Nick Offerman on His Early Roles and the “Great Lesson” He Learned in How to Treat His Fellow Actors

Actor Nick Offerman

“As an actor trying to find your spot you’re just generally happy to get a job and keep your SAG insurance.” – Nick Offerman

Almost everyone will credit Parks and Recreation as the first time they took notice of Nick Offerman, but Offerman was a working actor for fifteen years before he was cast in the memorable role of Ron Swanson. When speaking about his past experiences with the Los Angeles Times, Offerman reflected on some of those early acting roles and how they impacted his later career.

Like most actors who struggled in their earliest years, Offerman feels some doubt about his earlier work and hopes directors and producers evaluate him on his more recent performances. He explains, “I’ve had the good fortune to work for many years, but in pretty supporting roles by and large, with a couple of exceptions. When I got the call to do a film about this gripping historical story that’s largely unknown, directed by John Lee Hancock, I felt like, ‘Good Lord, hurry up and sign me up before they see some of my early work.'”

One of Offerman’s earliest recognizable roles was appearing on Gilmore Girls for two episodes (one in 2003 and the other in 2005). Offerman recalls, “I hadn’t really seen it, but I was excited to get cast on it because I loved to get jobs, especially then when I wasn’t working on a series regularly. They kept telling me to talk faster. I did my best, but something I’ve never been good at is talking fast. They ended up cutting out air from between my words. They literally edited my talking to fit the very narrow slot they had allotted my dialogue.”

Another experience that its ups and downs was Offerman’s small role in Sin City, in which he shared a scene with Bruce Willis — who Offerman has both praise and criticism for. He explains, “I’m a huge fan of comic books and graphic novels. It was a really big deal to audition for Robert Rodriguez in a hotel room at the Four Seasons. I didn’t hear anything for two months and then I got a call, ‘You got the job.’ I was over the moon. Getting to work with Bruce Willis was a great education, both good and bad. He’s amazing at what he does, but he’s perhaps not the greatest collaborator. We spent a lot more time with his stunt double. Bruce would come in at the end and say the line once and then go back to his trailer. It was a  — or not treat them.”

These days Offerman has the luxury of being more selective and will take any role if he likes the script — no matter how small the part is. He reveals, “I’ve had a lot of jobs where I show up for one day and do some juggling with the actors involved. And then I say, ‘Have fun with the rest of your three-month shoot. I’m going back to my wood shop.’ As an actor trying to find your spot you’re just generally happy to get a job and keep your SAG insurance.”

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