Nick Offerman on directing ‘Parks and Recreation’s’ big surprise

Nick Offerman
Nick Offerman attends the premiere of DirecTV’s “Paradise” in Los Angeles.
(Imeh Akpanudosen / Getty Images)

Nick Offerman, who plays surly, meat-lovin’ Ron Swanson on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” was at the helm of Thursday’s big reveal episode, directing Amy Poehler as she delivered that squeal-worthy “Well, buddy, ...” line.

It’s the second episode the man with impeccable upper lip hair has directed. And -- spoiler alert -- it was quite the one to take on, as it sees Leslie Knope faced with another major milestone in her life: motherhood.

We spoke with Offerman, who is currently in New York, where he’s appearing in the off-Broadway production of “Annapurna” with his wife, Megan Mullaly, and asked about his reaction to the big plot twist, geeking out over guest star Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, and his thoughts on former costar Rob Lowe’s tough life as a handsome man.

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I’m mad at myself because I come into this interview having not had breakfast this morning. Don’t tell your alter ego.

Oh dear.

Did you have breakfast?


Just a little bit. I had some eggs and roast beef. I’m doing straight-up protein because I’m losing weight for this play my wife and I are doing.

I think Ron Swanson would give a hearty head nod of approval to that meal.

I think he would approve, yeah.

Let’s talk about Thursday’s episode of “Parks and Recreation.” It marks the second time you’ve directed for the show. And there’s a lot going on -- there was a big reveal, a few guest spots -- is it daunting to come in not knowing what episode you’ll be doing?

It’s really fun. I absolutely love collaborating with our show’s incredible brain trust. When they let me get behind the camera, it’s so much fun. It’s like getting to play with the coolest set of toys in town.

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They do it by scheduling. They attach me to a week without knowing what the script was going to be. In this case, I got incredibly lucky because I got what I think is one of the best scripts of the year easily. It’s festooned with amazing guest stars and beautiful locations -- we shot at the Agua Dolce Winery, it’s up near Santa Clarita. It was actually astonishingly beautiful. You’d think a winery around Santa Clarita is going to be pretty damn arid-looking  But they had a really beautiful spread of acreage.

There’s a major storyline reveal that you had to guide. Did you cry tears of joy at the news?


Yeah, some of our major characters undergo a big life change in their household. We’ll be seeing an increase in the cast of the show. It was a gift to be given the task of handling that episode. My mustache was like a wet rag from all the tears.

And Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy strolls through...

Probably the biggest moment was when I was told that Jeff Tweedy would be joining us. I burst into spontaneous sobs and also vomited a little from excitement, and then fell down in the parking lot. Wilco is my absolute favorite band in the world. I am so enamored by Jeff Tweedy. I think he is such a beautiful performer and an exquisite poet, and also a bad-ass rock ‘n’ roll persona. So to get to shake hands and actually collaborate with someone who I so greatly look up to was amazing.

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Favorite song?

That’s like asking me what’s my favorite meat. But I would go with their album that was the most seminal in my life -- their second album, “Being There.” I would say the song “A Shot in the Arm” was a big one for me.

Let’s put everything on the table. Is there someone on the cast that is difficult to direct? Be honest. Or do they give you a hard time because it’s you directing them?

It’s tough to get Aubrey [Plaza] out of the alley where she likes to smoke and kill cats with her friends. But by and large, it’s an incredibly professional group and we have a lot of fun playing together. They’re very generous to me. They don’t give me too hard of a time.


You’re doing press while also starring in “Annapurna” in New York. It got great reviews while it was out in Los Angeles last year. Fun to get back in its saddle?

“Annapurna” is such an incredible treat. It’s a brilliant piece of writing by a guy named Sharr White. Yeah, we did it in Los Angeles, and it went really well. And so we’re incredibly thrilled to get to do it in New York. And to do it with someone I admire as much as the actress Megan Mullaly, it’s great.

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And you play a cowboy poet. 

I do, yeah. A rather destitute one. It’s kind of Sam Shepard meets Eugene O’Neill. So, it has a great sense of epic drama to it while still being kind of pulpy and dirty.

OK, I’m going to use the topic of poet to transition into Rob Lowe. He got quite the attention with his comments that there’s a prejudice against attractive people. What did you think of his comments?

Um, well, actually when that came out, I arranged for a 12-piece string quartet to speed over to his house and play an elaborate fugue. I didn’t realize what a rough time he was having. I would’ve been giving him a piggyback ride to set if I knew that things were so tough.

I’d pay to see that. There’s other news making headlines. Stephen Colbert replacing David Letterman. Good choice, you think?

That’s massive. I’m so thrilled. Colbert as the sort of brainchild of the Jon Stewart world is so wonderfully subversive and intelligent. I’m 43, I feel like us class clowns, smart-ass kids have snuck one of our own into the White House.

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There’s no bigger fan of David Letterman than myself and my wife. Awfully sorry to see him go because we love sitting with him. We consider him such a master of interview plus humor. But if somebody has to take over the slot, I doff my hat heartily to Mr. Colbert.

Let’s end on a high note. Built any good wooden structures lately?

Yeah, we have a couple of tables we just turned in. One in particular, we’re calling Zeus’ Wagon Wheel. It’s a massive 8-foot-diameter dining table with a built-in mahogany Lazy Susan. It’s pretty nuts. We are not messing around at Offerman Woodshop. If people want to see it, they can see it at

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