The overwhelming majority of Parks and Recreation fans would agree that the show would not have been what it is without the character Ron Swanson. Ron’s disdain for the government and gruff yet charismatic demeanor is the perfect foil to the character of Leslie Knope. But NBC (the network that housed Parks and Recreation) nearly robbed fans of getting to experience Nick Offerman’s brilliant portrayal of the iconic role by initially rejecting him from the cast.
Though Offerman became a household name after he was cast in Parks and Recreation, he’d been a working actor for decades prior to his big break. Funnily enough, the actor’s road to playing Ron Swanson began with rejection. Smitten with The Office, he first auditioned for the character of Michael Scott. When Steve Carell ultimately won that role, Offerman continued to audition for other parts in the show but he never had any success.
Nick Offerman’s rejections from ‘The Office’ led to him being cast in ‘Parks and Recreation’
Though Offerman never managed to be cast in The Office, his auditions and talent were being appreciated. In fact, Mike Schur, who wrote for The Office and later went on to co-create Parks and Recreation with Greg Daniels, was so taken with Offerman’s performances that he wrote his name down on a Post-it Note and stuck it on his computer monitor for safekeeping.
Unbeknownst to Offerman, Schur kept the Post-It note on his computer for three years. When the time came to start casting Parks and Recreation, Schur was got in contact with Offerman because he really wanted him on the show. Initially, Offerman auditioned to play the love interest of Rashida Jones, but NBC wasn’t sold on that concept at all. In a 2018 interview with NPR Offerman recounted his audition experience.
NBC initially didn’t want Offerman in the cast
“They tried to put me in one role and it didn’t work out,” Offerman recalled. “Coincidentally it was supposed to end up a love interest for Rashida, a notion which at the time NBC scoffed at.” The Parks and Recreation alum continued on to share that he was at the sporting goods store when he received the call that he was not going to be cast in the show.
Fortunately, for Offerman and fans of Parks and Recreation, neither Schur nor Daniels were willing to let him go without a fight. Instead, they suggested to NBC that Offerman be cast in a different role, but they were adamant that they wanted him on the show. Thus, the actor got another call asking if he’d be willing to play another character.
Mike Schur and Greg Daniels fought for Offerman to be in ‘Parks and Rec’
“By the time I came out to the parking lot, they called again and said, ‘OK, Greg and Mike Shur really want you on the show, so they’re going to put you in this role of Amy [Poehler’s] boss, supposed to be an older guy, but they’re standing by it, they’re being very stubborn.’ And I stood there and felt tears welling up and said, ‘That sounds fine, thank you,'” Offerman remembered. We’re sure Parks and Recreation fans are grateful that the creators fought for Offerman to be cast. Truly, the show wouldn’t have been the same without him.