Never underestimate the power of a raised eyebrow or glazed-over indifference. That’s just a pair of the tools Nick Offerman brings to his scene-stealing portrayal of Ron Swanson on NBC’s ‘Parks and Recreation‘ (Thursdays at 8:30/7:30c). Here, the funny man weighs in on the show’s Season 3 renewal, reveals a few of Ron’s secrets, and previews this week’s “sweet” episode. Offerman also shares how working with real-life Megan Mullally was the high point of his career.
So, how about that early Season 3 pick-up?
It’s crazy. Very gratifying.
What were the “special production considerations” I kept reading about that dictated an early decision?
I am uncertain, but my guess is that there’s some sort of film thing happening with Amy [Poehler]. [Series creator] Greg Daniels does this a lot with Steve Carell at ‘The Office,’ where they juggle [TV and film schedules].
What sort of shift took place to help ‘Parks and Rec’ overcome its sophomore jitters and gain some traction?
I think we all figured out what was funny about these characters and their world. We put together this great all-star team of writers and performers, and the first few times at the plate we blooped a couple into right field, we got on base. Now we’re like, “OK, I’ve got a bead on his breaking ball” and we’re hitting them out of the park.
What do you like most about Ron?
Oh gosh…. It’s hard to separate what I like most about Ron from what I like most about playing him. But I guess the answer to both of those questions would be his stillness. His stoicism. I love finding humor in silence.
Would you be friends with Ron?
Oh god, no. I mean, I have been friends with and mentored by guys that had his “devil-may-care” attitude concerning their administration, and that part I love and admire about Ron. But I think our worlds would be just too disparate.
I saw an interview where you likened Ron to ‘Taxi’s Reverend Jim. How so?
Usually when I mention the amazing and classic Reverend Jim Ignatowski, I’m talking about the kind of roles I like. Instead of trying to land major storylines, I prefer the bumbling types Christopher Lloyd would play.
One of my favorite sitcom scenes ever was Jim taking his driver’s test: “What… does… a yellow… light… mean?”
That is actually my favorite scene of his, too. I was at Debra Messing’s wedding with my wife and Jim Burrows, who directed “Will & Grace,” and for some reason Jim Ignatowski came up and I ended up repeating that “yellow light” bit. Jim Burrows goes, “I wrote that.” I freaked out a bit.
Have you ever been prompted to “call a time out” and reign in Ron a bit? I mean really, who brings a plate of deviled eggs to a party for their exclusive consumption?
I have no problem with the reality of that particular circumstance - in my family, everyone would bring a plate of deviled eggs for their own consumption, whether figuratively or literally. But on a show like this, where we’re forever walking that fine line between television comedy and a documentary of a real-world situation, there are times when I’ve said to the brass, “Can we delete that last take? It was a little much.”
Tell me about this week’s episode and the Parks Department’s tour of the Sweetums factory.
I love this episode. It’s a nod to giant food corporations and cornstarch, with a wink to obese bovine America.
Does Sweetums have a Willy Wonka-type figurehead?
There is a great sort of managerial type, somewhere between Willy Wonka and the Wizard of Oz, a man behind the curtain. He’s sort of the snake oil salesman, because Sweetums also has this “apple pie and America”-type family campaign…. It’s a lot of fun.
What’s your school of thought on your wife resurfacing as Ron’s ex? Does once a season sound like a good balance?
I wouldn’t mind eight times a season. [Laughs] That was the funnest episode of anything I’ve ever gotten to do in my life. To be married to a comedy legend is one thing; to get to do something like that with her was a high point of my whole career. So I hope we see plenty more of Tammy.
Watch the “deviled egg” scene from the episode “Leslie’s House” below: