Hoosier boss? Former Minooka resident lands a role in NBC sitcom
Imagine landing a role in one of the most anticipated new shows this spring: A show that's created by the guys behind "The Office" and is a vehicle for one of the hottest stars in Hollywood, fresh off a wildly successful stint on "Saturday Night Live."
Oh, and a network's hopes are pinned to the show. No pressure, right?
That's the position actor Nick Offerman finds himself in. Offerman, who grew up in Minooka, recently joined the cast of the new NBC sitcom "Parks and Recreation" starring Amy Poehler. It's produced by Emmy Award winner Greg Daniels ("The Office," "King of the Hill") and Michael Schur ("The Office," "Saturday Night Live").
Offerman plays Poehler's character's boss, Parks and Recreation director Ron Swanson. The series premiers at 7:30 p.m. April 9. In it, he's "unrecognizably normal," he said.
"Ron Swanson is not what I would call the ideal public servant. In his parks and rec department, he tries to get as little work done as possible," Offerman said. "He expects the rest of his department to follow his lead. He is the roadblock in this particular department.
"Amy plays Leslie Knope, my deputy director, and she is quite the opposite of Ron. She is optimistic and enthusiastic to a fault, and her ambition has no limits. Needless to say, things don't always go her way, not if Ron can help it."
After years of roles on shows like "George Lopez," "The King of Queens," "Gilmore Girls" and his own short-lived Comedy Central series "American Body Shop," this is the highest-profile gig he's ever had.
He started auditioning for the show in August and went in five times the next six months.
"I knew Amy in Chicago back in the early '90s," he said. "We never saw each other perform; she was in the comedy world and I was in the theater world. (But) we had mutual friends. I didn't see her for years, until my wife (Megan Mullally) hosted 'Saturday Night Live' in 2003."
That led to him getting reacquainted with Poehler, and to performing with the Upright Citizens Brigade improv group.
Offerman is still pinching himself over getting this part.
"I can't believe it. I've known Rainn Wilson... so I was thrilled with his success with 'The Office,' and some years ago I said, 'all I want is to be on a show like 'The Office' and get a part like Rainn's.'
"It's not a role like Dwight Schrute, but it's damn close, which is crazy," he said. "I can't tell you how lucky I feel. I've had the job for weeks and I'm still pinching myself."
The show is set in the fictional small city of Pawnee, Ind. The resemblance to his hometown isn't lost on him.
"I suppose it does help -- whatever flavors I possess that made them want to hire me, I'm eternally grateful for. It's exactly what my dream was."
"We're the crazy, two-show household," he said. "That's another really gratifying thing. I used to wish I had a grown-up job like my wife. Now we're shooting on the same lot as 'Will and Grace' was shot on."
Speaking of his significant other, while Mullally was performing "Young Frankenstein" on Broadway, he lived in New York for 14 months and managed to keep himself occupied. He acted in a movie with Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst called "All Good Things," where he played Dunst's brother.
"There was an off-Broadway musical called 'The Adding Machine' that I did in New York, that was really fun," he said.
"Of greatest note, while I was in New York, I built a canoe in a shop in Brooklyn that I rented. I ended up being hired by a company in Canada to do an instructional video."
Don't watch it expecting belly laughs, he warned.
"It's really dry; it's how to build a canoe," he said. "That was one of the greatest things I've done in my life."
The video might be dry, but the accompanying photo journal he wrote in 30 parts is very funny. Check it out at www.bearmountainboats.com.
Offerman also did a Web series with his wife, Rob Cordrry and Michael Cera called "Children's Hospital" that's on www.thewb.com, and he was in an independent movie that aired on Showtime called "The Go-Getter."
"I highly recommend it. I play three parts in that. I love doing the Lon Cheney thing where I disguise myself," he said. "My friend Martin Hynes made that. He has a new movie that we are trying to firm up funding for... we're supposed to shoot that in the coming months."
Despite his busy schedule, he makes it back to Minooka a few times a year; returning most recently in February for a surprise birthday party for his parents at Cemeno's Pizza.
Although there is pressure on "Parks and Recreation" to succeed, Offerman isn't worried about it finding an audience.
"It looks super hilarious. We have an amazing cast, plus the super-duper Amy Poehler combined with these writers," he said. "All we can do is do our best and have a lot of fun. If I have this job for awhile, I'll be very happy."