Nick Offerman's Best Dramatic Roles, Including The Last Of Us

Bill sitting outside having wine in HBO's The Last of Us
(Image credit: HBO)

There are many reasons why critics and audiences are raving about HBO’s series adaptation of the popular video game, The Last of Us — one of them being the gripping love story at the center of its third episode, “Long, Long Time.” Some viewers may have been especially surprised to see former Parks and Recreation cast member, Nick Offerman, turn in such a moving serious performance in the episode, but this was actually far from the comedian’s first rodeo. See for yourself with this reflection on the more dramatic portrayals from Offerman’s filmography so far, starting with this most recent instant classic.

Bill and Frank in The Last of Us.

(Image credit: HBO)

Bill - The Last Of Us (2023)

By diverting a bit from the source material, the third episode of The Last of Us redefined the characters of Bill (Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett) for the better by making them the focus of an epic, thought-provoking, and, by the end, devastating romance. The story could not have been as captivating without Offerman and his impassioned performance, which starts off feeling like how Ron Swanson might spend the end of days, and concludes with a wonderful and inspiring message of making the most out of life with what you have.

Nick Offerman on Devs.

(Image credit: FX/hulu)

Forest - Devs (2020)

If there is any similarity between Ron Swanson and Offerman’s character from this haunting and ferociously complex Hulu exclusive sci-fi miniseries, it is a profound ability to intimidate. The actor makes a shockingly unnerving antagonist on creator Alex Garland’s Devs as Forest — the owner of a mysterious tech company that computer engineer Lily Chan (Sonoya Mizuno) believes is linked to her boyfriend’s recent disappearance.

Nick Offerman in The Founder.

(Image credit: The Weinstein Company)

Dick McDonald - The Founder (2016)

Years before playing a shady businessman on Devs (to put it lightly), Offerman played the victim of one named Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) in The Founder — director John Lee Hancock’s drama based on the infamous origins of the fast food empire, McDonald’s. His performance as Dick McDonald also ranks among his most heartbreaking as you watch the charming optimism slowly fade away as he and his brother, Mac’s (John Carroll Lynch) own creation is slowly and maliciously stolen right from underneath them.  

Nick Offerman in Bad Times At The El Royale

(Image credit: Fox)

Felix O'Kelly - Bad Times At The El Royale (2018)

Also robbed of a happy ending is Felix O’Kelly, who opens writer and director Drew Goddard’s star-studded noir, Bad Times at the El Royale, with a bang in his first and only scene. While lasting mere minutes, the sequence is a testament to Offerman’s ability to make an impact with very little at his disposal as he spend much of the four minutes grunting, mumbling, and taking his hotel room floorboards apart to hide money, which I am sure his real-life experience with carpentry leant itself to wonderfully.

Nick Offerman in Nostalgia

(Image credit: Bleecker Street)

Henry - Nostalgia (2018)

Also in 2018, Offerman starred in another ensemble drama comprised of interwoven stories about human connection by way of our own emotional relationship with material objects. As Henry in Nostalgia — directed by Mark Pellington, who also co-wrote the film with Alex Ross Perry — the actor holds his own wonderfully opposite Academy Award winner Ellen Burstyn as his mother, Helen, whom he welcomes into his home after her house burns down.

Nick Offerman in Hearts Beat Loud.

(Image credit: Stage 6 Films)

Frank Fisher - Hearts Beat Loud (2018)

Also in 2018, Offerman took on the parental role this time in co-writer and director Brett Haley’s feel-good, under-the-radar indie dramedy, Hearts Beat Loud. He is irresistibly charming and emits real raw emotion with his performance as Frank Fisher — a widowed record store owner who starts a band with his daughter, Sam (Clemons), in an attempt to bond with her before she leaves for college.

Colin In Black & White cast

(Image credit: Netflix)

Rick Kaepernick - Colin In Black & White (2021)

Offerman also played the father of one of the most prolific — and also controversial — figures in modern sports, Colin Kaepernick, in Netflix’s biographical limited series, Colin in Black & White, from co-creator Ava DuVernay. While sometimes serving as a, sort of, comic relief with a certain “goofy dad” approach to the role, he is equally effective in the show’s more serious scenes which highlight the most formative moments of the future athlete’s teen years.

Nick Offerman on Fargo.

(Image credit: FX)

Karl Weathers - Fargo, Season 2 (2015)

Offerman is also quite hilarious in the otherwise bleak and bizarre second season of FX’s Coen Brothers-inspired anthology series as drunken attorney Karl Weathers, who is brought in to defend Jesse Plemons’ character, Ed Blumquist, essentially, because he is the only lawyer in town. He really steals the show from the Fargo Season 2 cast, channeling his roots as a theatre actor to deliver dialogue apropos of a Shakespeare play, despite the season’s 1970s Minnesota setting.

Nick Offerman in The Hero

(Image credit: The Orchard)

Jeremy Frost - The Hero (2017)

Offerman would reunite with recurring Parks and Rec guest star Sam Elliott — who played a character also named “Ron” — in his first collaboration with Hearts Beat Loud director Brett Haley, The Hero. Also one of Elliott’s best movies, the film is a showcase of the Academy Award nominee’s wonderful chemistry with Offerman, who plays a friend and marijuana dealer to Elliott’s character, Lee Hayden.

Nick Offerman in Sin City

(Image credit: Dimension)

Burt Shlubb - Sin City (2005)

Out of all of Offerman’s more dramatic roles, the one I was most surprised to find comes from Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s visually glorious adaptation of Miller’s graphic novel series, Sin City, from 2005. I completely forgot that he was in this highly inventive, film noir movie-inspired favorite because he is almost completely unrecognizable as low-rent criminal Burt Shlubb, who — like Felix in Bad Times at the El Royale — does not say much, but has a memorably imposing presence on screen, nonetheless.

So, as you can see — even though was not the first choice to play Bill on The Last of Us — Nick Offerman was always the right choice for the role, having had more than enough dramatic acting under his belt to prepare.

Jason Wiese
Content Writer

Jason Wiese writes feature stories for CinemaBlend. His occupation results from years dreaming of a filmmaking career, settling on a "professional film fan" career, studying journalism at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO (where he served as Culture Editor for its student-run print and online publications), and a brief stint of reviewing movies for fun. He would later continue that side-hustle of film criticism on TikTok (@wiesewisdom), where he posts videos on a semi-weekly basis. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.