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When WILL & GRACE became the hit it did, your wife Megan was catapulted to an entirely different level in terms of fame. Did getting to experience that alongside her help you in dealing with the popularity of Ron Swanson?
Well Megan is about 11 years older than me, and interestingly she got WILL & GRACE right about at the same age that I got PARKS AND RECREATION and it’s been one of the great blessings of our marriage, having gone through all these lessons on Megan’s arm, sort of learning vicariously how to deal when all of these new pressures come into our lives. Of course, the difference between us is that Megan is so brimming with talent that her whole life, even though she didn’t get her “big break” until WILL & GRACE, her whole life her talent was being recognized — either on the Broadway stage or as a young women in Chicago — she was by far the young ingenue of Chicago musical theatre in the early to mid 80′s. In fact, William Morris snatched her up and there was a moment she was going to have Rebecca De Mornay’s part in Risky Business but then they changed producers and re-cast things. You know, she’s had moments. She has a scene in About Last Night where she’s the girl that Rob Lowe makes out with her where Demi Moore decides to try and dump him. Everyone has known she was a knock out star and it is a testament to how hard the business is that it took Megan Mullally to the age of 38 to break out on a national level. If you ever see her in a broadway musical you’d be like what is the f*ck going on? She’s a tiny beautiful elfin women and she walks on stage and everything you ever heard of Ethel Merman comes to mind. Just a light explodes from behind her and her voice just knocks you over… can you tell I’m a fan?
Yes, and to be perfectly honest, it’s ridiculously sweet.
We feel very lucky in that regard. I can’t sing like Megan, so I always say that she’s like an incredible chocolate cake and I’m like a pint of Guinness. We’re both delicious, but mine is a much more acquired taste. Maybe it’s a bigger astonishment to me that I got a part like this than it was to Megan, but I certainly am so much better prepared for a lot of the new parts of my life being in the limelight to the extent that I am from watching Megan go through it first.
Does recognition in the form of Emmys mean anything to you, or is it simply as Ron Swanson might put it the icing on the cake the steak sauce on the steak?
Again watching Megan going through a serious Emmy run, I think Megan had 7 nominations in a row and she won the first and last which is pretty cool. Going through that with her you see it’s not a meritocracy, there are too many shows, too many amazing performers and so it’s not like a foot race where I hope I can outrun Chris Colfer in the 100 meter dash. But that’s how it sort of plays out. It brings a sort of sporting analogy, like we’re going to give a trophy to the champion of comedy, by the way I would love to sees a foot race between Neil Patrick Harris and Chris Colfer. Last year for example we felt like we could have got a nomination for a show but the thing is there are so many networks. For example, Showtime has these great shows that are a different breed than traditional comedies. I think Laura Linney is going to be up for a best female in comedy and you’re like well obviously Laura Linney is a great actor of our generation, she’s not in the same file drawer as Steve Carell and Alec Baldwin when you think of comedy. So when you look at all those really disparate factors you can’t really get invested in what it means or if the Emmys bestow any meaning beyond a pat on the back.
Having said that I love a pat on the back as much as the next guy and my answer to this question is always with a great Robin Williams quote I read years ago in an interview. He said, “For an actor getting a job is a job and when you get a job that’s your vacation.” And it couldn’t be more true because all we’re ever trying to do is get a stage, get a platform so that an audience can see what we love to do. Ever since i started theatre I’ve likened it to giving people medicine because that’s what it feels like when you have 300 people laughing in a live theatre. So if getting a job is your vacation, getting this job on PARKS AND RECREATION is the best critics award I could ever receive.
Any Emmy or any other award is a wonderful pat on the back and of course it would be great to get that pat on the back but I’m much more invested in Mike Schur and the show winning some trophies and Amy [Poehler] because I’m the lucky kid who showed up and got the part of Ron Swanson, but Mike Schur and Greg Daniels, these guys have been turning out some of the greatest heartfelt comedy that we’ve all been enjoying from SNL to THE SIMPSONS to KING OF THE HILL and THE OFFICE to this. I would rather see Mike Schur win three Emmys then me even get an invitation because if I win a trophy or if anybody else on our show does, a large slice of that deserves to go to Mike Schur.
What would Ron Swanson say about all the hullabaloo surrounding the Emmys?
Ron Swanson wouldn’t have even taken your phone call. He wouldn’t have anything to say because he’d have been outside fashioning a bow from Osage Orange to get rid of a few of the pesky blackbirds around his house.
The TV Addict blogs at theTVaddict.com.
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