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Q&A: Illinois native 'Parks and Recreation' star Nick Offerman on 'Somebody Up There Likes Me'

March 04, 2013|Matt Pais, @mattpais | RedEye movie critic

On NBC’s fantastic “Parks and Recreation,” Nick Offerman has turned Ron Swanson into such a spectacular, hilarious symbol of contained emotion and old-fashioned, meat-and-potatoes masculinity that it feels necessary to establish that Nick Offerman is not Ron Swanson.

“I love musicals like crazy,” says the 42-year-old Minooka, Ill., native, whose new film “Somebody Up There Likes Me” opens March 8. “I think I have a frustrated Broadway chorus member somewhere in me. And so while I can watch ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ over and over again, I think Ron would rather eat glass.”

Like Swanson, Offerman enjoys woodworking (he has his own shop, which you can visit at and displays paramount respect for women (particularly his real-life wife and frequent co-star, Megan Mullally). In the funny-but-shallow “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” Offerman plays another casual authority figure as Sal, a waiter who’s the only friend of Max (Keith Poulson), an obnoxious sleaze whose inability to commit to women doesn’t stop them from committing to him. At least for a little while.

By phone from L.A., Offerman talked about good-looking jerks' success with women, being the “sissy” of his family and his much-heralded marriage that merely “recognized a good thing to hang on to.”

FYI: Offerman will attend the film’s 7:30 and 9:45 p.m. screenings Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9 at Music Box. $10.

Something that struck me about “Somebody Up There Likes Me” is that Max is not a particularly nice guy when it comes to women, yet he has a lot of success in that department. What do you make of that, and how often do you see that happening in real life?
Oh. That’s a good question. I feel like that’s sadly a pretty common situation where people who are insecure, they don’t love themselves and so they don’t give the appropriate amount of love to those in relationships with them. And it’s an oft-documented case when you see women who were mistreated in their youth then look for relationships where they receive some sort of emotional abuse. It happens all too often, especially when the protagonist, when the fellow is cute, as Max happens to be. So many nice guys out there who aren’t quite as cute, who maybe are handy at woodworking, or you might call character actors, watching these guys knock ‘em down and saying, “Gosh, I wish you would turn your gaze over to a sweet fellow like myself.”

Woodworking being a totally hypothetical example.
Yeah. To make a “for instance.”

So anyone who sees the film and says, “Max could never get those women,” should realize this happens all the time?
Oh, sure. That certainly never occurred to me that it was unlikely in any way. A great percentage of relationships have some sort of imbalance like that, and that’s why so many don’t work out.

If you were a server, what’s something you just would not tolerate out of a customer?
I guess, depending on what food it was, I wouldn’t tolerate throwing food. Unless it was funny. If you can nail your sibling in the kisser with a spoonful of mashed potatoes, I’m going to have to allow that.

Nothing else, though?
Yeah, a hard roll, that can take out an eye. Or at least provide a bit of a flesh wound.

What if they were throwing a steak into your mouth?
Well, that’s a horse of an entirely different color.

In a matter of two minutes or less in the film, your character throws a young girl into a pool and gives a beer to a minor. Which is worse?
Well, throwing children into a pool is something I’d like to see a lot more of. Need to remind them who’s in charge, especially in this day and age. I don’t know; one beer isn’t going to hurt anybody. [Laughs.] I think I was five when I was tasked with supplying the members of the card table in my dad’s kitchen with fresh bottles of Old Milwaukee and Schlitz. They’d always leave me about a half-inch at the bottom of the bottle to put away before I [sent] the bottle back to the case.

How did you feel about it at that time? Most would say beer is an acquired taste; were you six when it was acquired?
Yeah, I didn’t start drinking it regularly until I was six or seven. [Laughs.] I grew up in a family of working people, and beer is a very ubiquitous beverage around the farm. So the youngsters start working like adults pretty early on in a farm family, and so it’s not long--if you put in a long, hard day--before your grandpa says, “You’ve earned a beer.” But I think they would frown on two beers. We’re not reprobates.

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