How did Parks and Recreation breakout star Nick Offerman rise to the top of the sitcom world? As he explained in a recent Playboy interview, by trying to look as ugly as possible, of course.
“I want and like to stand out, because when I got into the business, I quickly saw that the majority of people striving to get ahead were trying to be as good-looking or as cute as possible. I was like, Man, what a drag, especially in L.A., where so many people get paid just to be good-looking. It seemed smarter to go in the opposite direction. There’s always room for the freak,” said the unique Offerman, who plays a libertarian government employee on the hit NBC series and shares a real-life love of hunting and woodworking with his character.
He’s unparalleled even in his own family. “My family is so nice, and their list of vocations — schoolteacher, paramedic and a bunch of farmers — shows how solid they are. Any layman would have a difficult time understanding what could be hard about a job like acting and what makes 12-hour days exhausting,” offered Offerman, the only actor in his family. “I remember at one point, to sort of break away from my conservative family upbringing, I was nude in a play. I had to show my genitals to an audience, get tattoos and prove to myself that I was a cutting-edge artist. But it played its part. Acting should be approached fearlessly.”
Of course, being such a one-of-a-kind actor means plenty of rejection from producers and directors who’d rather he just conform with a certain stereotype. After all, the 41-year-old didn’t get his big break on Parks until his late thirties. “I heard this Robin Williams quote years ago: ‘For an actor, getting a job is your job. When you get a job, that’s your vacation.’ I’m kind of mad that Robin Williams gets that quote because I don’t think he had much of a job then,” the Illinois native said. “He’s been working pretty steadily.”
Luckily, Parks and its likeminded cast and crew is right up his alley. Speaking about the comedy’s liberating atmosphere, Offerman said that “it’s incredible, especially since a lot of our cast comes from improv and sketch comedy. I come from the theater, where the script is scriptural. It’s like the Bible. But now, if I have the impulse, I can say “Fuck that!” All along the writers have taken our natural impulses and written them into the characters. We really leapfrog and piggyback on one another.”