Sam Elliott & Nick Offerman – an odd couple, that on paper maybe you think twice about; but put them together in a scene and somehow it all makes perfect sense, Elliot’s laconic wit bouncing naturally off Offerman’s droll sarcasm. The two previously co-starred together on Parks and Recreation, and since then have developed a personal friendship – to the point where Elliott specifically asked Offerman to co-star in the indie drama The Hero.
In the film, Offerman co-stars as Jeremy, a former child-star-turned-weed-dealer, who serves as a confidante to Lee Hayden (Sam Elliott). Hayden, a fading Western actor, comes to Jeremy to reminisce and pass away the time in a smoke-filled haze. Offerman & Elliott have a number of terrific bits together, arguing over the merits of sharing your dreams and later practicing audition-sides – a scene that quickly turns from ridiculous to emotionally devastating. It’s a secondary subplot but in their brief screen-time together, Offerman & Elliott ably convey the camaraderie and shorthand only two real-life friends could share.
In the following interview with Nick Offerman, he discusses working opposite Sam Elliott, prepping for the role and his recent transition into producing. For the full interview, read below.
Collider: I really enjoyed the scene between you & Sam [Elliott], where you’re debating whether it’s appropriate to share your dreams. Where do you stand on this [pressing issue]?
Nick Offerman: I guess it depends on the context. My wife [Megan Mullally] has this photographic ability… She’ll wake up and tell me about a dream that has seventeen chapters and they all, in an ephemeral way, have to do with her well-being – so I’m invested in hearing and analyzing them; but they’re also fascinating, because for myself I really don’t remember dreams well at all. But I think there’s some truth generally to what Jeremy [Offerman’s character] says – that your dreams are always going to seem much more profound to you then they are to your friend.
To be fair – with your wife, listening to her dreams makes sense, but a stranger or a casual acquaintance may be a bit too much…
Offerman: Yeah — it depends on your investment in the dreamer’s journey.
…And if the dream’s an actual story that’s dramatic, then I understand…
Offerman: Yeah – her dreams are crazy. She’ll have a dozen characters. I’m just amazed about how her brain works versus mine.
Going back to the beginning – what was it about The Hero that made you want to co-star in it?
Offerman: It came to me through Sam. We were friends, having worked together on Parks and Rec. So he pitched me the movie before I read it. He said, ‘This young guy – Brett Haley – he’s real sharp. He wrote me this movie and I would love for you to play my buddy and weed dealer.’ Once Sam Elliott says that, you say, ‘Yes, when, and where please.’ But then I read it – and it’s good writing. I’m a character actor. I’ve done lots of small roles and I’m just glad to be part of the team. [This role] allowed me to show some colors I hadn’t really displayed, but more importantly I was just so grateful that [Brett] wrote this movie for Sam. I’m so happy I got to be a part of it because Sam’s incredible in it and it’s not the kind of thing we’ve ever got to see him do. After such a huge career, to have a revelatory experience like this, I think we should all buy Brett Haley a pony.
Is it humbling that Sam thinks of you to play his best friend?
Offerman: Yeah – it’s pretty freaky. I have to really keep my cool and mind my manners because I don’t understand how this happened. But life is like that. I feel the same way about my marriage. It doesn’t really add up on paper, but there I am nonetheless.
So much of the film is about an actor being pigeonholed into a certain role. Was that ever a concern for you as a comedic actor?
Offerman: Not really. In the Chicago Theater, where I started, you just do whatever’s on the season, so it may be a crazy comedy, might be a Shakespeare, might be an O’Neil tragedy… Only when you get into TV and film, do people really want you to be a ‘specialist’. If you’re big break is as a tennis player, then they don’t want to cast you in a basketball movie. It’s funny – I worked mostly in television drama for my first few years. I just kept guesting on NYPD Blues and CSI-like stuff, so when I started getting work in comedy, a lot of people in the business would say, ‘Oh – I didn’t know you did comedy.’ I don’t. I’m just an actor. I’m just thrilled if I get a job. I don’t worry too much about what medium it is or if it’s funny or sad. I just hope it’s good writing. It seems like Ron Swanson could very well have pigeonholed me for the rest of my life but it makes me grateful that I’m still being allowed to pursue other roles.