'Parks & Rec': Q&A with Nick Offerman, the man behind the mustache
Drawing comparisons between Nick Offerman and Ron Swanson, his character on NBC’s Parks and Recreation, may be a little too easy. After all, who better to play a brusque, outdoorsy parks director than an Illinois country boy with an affinity for canoe building, fishing and thick-sliced meats.
In a recent interview with the man behind the mustache, we talked to Offerman how his off-screen life animates one of the most entertaining middle managers on NBC’s Thursday night lineup.
How did your upbringing in the farm town of Minooka, Ill., inform the ruggedness of Ron Swanson?
I think a lot of people remark on Ron’s manliness, and I wouldn’t have called it manliness. I think what they’re mistaking is a sort of farmers temperament. My dad grew up on a dairy farm and my mom grew up on a pig farm a few miles from each other. My mom’s family is still farming. And farmers are long suffering. They have to see their year’s labor wiped out by locusts, crack a beer and say, ‘Well, I guess we’re eating our shoelaces this winter.’ And then I think I’ve run into enough public officials or high school principals. I always found it hilarious how guys in positions of middling authority take themselves really seriously.
Does the volatile chemistry between you and your real-life wife, Megan Mullally, who guest stars as your ex-wife “Tammy,” have any therapeutic effect on your marriage off screen?
I think it’s the opposite. The chemistry we have in real life helps us on-screen. We’re disappointingly boring for a Hollywood couple. We love to stay home and read a book or put together a jigsaw puzzle. We just do a bunch of cocaine the whole time, is my joke. But ... put the two of us together as a couple who needs to have a volatile, sexual, love-hate relationship, and our trust and our bond allows us to take it a lot further than just two actors that you put together.
How did the idea for Ron’s wardrobe come about (mustache and all)?
When Mike Schur and Greg Daniels were creating the show and we started meeting about Ron Swanson, even before I had the job, Mike and I decided he was going to have a kick-ass mustache. That really informed a lot of the character for me. Once we got into the process where we’re choosing his wardrobe or his hairdo, I usually collaborate with the designer and find something that just makes me uncomfortable or embarrassed. If it looks embarrassing to me, I say, ‘OK, that’s it.’ We’ve found Ron’s thing has become these thick, knit, long-sleeve Polo shirts tucked into pleated pants. I know I’m the farthest thing from a fashion plate, but even I can tell you that’s a no-no.
Does your mustache have its own contract at this point?
Yeah, my mustache has actually been signed by CAA and is doing a lot better than I am.
By now do people recognize you on the street?
The best disguise it turns out has been to be clean shaved. No one recognizes me without whiskers.
Cooked animal flesh seems to play a huge role in Ron’s life. What is your favorite cut of meat?
I’d have to say an excellent, thick-cut pork chop. Or a rasher of bacon — basically a brick of bacon that hasn’t been cut into bacon strips. I can’t hit that too often, but it’s a pretty good treat. You eat it with a knife and fork.
Any thoughts about your resemblance to the feline species since the creation of www.catsthatlooklikeronswanson.com?
I appeared nude in a play, and a theater reviewer gave me a very favorable review but referred to me as the “ursine” Nick Offerman, which I really appreciated, being called bear-like. And it never occurred to me that cats would be the animal that I resemble. It’s not only in their faux mustaches but in their eyebrows as well.
As a real-life craftsman and boat maker, what project in your wood shop right now gives you the most pride?
My second canoe is sitting in there, I’ve got about two weeks' worth of work left on it. And as it takes shape, it’s like a Corvette is appearing in the shop.... But my bread and butter has been making dining room tables out of one or two big slabs of a tree. I’ve done a few of those over the years that I’m really proud of.
— Nate Jackson
Photo credit: NBC