Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally on doing small movies, together
The dominant power couple in the world shifts on the whim of a fickle populace. Right now, for some, the greatest — or just most wonderful — power couple is Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally. Married since 2003, the two have seen a shift in their careers: once Mullally was the one with the hit show (“Will and Grace”). Now it’s him, as burly libertarian carnivore Ron Swanson on “Parks and Recreation.” To add to their loveliness, they tend to work together on the same projects, as that way they don’t have to spend any time apart. In “The Kings of Summer,” Offerman plays the widowed father of a teenager who runs away from home to live in the woods with his bros. Mullally plays the mother of one of his friends, which affords them only a few scenes together.
You’ve both been doing a lot of smaller films lately, often together. In your words, what is the appeal of these type of projects?
Mullally: I think we both love doing indie movies. It’s kind of the equivalent of the 99-seat play. You have the feeling that you have more creative leeway and you can make it be the way you want it to be. When everyone is on a level playing field and nobody is getting paid, I think everyone pitches in equally and has the same kind of desire to create something good.
Offerman: We choose material, first and foremost, based on scripts that we think are very good. Scripts that don’t go through the corporate regime are going to end up better because they’ll retain somebody with a beautiful artistic vision and/or a great sense of humor. That will come through in an independent script much more so than a studio project. Those can’t help but be homogenized by the standards and practices, the Coca-Cola people.
How did you get involved in “The Kings of Summer?”
Offerman: They were looking for sort of a gruff guy who could also tell a joke, and Russell Crowe wasn’t available. Chris Colletta’s script was poignant, beautiful and heartfelt but also had a terrific sense of humor. It often happens with Megan and I, one of us gets a job on something and the producers will say, “Can we get your spouse interested in this?” If one of us loves the script the other is happy to jump on board, too. It also affords us the opportunity to, instead of spending two weeks apart while out in Cleveland, be there together and have fun working on it together. There are a lot of perks to it.
Nick, what has appealing about your character?
Offerman: At the moment I’m having a lot of really nice opportunities that have come from the popularity of “Parks and Rec.” Among them are not a lot of nice meaty roles with a full emotional arc. So the script that I thought was really funny but also allowed me to take a character from A to B was incredibly appealing to me.
It seems like there were lots of spaces in the script for you guys to riff.
Offerman: The going technique is to go with a really great script and get a really great cast. You have to shoot your scenes as written because you need all the story points. Chris Colletta’s script was wonderful and there was no need to embellish it. You happen to have some of the greatest improvisers in the nation of America. You take the script and shoot the scenes and then you say “Let’s f— around,” and you end up with a handful of gold nuggets that you’d be crazy not to plug into your film.
Today’s comedy scenes seem to be very fraternal.
Mullally: It started around 2006 or 2007 when people started moving out in mass from New York, a lot of the “SNL” people. It’s great because you really do have a feeling of supportiveness, competition, a feeling that when people that I’ve cast for my own projects are going to return that favor. You’d think in comedy it would be more competitive but it isn’t.
Offerman: Also, a great many of us buy cocaine from the same dealer in Culver City.
Mullally: Don’t ask for his name.
Offerman: He told me that he would introduce me to Vince Vaughn but he did not.
Should we just assume that the way you work together in film is how you interact at home?
Mullally: We joke with each other just to make each other crack up. In “The Kings of Summer,” we don’t have that much cross over. I think it is the same. I think it is kind of like how we would be just together alone.