It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Nick Offerman playing Ron Swanson, the hardened, mustachioed outdoorsman and boss on “Parks and Recreation.”
In Offerman’s memoir, “Paddle Your Own Canoe,” the comedian recalls the gut-wrenching five months of auditioning he endured to get the role — and how a Post-it Note helped him land the gig in the end.
In Fall 2008, rumour had it that producers Greg Daniels and Michael Schur were making a spin-off of “The Office” starring Amy Poehler. Offerman and his wife Megan Mullally watched the US reboot of “The Office” religiously.
“I would often remark, ‘If I’m going to make it, if I’m ever going to get my shot, it’s going to be on a show like this, in a part like Rainn [Wilson]’s,'” Offerman writes in “Paddle Your Own Canoe.”
At the time, Offerman had been in the industry for 12 years. The highlights reel of his career included an off-Broadway play, a recurring role on the ABC comedy “George Lopez,” improv shows at Upright Citizens Brigade — the improv theatre run by Poehler — and a one-line part in George Clooney’s 2009’s film “The Men Who Stare at Goats.”
Years earlier, Allison Jones, LA’s most top-drawer casting director, had called Offerman in to read for the role of Michael Scott, the lead of “The Office.” She called him in again to audition for “Parks and Recreation.”
The show’s creators Daniels and Schur initally had Offerman read for a different role, named Josh (who Adam Scott also auditioned for). Josh was “devilishly handsome and charming and funny,” and would be a romantic interest for Rashida Jones’ character, Ann.
Offerman and his wife Mullally spent endless hours reading lines in their kitchen. “This is it. This writing. Oh my god, this is it,” Mullally said to him. “Don’t f— this up, fat boy.”
He didn’t get the part. (The character Josh disappeared from the script.)
Producers approached Daniels and Schur and pretty much said, you’re joking, right? But Daniels and Schur didn’t give up. They said to NBC, “OK. You’re right, you’re right, he’s really unattractive. But we really want Nick on the show. We have this other part we wrote, the part of Amy’s boss, so we’d like to put Nick in that part. His name is Ron Swanson.”
Four agonizing months of auditioning dragged on before he (and seasoned sitcom actor Mike O’Malley) were asked to come in one last time and improvise a couple of Leslie and Ron scenes with Poehler on tape. When Schur called with the good news, Offerman cried. And cried.
“I cried like a little baby boy who has just dropped his bacon slice in a pile of cow s—,” Offerman says.
He also learned on that call that he was destined for the role.
Schur told him that three years earlier, he was in the room when Offerman auditioned for a small guest-star part on “The Office.” Although a scheduling conflict prevented Offerman from getting the part, Schur was sold.
“He liked something about me,” Offerman recalls. “So he went home and wrote my name on a yellow Post-it note and adhered it to the bottom of his computer monitor, where it remained for three years until they were creating ‘Parks and Rec,’ and he said, among other things, ‘I want this guy on the show.'”
Offerman and his wife agreed, had he gotten any of the other major roles he auditioned for along the way, he may never have found his bliss on “Parks and Recreation.”
“Everthing happened for the reason that you were meant to get this job,” Mullally said to him.
The final season of “Parks and Recreation” airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.
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