From 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] We’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.
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.
TVLINE | 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.