The success of a comedic character is often more connected to an actor’s performance than the scripted words he or she is saying, which makes the job of a casting director arguably the most unsung gig in the business. For instance, can you imagine anyone else but Nick Offerman playing the burly, meat-loving outdoorsman Ron Swanson in Parks and Recreation? Neither could the excellent Allison Jones, who worked a bit of well-played magic in order to get Offerman on the show.
When the Parks and Recreation pilot was being cast, Jones had Offerman in mind, being a big fan of his work as both a comedian and an actor. Unfortunately, the network execs weren’t quite as impressed with him whenever Jones brought him in to read for the role. Rather than cut her losses and switch her sights on other actors, Jones bided her time for a few weeks and then coyly made it seem like the producers were totally into Offerman the whole time.
“Your instincts about Nick Offerman were good,” she told them. “Let’s bring him back.” And what do you know? They agreed to meet with him again, and the fictional fight against small town government would have its new poster
child manly man. And as Jones puts it to the New Yorker, this was hardly an isolated incident.
It’s no mystery that network producers are sometimes the most creatively stifling part of a TV series, and that their decision-making skills are more guided by logistics than artistic instincts. But Jones, who frequently works with Judd Apatow and Paul Feig, just takes that and works with it, always trusting herself. As another “for instance,” take Offerman’s Parks and Recreation co-star Chris Pratt.
Before becoming one of the biggest and most charismatic stars in pop culture, Pratt was known for his work on teen-centric dramas like The O.C. and Everwood. But once Jones met him, she figured out that his comedic side was a huge draw, and once she introduced him to show creator Greg Daniels, they had to completely reimagine the role of Andy Dwyer. Here’s how Daniels put it.
Granted, that first season of Parks and Recreation wasn’t exactly comedic gold, but it didn’t take long for Season 2 to make the show feel like a future classic, thanks in large part to Offerman’s stoic demeanor and Pratt’s manic dimness. And we have Allison Jones to thank for both of them.
Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.
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