Eye on Emmy: Adam Scott Breaks Down the Art of Parks and Rec Romance, Ben's Geek Affinity

Parks and Recreations Adam Scott EmmysFrom saying “I do” to taking on Washington D.C. to adoring Game of Thrones above (almost) all else, Parks and Recreation‘s Ben Wyatt did it all in Season 5. And it was his portrayer Adam Scott who brought to life each of those moments with an impressive seamlessness.

Since joining the acclaimed NBC comedy at the end of its second season, the actor — whose lengthy list of previous credits includes TV’s Party Down and Tell Me You Love Me, as well as big-screen offerings Step Brothers and Piranha — has stood out among one of television’s most talented ensembles (which includes Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman, to name a few). And yet still his endearingly nerdy, heartwarmingly romantic alter ego has gone unnoticed by Emmy voters. Will this be the year his award-worthy performance garners some long-overdue recognition?

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TVLINE | You – along with your on-screen other-half Amy Poehler — seem to have mastered the art of making the “perfect” romance funny and realistic instead of overly sweet or sappy. What’s your secret?
It really comes down to the writing. All along, [creator] Mike [Schur] and the writers have written [this relationship] so spot-on and so perfectly that the audience was able to go on that journey with the characters and really watch it unfold. When you do that, I don’t think there’s any need for sappiness. Over-sentimentality [comes] when you’re trying to skip a few steps and push it along where it isn’t already naturally occurring. Since they wrote it so well, it was just never necessary. And I’m really proud of that. I’m proud of being in this business relationship that really feels real. Amy and I also care very much for the characters and the relationship, so we also didn’t want to push it where it wasn’t already naturally occurring.

TVLINE | The chemistry between the two of you really is incomparable. How does that working relationship compare to others in your lengthy career?
Amy is the best person you could possibly work off of. She’s my favorite actress. We’re good friends [in real life], and then when we have scenes together, there’s just this thing that clicks. Honestly, when I see on the call sheet that we have a scene together, I still get really excited. It’s always something different. It’s not like we revert back to some holding pattern that we have. She always totally surprises me, and I always try to surprise her — although I’m a much less agile performer than she is in a lot of ways. [Laughs] Parks and Recreations Adam Scott EmmysWe’re just genuinely having a lot of fun when we’re doing these scenes, no matter how short or long or serious or funny.

TVLINE | Ben and Leslie’s spur-of-the-moment wedding was certainly a highlight this season, and really epitomized what we love about your character, specifically.
It was such a great evening. We shot it at night. It was just so fun and truly moving when we were doing it. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, even though it was a fake. We were all invested in it.

TVLINE | You actually began this season with Ben away from the group, which had to feel a little strange given the ensemble nature of Parks.
It was like having this separate sitcom, and it was a blast. I really liked what they did with [Aubrey Plaza and I] there in Washington D.C. The characters of Ben and April are so diametrically opposed, so it was fun to put them in a room together… And then the two of us coming back to Pawnee was perfectly timed. That’s one thing that Mike Schur is really brilliant at; he knows television so well that he’s able to know the exact moment [something should happen]. He knew exactly when to bring us back and to make [Ben and Leslie’s] engagement happen, which surprised almost everybody.

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TVLINE | And then there’s the disdain-fueled dynamic between Ben and Jean-Ralphio and/or Mona Lisa — which Mike Schur has been vocal about loving. What is happening there? Is that Adam, the actor, shining through?
[Laughs] It is a little bit how I react sometimes with people. Ben just does not understand what’s happening. These are horrible, horrible human beings, and they’re always around. He can’t escape them. So, I find myself just gaping at them, like I can’t believe what they’re saying and doing. But [their portrayers] Ben Schwartz and Jenny Slate are incredible.

TVLINE | Relationships aside, I think some of your strongest stuff is when Ben is geeking out over Fringe or Game of Thrones… or anything! How much of that is you versus what’s on the page?
The Game of Thrones thing is all the writers. I’ve never seen Fringe, but I do passionately love Game of Thrones. And you did just interrupted me re-watching Season 1 of Battlestar Galactica, so you do the math on that. [Laughs]

TVLINE | Do you look forward to bringing to life those little gems when you come across them in a script?
Yeah, I love it. And I’m friends with the Game of Thrones guys, so I always e-mail [co-showrunner David] Benioff to tell him proudly that there’s another Game of Thrones reference coming down the pike. And he’s super psyched whenever that happens, so it’s cool.

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Parks and Recreations Adam Scott EmmysTVLINE | I don’t actually remember Ben being so nerdy early on. Do you think he’s changed pretty significantly since arriving in Pawnee?
He has. When the character came in, he was pretty closed off. He was this person who was always on the road, traveling from town to town and ruining people’s lives. He was running from his past a bit — that embarrassing past. [Laughs] But when you find a home and fall in love, it does change you. There’s always going to be some outsider status, because he’s still getting used to this town — and it seems like every episode, there’s a new, weird thing that Ben did not realize was going on.

TVLINE | So, you’re now an actor, writer, producer and director – what’s next?
Gosh, I don’t know. That’s a good question, and I should probably come up with an answer for it. [Laughs] For now, I’m just enjoying Parks and Recreation. If I had my way, it would go on forever. It’s really wonderful and I love all the people. After many not-perfect gigs, this is a perfect gig.

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  1. Faith says:

    Aww “perfect gig.” From the viewer’s standpoint a pretty perfect show so that sounds about right.

  2. Scott says:

    P&R was the best sitcom on tv last season. Ben and Leslie are the most realistic couple on tv at the moment, they have fantastic chemistry and play off each other so well. More Ben and Leslie stuff in Season 6 please even though Ron and Diane will probably be the focused couple this Fall after that season 5 finale cliffhanger.

  3. Dave says:

    Best comedy on TV since it’s second season. I’ll never understand why the Emmys and other award shows continue to shower Modern Family (a fine show, but certainly not the best, and not as good or as consistent as it was in its first season) with accolades and largely ignore Parks and Rec. If the supporting actor category at the Emmys is once again all 4 main actors from Modern Family and not a single actor from Parks and Rec, something is seriously wrong. And Amy Poehler needs to win. It’s criminal that she keeps losing year after year. Hands-down the best comedic actress on TV.

    • Austin says:

      After watching all of the Lead Actress episodes every year, it’s always a shocker when Amy loses like Steve Carrell.

  4. Babybop says:

    I love him! And I miss Party Down…

  5. Joey says:

    Great interview. Adam have been great on Parks & Rec since he joined the show. I hope he gets an Emmy nomination.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I love this man so much and I really hope that Parks and Rec gets some Emmy love this year. Amy deserves so many awards and it is a tragedy that the only one she has ever won is an MTV movie award for peeing in a sink…

  7. Michelle says:

    Love him! Really hope to see him nominated, along with Poehler, Pratt and the show itself. I’ve never understood why awards shows (and Nielsen audiences) have largely ignored this wonderful series. Crossing my fingers people discover it – or give it a second chance – when it goes into syndication in the fall.

  8. Krystan says:

    I love this show. The addition of Adam Scott and Rob Lowe led me to watch the series and I am so glad I did. I am obsessed with it now! I am a little disappointed to find out that the Fringe love isn’t real. Just don’t tell me the Harry Potter love isn’t either! Great show, great cast, great writing! This show deserves way more attention.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Poehler has said that she has never read the series… maybe that will change now that she has two young boys…

      • Krystan says:

        At least Mike Schur seems to like it. I really love when one of my favorite shows references something else that I love. More Fringe and HP references!

  9. Spencer says:

    By far, my favorite television series of all time and one of my favorite actors of all time. I truly hope he gets a nom, him and the entire cast deserve it.

  10. Reblogged this on Thoughts on Pop and commented:
    YES YES YES YES! I would be SOOO happy to see Parks nominated in a new category, especially for acting. This is one of the most consistently funny shows on TV, and it doesn’t often receive the credit it’s due.

  11. moobear says:

    Hey tvline can we get a “like” button, there are a lot of great comments here!

  12. Lisa says:

    No mention of his stints in Burning Love (seasons 1 & 2) or the Greatest Event in the History of Television – those are definitely worth a mention – especially with Amy costarring in the Greatest Event…2 where they recreated Hart to Hart :-)