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Nick Offerman of 'Parks and Recreation' offers his views on life, Los Angeles and his character, Ron Swanson

In an interview with 'Parks and Recreation' star Nick Offerman, one can’t help but be struck by the eloquence and sincerity of his words. So get ready, because if, based on Ron, you think you know Offerman, you’re in for a surprise.

By / June 7, 2011

Cast members of 'Parks and Recreation' post at the NBC Universal Press Tour All-Star Party on Jan. 13. From left, Rashida Jones, Retta Sirleaf, Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Jim O'Heir and Aziz Ansari work the red carpet.

Byron Purvis/AdMedia/Newscom


If Emmys were given out for Outstanding Interview Subject, PARKS AND RECREATION star Nick Offerman — better known to viewers as meat-lovin’, tough-talkin’, man’s man Ron Swanson — would be a shoe-in. No, really. Having spent the past four years interviewing the Who’s Who of the television world, we here at are usually fairly-well prepared for anything an interviewee might throw at us. Yet, Offerman actually did something no other subject has managed to do: make us want to be a better person. Whether praising his colleagues (calling the show’s writers room “the best in the biz”) or speaking wistfully about wife Megan Mullally and their pups, one can’t help but be struck by the eloquence and sincerity of his words. And every now and then, he also manages to completely surprise you, as when Pawnee’s gruffest resident admits, “When I get around my family,I am the sissy!” So get ready, because if, based on Ron, you think you know Offerman, you’re in for a surprise. And trust us, it’s going to be a pleasant one.

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Having spent the better part of your 15 year career as a working actor, one imagines that the success and notoriety that comes with playing a character like Ron Swanson on PARKS AND RECREATION must come as a bit of a surprise?
Nick Offerman: I always had a lot of confidence in my work and the unique flavor I like to bring to my characters, but you know I’m not a huge dreamer. And so once I got to Los Angeles and sort of got the lay of the land you quickly learn to survive you have to be much more of a realist. Having gone through most of WILL & GRACE by Megan’s side, I was aware at what an incredible… I’m not kidding — getting a part like Karen Walker or Ron Swanson — the odds are better to win the New Jersey Powerball lottery. I had to move to Los Angeles from Illinois to learn that my dream life was actually not like a David Lee Roth video. And once I sort of woke up to that I was like, okay, here’s what I want: I want to have a happy life with my wife and my home and our poodles and my wood shop. And I want to get to work as an actor, hopefully on good material with people who aren’t assholes. And so, Megan and I both made those sort of rules, work with people we like, on material we think is good and we’ve had really good luck at finding those situations. But I never dreamed that it could be as good as PARKS AND RECREATION.

Have you given much thought as to why Ron Swanson resonates so much with the audience?
No I haven’t given it a lot of thought because when you’re the clown you can’t spend a lot of time wondering why those kids are crying over there. But I really love the analogy of the human in that great movieWALL-E. You had those fat docile humans floating around in those robot chairs and being fed everything by milkshake and you know they had lost the ability to do anything for themselves and I think that in a looser sense that’s happening to our civilization. The more amazing technology and luxury we provide ourselves the less able we would be able to survive if we needed to chop or own firewood, or kill our own beast, and so maybe they can see something incredibly magnificent in Ron Swanson. I’ve always felt this way because when I get around my family I am the sissy. My dad, my uncles and my grandfathers when they were alive, these guys are “Ron Swanson” all day long and the reason they are is simply because they get their hands dirty.

Ron Swanson really is a man’s man, which some might argue is a nice change of pace from the proliferation of pretty boys on television!
I’m going to get a little waxy on you now, this is coming from my my favorite agrarian writer Wendell Berry, I’m pulling a lot of this from his philosophy, when the industrial revolution hit and advertising became big, we were sold a bill of goods that you deserve to put your feet up, you shouldn’t get your hands dirty, that’s beneath you. You should buy our vacuum cleaner, our electric typewriter, whatever it is. You should have all this luxury so that you no longer have to perform menial labour and everybody bought it hook line and sinker and we’re still buying it. And what we’ve lost sight of is that performing manual labor with your hands is one of the most incredibly satisfying and positive things you can do. Anybody who does something like doing a really good job of mowing your grass with a push mower, or washing your car, things that still exist in our world, you know that feeling of satisfaction. Or you know what a great one is, changing your tire. For the small percentage of people who will still change their own tire because they’re wearing high heels or they don’t want to get their Dockers muddy, there’ a very Ron Swanson feeling of I need to rely on nobody to sustain my life.

Following up on that, your credibility really is off the charts. Have you been approached with any interesting endorsement offers? Will Nick Offerman soon be putting his stamp of approval on a chainsaw, steak sauce or line of power tools?
You know I haven’t really had anything yet. It has occurred to me and my representation once Ron Swanson sort of hit the way he did in the zeitgeist we all said that would be hilarious, if Nick Offerman became the spokesman of a chainsaw company or tractor firm but I haven’t really fielded any offers yet. I did do this one thing though, Sunday was World Environment Day, a United Nations conservation holiday and I did this sort of feel good thing where I teamed up with Budweiser, they have this great program where they try and get men to stop shaving because you use an average of 5 gallons of water overtime you shave. They did this thing on their Facebook page called “Grow one save a million” and I teamed up with them to be one of the spokesman for it and that I felt really good about it because they got a hold of me because I have become known for my ability to grow whiskers. So that kind of fits into the category, but no, no one has contacted me to get behind their brand of sledgehammer.

From your love of steak to your passion for woodworking, the PARKS AND RECREATION writers have done a remarkable job of mining your personal life for stories. Are there any character traits or passions that they have yet to uncover that you’d like to see incorporated into future storylines?
I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some easter eggs remaining somewhere about, but whatever they may be I probably am not aware of them because although I do bring the bacon and sawdust and what have you, it’s our incredibly genius writers who have the ability to pick and choose which attributes of our personalities they’re going to focus on with all the characters. And so while it’s easy for the viewer to think that was pretty sharp of Nick Offerman to decide this love of bacon and woodworking but it’s not me, I’m just the vessel. In my opinion we’ve got easily the greatest group of writers working in TV and I’ve seen a lot of great writers room. But these fellas and ladies are so smart and funny it’s one of the things that make my job such a dream.

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