ENTERTAINMENT
05/28/2013 08:03 am ET Updated May 28, 2013

Nick Offerman, 'The Kings Of Summer' Star, Is Not Ron Swanson

CBS Films

Nick Offerman plays Ron Swanson on the beloved NBC series "Parks and Recreation," but that doesn't mean he's actually Ron Swanson. (Sorry, Internet.) The 42-year-old actor has 71 credits on his IMDb, ranging from "ER" and "The West Wing" to "Miss Congeniality 2." Not every character he plays loves bacon and woodworking. (Even though, yes, Offerman himself does love woodworking.)

Take Offerman's Frank Toy in "The Kings of Summer." The coming-of-age comedy, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival with the title of "Toy's House," features Offerman playing an overbearing dad with a love of Monopoly and a penchant for creating angst in his son, Joe (Nick Robinson). After one particularly fierce row, Joe runs away from home with two of his friends to build and live in a house in the middle of the woods.

Ahead, in a long and raunchy conversation with Offerman, we learn what life is like when you're the subject of an almost weekly Internet meme and what lessons he learned from his wife, Megan Mullally, about the dangers of being typecast. Offerman also reveals what his title suggestions were for renaming "Toy's House," which CBS Films picked for release. Those alternate titles, of course, are NSFW.

First, you're in this movie more than I thought you would be. And I enjoyed this character because Frank Toy seems different than Ron Swanson.
Well, thank you for saying that and it's very generous of you to pretend that I was in a lot of the movie.

I'm not pretending.
Well, a lot of people like to look at good-looking people, but there are a few of us that like to look at a roughly barked tree. And I will count you among us.

You're being humble. You are a very popular man. Especially on the Internet.
I like the way this is going.

I'm glad.
I don't look at the Internet if I can help it. I find that it keeps me out of my woodshop and I prefer making stuff. The damn Internet is a wormhole. You can't just do five minutes.

When you're offered roles away from "Parks & Recreation," do most people want a clone of Ron Swanson?
First of all, finishing your last question, thank you for saying that this isn't Ron. Because it's such a weird thing -- and, ultimately, a good thing -- but when people are so enamored of a show like mine, they really want to go see you and say, "Oh, it's Ron." And they want to see me in real life and say, "Oh, he's Ron." And, so, it's really appreciated when somebody has the wherewithal to see that it's not Ron.

Ron is a little more lovable than Frank.
Yeah, Ron is one color that I paint with and Frank is not only a different color, but a different brush. So, thank you, I appreciate that. I get offered -- I don't know -- sometimes I get offered things that anybody can play, any funny guy. But, maybe the director likes me or, you know, somebody likes the idea of my particular stature that I bring to the role. I think my agents do a pretty good job of protecting me from Ron clones. I don't have to read a lot of stuff where I'm like, "No, I can't play this. It's Ron. I'm not going to play this Libertarian guy who works in a breakfast diner." It's too on the nose.

I'm very lucky in a lot of ways -- I was working really steadily as a character actor before I got "Parks & Rec." And I'm fortunate to be, I guess, considered dependable. I'm a Chicago theater actor, so, anything that's remotely in a certain spectrum, I can cover for you. Ron is sort of one end of the spectrum -- in a half hour comedy sense, that's my "manly" channel. I can turn around -- I'd love to take a crack at the role of Jack on "Will & Grace." I love playing a mincing fop, as well.

What a great term, by the way.
I'd love to play a cowardly lawyer. I'm an actor, so I love playing people and I love wearing different masks. This particular mask that has a mustache on it as been one of the most delicious and I thank my lucky stars it fell to me. I certainly look forward to having different facial hair in the future.

I feel you've hit that zone where you've become quite popular, but you have to be careful not to repeat what you're doing on "Parks & Rec" or that's all you'll get to do.
I suppose so. It is interesting and it's something I've been watching from afar for a long time standing next to Megan [Mullally] -- watching the cast of "Will & Grace" and "Friends" and "Seinfeld" then continue to try and do other things. And I do see, I mean, I learned from my wife that she did a lot of heavy clowning on "Will & Grace," by which I mean that she had a hairdo and a voice -- so that it was really far from natural personality. And I remembered that when we were creating this show, so that was part of where his look came from. I want to have a look that I can take off and put on the shelf when I'm done and people won't recognize me at first glance. And Ron's constipated rictus that is his face and his demeanor -- you know, those are all classically trained clowning [laughs]. You know, I don't walk and stand like that. I don't hold my chin like that.

A coffee company recently came to me with a big campaign, and I had the champagne pleasure of turning down a top dollar campaign because this coffee company wrote these spots -- they might have well have lifted the dialogue from "Parks & Rec." And, you know, not only would it be in poor taste to do that, but it also would be illegal.

Does it feel good to be able to turn down that kind of money?
I guess it does. But it's pretty funny. If you had ever told me 10 years ago that I would turn down that amount of money for a commercial offer, I would have said, "You're crazy. Get closer, I want to punch you in the face."

You mentioned being a Chicago theater actor and we see you often wearing your Chicago Cubs hat. As someone who grew up in St. Louis, I see that as your only real fault.
[Pauses] Click.

It would have been funny if you had just hung up and this was over.
That would be so fucking good.

The Cardinals-Cubs rivalry is nice. It's not like Yankees-Red Sox.
Hey, man, I've been to Busch Stadium. I love it all. We wouldn't hate the Cardinals and we wouldn't hate the Mets if they weren't so goddamned good so, you know, our hauteur is only a compliment.

At Sundance the name of this movie was "Toy's House." Did you not like that title?
I'll tell you what. While I'm answering this question, I'm going to go into my phone and see if in my history of texts with the director I can find my list of alternative titles.

Oh, so you didn't like "Toy's House"?
Well, from the beginning, I said, "That's a bad title." It wasn't a matter of "did I like the title" or not, it's that title is confusing.

It was unique.
Absolutely. And he stood by it and the writer stood by it, the brilliant [screenwriter] Chris Galletta. Yep, here we go, I found it. The thing is, it was just confusing ... Would you like to hear the pitches that I sent to [director] Jordan Vogt-Roberts?

I would.
This was last fall. Here's the list of new title pitches: "Frank's Son's House," "Franky's Boy" -- I'm Frank ...

I know.
"Frank Toy and Son."

That's not bad.
That's pretty good. "Three Males."

OK?
"Snake Juice."

That's good.
"Pussy Time," "Wanton Phooey," "Cleveland Muff."

I would pay money just to watch you try to get a movie into theaters called "Pussy Time."
Fuck yeah. Watch me! There's just a few more. We shot this movie around this Cleveland neighborhood called Chagrin Falls -- a small town outside of Cleveland. So, "Chagrin Falls but Hope Floats," "Ketch-Obsession," because there's a ketchup scene. And then the last two don't really work because there's this great thing that was cut from the film. Early in the film, Joe is talking with his friends about getting laid, "Yeah, maybe one of these days we can sample the ham" ... it's just this weird euphemism for "pussy." And then in the last scene in which Joe and I have our last scene in the hospital cafeteria, I inadvertently say, "Well, son, I think you'll turn out OK. Maybe one day you will get to sample the ham." It was this really validating moment where his friends didn't know the figure of speech, but his dad did. For one reason or another, they did without it, but the last two title pitches were "Ham Fucker" and "Joe Versus the Ham."

Keep those saved somewhere. Those will come in handy someday for something else.
I bring the noise.

Does it ever surprise you how popular Ron Swanson has become?
In a word, yes. You know, I always love my roles. And a great many of my roles have gone without notice. I am just so incredibly grateful to be included in this collaboration called "Parks & Recreation"... And, so, yes, the fact that for some alchemical reason, Ron Swanson was singled out by the Internet as worthy of attention has been incredibly bizarre, wonderfully gratifying. And, ultimately, just really pleasing in that any attention that Ron gets or that Amy (Poehler) gets or Aziz (Ansari) gets -- any of our brilliant home run hitters -- it only brings attention to the show in a climate where network comedies have a really hard time staying afloat. I'm thrilled anytime anything makes people say, "What's that funny bit? Where's that from? Let's give them one point of rating."

The dance that you did while wearing the little hat was very popular.
Yes, yes.

Which could lead to new viewers.
Exactly. 'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished, to quote Hamlet.

That's a nice quote to end on. Also, I do hope people see this movie amidst the summer blockbusters.
You know, we don't have any big tits on the poster.

That's true.
Like Tom Cruise for example. But I guess he's more of a boob. But I still hope that it's going to be a sleeper hit. I feel like it is a surprisingly good-feeling movie. You know what I mean? It's very funny - a lot of comedy fans will see it. But I think it will spread to families. Like, "You should take your brother to go see this, it's really cool."

Those families might have balked at "Pussy Time," as opposed to the new title.
"The Kings of Pussy." Wait, what is it?

It's not "The Kings of Pussy."
"Summer of Pussy."

That's it.
"The Kings of Pussy Summer." I'm sitting here with the film's publicist and she's cringing.

Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

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Sundance Film Festival 2013

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