This is a crucial week in American politics.
In recognition of that event — and in tandem with a “Parks and Recreation” story that will appear soon online and in this Sunday’s Style section — Celebritology is throwing a Pawnee-palooza right here in the blog. In the coming days, we’ll publish multiple interviews with “Parks and Rec” cast and crew, as well as photos taken during my recent visit to the set.
First up: a conversation with Adam Scott, the actor who plays Ben Wyatt, the intelligent and slight but powerful (Leslie’s words) manager of the Knope 2012 campaign. During a break from shooting the season finale back in February, Scott let me crash on the sofa in his trailer and ask him questions about Ben’s career prospects, his political persuasions and what’s on the horizon for him and Leslie.
In the process, I was treated to the sight of Nick Offerman bursting in briefly to mention LSD and I learned a little something about Chris Pratt’s artistic abilities.
Here’s an abridged account of our conversation.
So when is your character going to get another job?
Scott: Well, I’m Leslie’s campaign manager.
Right, but that’s a finite job.
Scott: When the election’s over, when the campaign’s over, then yeah. I’m going to have to find a job of some sort.
Scott: I don’t know what it is. I have no idea.
What would you like it to be?
Scott: What would I like it to be? I don’t know. I think Ben thrives in number and politics and public service. I would hope it’s something in there. But at the same time I really like it when they throw me into situations I don’t like, so — I don’t know. I like seeing these characters really happy. I think it’s really nice. And they’re able to mine comedy out of people doing what they passionately love. It doesn’t have to be — the writers on this show seem to be able to mine laughs out of just about anything, so I kind of leave all of that to them because whatever idea I might have, theirs is always better.
What about the stop-motion animation thing as a potential career path?
Scott: Oh yeah. As anyone knows, a career in stop-motion animation is a lucrative, dependable one. I think it’s a real missed opportunity that Ben just let that one go. Not only is he talented, but I’m intrigued by that story he’s coming up with for that man who got up from a bed in a room.
He chose the music well.
Scott: Yes! R.E.M., “Stand.” You can’t get better than that.
Scott: Yes. So I don’t know. I don’t know what it’s going to be. I’m sure they will find something.
Did you know Amy Poehler before you started working on the show?
Scott: I did not.
You had never met her at all?
Scott: We actually met one time at the “SNL” after-party. It must have been a year before I started the show? I don’t know if she even remembers that. We met super-quick, in passing. But yeah, I didn’t know her at all.
There’s a great chemistry between you.
Scott: Oh, thank you.
How did that develop? It seems odd to ask whether you worked on it, because it’s either there or it’s not.
Scott: Right. I don’t know, that’s a good question. I guess we just started working together and I loved working with her immediately. So I always felt very comfortable with Amy and she’s obviously hilarious. I mean, I think she’s, aside from hilarious, she’s one of the best actresses alive so I immediately felt so lucky to be there. I was so comfortable and thrilled that I got to do this.
Did you audition for Ben or did they come to you?
Scott: You know, I auditioned for the show back when it was a pilot. Before they had roles, really. Nick [Offerman] and I were auditioning at the same time. I think it was before they had characters really. Obviously I didn’t get it. A few years later — two years later? A year and a half? Something like that — when “Party Down” was winding down, they just asked if I wanted to join up. And I jumped at the chance.
So they had written the character with you in mind?
Scott: Oh, I don’t know about that. But I know they wanted to have a character come in and see if it worked out. I think they just wrote it as a character and I fit the bill a little bit.
I don’t know if Ben has mentioned this on the show, but I don’t think I know what his politics are. How would you describe his leanings, or do you know what they are?
Scott: It has not been addressed and I think that’s the nature of the show. It’s about the people inside the government. It’s not so much about the political leanings of any of the people inside the government. But I like to think that Ben is a Democrat.
Just because of your own personal inclinations?
Scott: Yeah, and I think Ben’s a smart character and — I think there are many, many brilliant Republicans and many brilliant Democrats as well. I don’t know, just as kind of the young mayor and being a political junkie and all that. From where I sit, I just always kind of figured that [he was a Democrat], but it’s not been addressed and I don’t know if it ever would be. But I know that Leslie talks fondly of President Obama and I personally feel very fondly about President Obama and Michelle Obama. I think they’re wonderful.
Do you consider yourself a political junkie?
Scott: You know, I used to be. I honestly got burnt out after the last election because it was so emotionally draining to kind of go on. It was such a huge moment historically and I feel like the lead-up to it after eight years of Bush and then finally getting someone in there who’s an inspiring figure and a wildly intelligent person — I stepped back from the blogs. Because I used to read all that stuff every single day. Huffington and Drudge and The Post and New York Times and all of that.
I was a political junkie and it just exhausted me and after Obama won, I just kind of unplugged from all of that for a while. I became more engaged late last year when the Republican debates really started and I started getting a little more engaged because it was sort of knocking at the door. Now I’m fully engaged and enjoying it.
Around this point in the interview, Nick Offerman bursts into Scott’s trailer.
Offerman: Adam, thank you so much for the acid — oh! Feigns surprise upon seeing a reporter, the same reporter he had spoken to moments ago.
Scott: It’s fine. We’re on LSD right now.
Offerman: I meant the acid . . . acidophilus tablets.
Offerman: My stool is doing really great. Okay. Pardon me, you guys.
Scott, gesturing to Offerman: We’re a couple health nuts.
The sound of Offerman giggling can be heard as he exits.
I have to ask you, what is that drawing on your board?
Scott: Which one?
Well, all of them, really. The yellow one.
Scott: That is a drawing that Chris Pratt drew of a man with giant testicles.
That was my sense of what it was, but I had to ask. Because it also could be weird knees, possibly.
Scott: No, they are definitely testicles. The one next to it is an insane clown, “quote,” from my son. Oh no, this one’s by Poehler, that’s my son and that’s Chris Pratt.
Okay. This one is Amy? [gesturing toward the testicle drawing]
Scott: No, wait. No, Amy didn’t — who did that one? I don’t think Amy is represented here. That might be … Nick [points to testicle drawing]. That is my son. [Points to “insane clown”] And that [pointing to another drawing] is Chris Pratt.
Yeah, that has his signature.
Scott: He signed that. It’s going to be worth something.
What is that supposed to be? Is that a lizard-horse?
Scott: It’s some weird thing. He draws all these weird things. Oh! It’s, he didn’t take the pen off the page. That’s one line. That’s his trick that he does. The many talents of Chris Pratt.
We sit back down and the interview resumes.
In terms of your character’s relationship with Amy’s character — you had the whole obstacle with her dating you while you were her boss, and you leaving the government job. And you got past that. Are there other obstacles you can foresee for them?
Scott: Yeah. I mean, there’s always something. And uh — yeah, there’s always something.
Is there going to be something?
That you know about, but you’re not saying?
Because you’d get in trouble?
Scott: That’s right! But yeah, there’s always something. And there could be big things and there could be small things. I think there might be something around the corner that could be tough.
Is it something that will happen in the finale?
Scott: I don’t know. Maybe.