If there’s one thing Adam Scott wants you to know about him, it’s this: He might be the biggest Parks and Recreation fan around. Nerdily so, in fact. (His words, not ours.)
Sure, it sounds a little strange given that he’s actually on the NBC charmer, but that wasn’t always the case. See, Scott’s Season 2 guest arc had developed into a full-time gig by the beginning of Season 3 — long after he was a Pawnee devotee — giving him a free pass at super fandom just like the rest of us. With Emmy buzz (finally) swirling around Parks and Rec, TVLine spoke to Scott about making his dream gig a reality.
TVLINE | Parks and Recreation had this surge of funny throughout Season 2, but I think its safe to say that when you joined the show full-time in its third year, something even funnier was infused into the show.
Well, I was a big nerd for the show to begin with, so just walking around and being on the set and being able to look in the desk drawers and things felt like I was on a Universal Studios tour or something. [Laughs] I actually still do that, because Leslie’s office has all of these mementos from her life, like pictures of Hillary Clinton and the Jane Pauley autobiography — I still marvel at the set and the fact that I’m actually a part of this thing now. Anyway, coming into the show I already loved it and thought it was hilarious and amazing, so my only concern was not screwing it up. I didn’t feel like I was going to reinvigorate anything, all I was worried about was ruining something.
TVLINE | You do now realize that you’ve ruined nothing, right?
Well, I love being there, and the writers are incredible — Mike [Schur] and Greg [Daniels] are just amazing guys. They’ve written me great stuff and I’m very, very lucky to be there. It’s really a terrific place to work.
TVLINE | Still, it’s got to be a little strange coming into an already established show — though I imagine the Parks cast was very welcoming.
They were mostly welcoming. One weird thing is that Rashida Jones will pants any new person on the set — whether it be guest cast or a new permanent cast member or someone new on the crew — every day for the first two weeks. She just pulls your pants down, and it’s really embarrassing. And no one laughs or anything. It’s super awkward. She won’t stop pulling people’s pants down.
TVLINE | Seriously?!
No, I’m kidding! [Laughs] Everyone was cool. I actually knew Rashida, and I knew Nick [Offerman] because his wife Megan Mullally was on Party Down, so we’d hung out a lot. I’m a thoroughly nervous person anyway, so coming into this awesome show had me a little on edge — like the new kid at school. I didn’t know how I would do, but immediately everyone was super nice and there was no transition period as far as I could tell. It’s exactly like the show — they’re all really nice people who are passionate about their jobs.
TVLINE | You’ve said you were a big fan of Parks before joining, but was there one specific thing that initially attracted you to the role of Ben?
Honestly, what drew me to the part was the show itself. I didn’t even know what the part was, but when Mike told me about the “teen mayor” aspect of the character, that’s when I got super excited because that is fantastic. That is a great, great backstory. [Laughs] I still count my lucky stars that I get to have that story with my character. It’s just an endless well of embarrassment. Can you imagine your teenage years being on display? It’s even worse than being on a teenage sitcom because it was real. He was actually mayor and he actually got impeached, and it’s just awful. [Laughs]
TVLINE | Oddly enough, that Ice Town backstory tends to lead to give you some dramatic material — especially for a sitcom.
You know, I feel like comedy is mostly circumstantial. There’s not a whole lot of difference, at least for me, in the way I play things. When I watch Will Ferrell or Albert Brooks or Amy Poehler, for that matter, the funniest things are when they’re so deadly serious about something. It’s the circumstance the character is put in that’s where the comedy comes from. With Parks, they put me in this awful, humiliating circumstance and I can’t wink at the audience because then it wouldn’t be funny. So, I try to play it like it’s the most serious thing that I’ve ever done in my life — and hopefully that will make it funny.
TVLINE | To that point, you were actually a dramatic actor for most of you career — up until Step Brothers, I believe. Are you ever surprised that you’ve veered so successfully into comedy?
It’s funny, like a lot of people who are in comedy, I started out thinking I was going to be a dramatic actor. I was very, very serious and I used words like “craft” and “process” a lot. But at the end of the day when I really honestly look at when I was growing up and became a movie fanatic in the ’80s, it’s Beverly Hills Cop and Caddyshack and The Blues Brothers and The Jerk that I was watching incessantly. I wasn’t watching Raging Bull on a loop; that came later. So, when I kind of lucked out and got that part in Step Brothers and went on this path, it just felt so good and fun — it’s a blast. I love doing more serious stuff as well and will continue to, but I really enjoy comedy. There’s also a really terrific community built around it, with great people I’ve come to be friends with. Say I’m working at Parks and I’m on the way home and I get a call from someone who wants me to jump on stage at UCB and do something really fast — that’s so fun! I can still get home in time to put the kids in bed, and I just did two really cool things in one day. It’s not like there’s a community of dramatic actors doing heartbreaking readings each night. [Laughs] When I’m driving to work on Parks, I can’t wait to get there and I’m thinking about who I’m going to keep a straight face while shooting. But on the way to work on something like Tell Me You Love Me, which I thought was a great show, I was hoping I could cry properly when we lost the baby…. This path opens the day up to a lot more fun.
TVLINE | I imagine that whole “straight face” thing is a doozy on the Parks set. With so many of you coming from an improv background, is there much of that going on in each episode?
A little bit. It’s certainly not necessary given the writing staff we have. But usually at the end of a scene they give us a take to do whatever we want and we all screw around and improvise, though sometimes we don’t because it’s not necessary. Also, if you’re doing a talking head and there’s a joke, after several takes you can throw in any idea you might have. Though I think the best choice is the written one most of the time.
TVLINE | Which is exactly why Parks and Recreation is the perfect contender for some Emmy love.
I just like that in a sense Emmy nominations prompt people to — hopefully — watch the show. It’s all that any of us want out of this. It’s a nice opportunity for people who were maybe not familiar with the show to become aware of it. And if that’s what comes of this whole Emmy race, then that’s great.
TVLINE | Do any Parks moments pop out at you as your most favorite so far?
When Ben is in the house with April (Aubrey Plaza) and Andy and they’d just come back from Bed, Bath & Beyond, Chris shoots me with a marshmallow gun. We did that a bunch of times, and standing there not cowering — because I’m a giant p—y — or laughing… I was actually able to get through one without moving and I am incredibly proud of that.