milled them up into strips of Red Oak, and then glued them up into blanks and made them into canoe paddles, which we then gifted to the cast and producers.

Hanging in my shop is that original huge framed picture of a brunette woman holding out a plate of bacon and eggs. It's what I'm referring to when I say, "I'm a simple man. I like ladies with dark hair and breakfast food." So that hangs in my shop and inspires me every day.

You can relive your favorite Ron Swanson moments with Parks & Recreation on Netflix. Be sure to catch Nick Offerman in his new film Hearts Beat Loud in theaters June 8.

Taylor Miller / BuzzFeed

Top trending videos

Watch more BuzzFeed Video Caret right