Ron Swanson, the gruff character Nick Offerman plays on Parks and Recreation, would admire the actor's work ethic. Sitcoms and woodworking aside, Offerman has recently become an in-demand voice actor, voicing the title character on Fox's Axe Cop and also lending his skills to Disney XD's Gravity Falls and this year's box office smash The LEGO Movie.
Next, Offerman guest stars on this Sunday's episode of The Simpsons (8/7c on Fox), "The Wreck of the Relationship." He plays Captain Bowditch, who runs the "Relation Ship," an at-sea boot camp for families to resolve their personal problems. When the father-son dynamic between Homer and Bart becomes even more strained, Marge signs them up for the program, hoping they'll resolve their conflicts at sea.
Also on board: Cletus and his sons, Flanders and his boys, and Apu and his son. Captain Bowditch teaches the passengers how to live like sailors, but he may not be as together as he seems.
Offerman spoke with TV Guide Magazine about The Simpsons, the success of his Parks and Rec co-star Chris Pratt and what it's like at his day job as that NBC sitcom winds down.
TV Guide Magazine: You've become quite the animation voice actor, most recently with Axe Cop, The LEGO Movie and Gravity Falls. And now The Simpsons.
Nick Offerman: I have always loved animation and dreamed of getting to work in animation. So between Axe Cop and Bob's Burgers and Gravity Falls, and some other disparate jobs like The LEGO Movie, I've been able to work on some of the smartest and funniest animation happening. But nothing was ever going to quite satisfy me until the ultimate dream, which was getting to appear on The Simpsons.
TV Guide Magazine: How did you finally get The Simpsons call?
Offerman: I think they wrote the role of a drunk, jackass ship's captain and a friend of mine, Mike Scully, who's a veteran writer on The Simpsons, said, "Hey, you know who's a great drunk jackass? Nick Offerman!" And they probably tried to get three good people, and failing that, said, "All right, let's give this guy a try." I think I snuck in there and I'm happy Paul Giamatti was not available.
TV Guide Magazine: Mike Scully has also written for Parks and Recreation and appeared on camera several times as a disgruntled Pawnee resident. It's nice to see him return the favor.
Offerman: I'm greatly in his debt. Among the many gifts he has bestowed on me is he wrote the first "Ron and Tammy" episode, which to a lot of us is one of the legendary pieces of Parks and Recreation writing.
TV Guide Magazine: Tell me more about your Simpsons character, Captain Bowditch. He sounds very much like a classic gruff, manly man Nick Offerman role.
Offerman: I'm a big fan of wooden sailing ships and Victorian-era Her Majesty's Royal Navy. I've read all of the Patrick O'Brian novels and all the Horatio Hornblower series. And so sailing and sailor terminology and sea shanties are all an important part of my vernacular. I'm not even sure if Mike knew how accurately the suggestion for me as Captain Bowditch was. There, but before the grace of God, go I to become a modern man trying to live the romantic life — captaining a square-rig sailing vessel while maybe hitting the rum a little too hard.
TV Guide Magazine: Perhaps a sailing vessel he built with his own two hands?
Offerman: Well, he would have needed a little help. One man can build a boat perhaps up to 24 or 36 feet long. But a proper schooner or larger sailing ship, you're going to need some help.
TV Guide Magazine: What was it like doing a voice for The Simpsons? Did you get a chance to tape anything in person with the other actors?
Offerman: I did not, probably because of my own schedule. I was in Chicago on a book tour last fall and did the table read over the phone. You're hearing these amazing actors' voices, like Julie Kavner and Dan Castellaneta, and you're like, "Oh my God, that's Marge, and that's Homer." I had the great pleasure of working with Castellaneta a few times previously and he also recurs on Parks and Rec. If I was allowed to award one trophy in modern popular culture to anyone for their performance, I can't imagine anyone coming close to his body of work as Homer Simpson.
TV Guide Magazine: Any word on whether you'll be doing more Axe Cop?
Offerman: I think there's a lot of arm wrestling going on [at Fox], trying to figure out what they're going to do with the ADHD cartoon block. I am crazy about Axe Cop and certainly hope to do a great many more episodes of it. But I'm waiting in the dark like the rest of us.
TV Guide Magazine: How far along is production on Parks and Recreation?
Offerman: We're in the middle of shooting our seventh episode of our final 13. In the middle of December we wrap it up.
TV Guide Magazine: Was Chris Pratt back on Monday after hosting Saturday Night Live last weekend?
Offerman: A few of us went and saw him do it. You won't find a bigger Chris Pratt fan than myself. I was told later that production might have had a wheel or two come off during the evening. But as a proud sibling to Chris, I had nothing but stars in my eyes at what a beautiful job he did.
TV Guide Magazine: What an amazing year he has had. It must be fun to watch his career skyrocket.
Offerman: It's unbelievable. In this business you have friends that you see that potential in them and think, "Wow, if you took off a couple pounds, you could be a gorgeous linebacker and superhero." And lo and behold he's done it. The greatest secret he has is he's smarter than everyone else in the room. And I've been in a lot of rooms with him. He's a sharp cookie.
TV Guide Magazine: What's it been like on the set of Parks and Recreation as you head to the end?
Offerman: Even you just asking that question brought me to spontaneous sobbing. And I'm going to have to collect myself for a second. It's like having been on the most delicious sugar teat full of opium for seven years. Which, I'm not sure if you're familiar with opiates, but they're quite addictive. Or so I've read. And we're having that teat plucked from our suckling mouths and we're being unmercifully tossed into the winter cold.
TV Guide Magazine: I imagine saying "goodbye" is going to be tough.
Offerman: There's a lot of emotion going on. I wouldn't have it any other way. I believe my boss Mike Schur, and I can't be completely objective, made one of the finer television shows in my lifetime, and I've had the good fortune of having a good part on it. We've been able to wrap it up exactly how and when we wanted to. I'm grateful for the ending in that way, and that we're not being snuffed out by a bumbling network. But it's going to be traumatic. That show has brought me an incredible amount of good fortune. They're telling me now I'm going to be left to my own devices to try and get work. And I don't like those prospects.
Here's a first look at Offerman as Captain Bowditch on The Simpsons.