She was the sassy, martini-swilling, polymorphously perverse society lady Karen Walker on Will & Grace. He plays Ron Swanson, the breakfast-loving, mustachioed head of the parks department in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana, on Parks and Recreation. You might have noticed Megan Mullally’s and Nick Offerman’s delightfully deranged chemistry on a recent episode of Parks, in which Mullally guested as Swanson’s ex-wife, a sinister library administrator named Tammy—Sid and Nancy, if they were small-town bureaucrats whose drug of choice is sex in no-tell motels and local diners. That spark is real: Mullally and Offerman have been married since 2003.
When we meet, they are holding hands—sweetly, not smarmily. What’s noticeable at once: The porcelain-skinned Mullally, 51, speaks in a voice softer and lower than Karen Walker’s. And Offerman, 39—a handsome lumberjack of a guy (and, as it turns out, an accomplished woodworker)—sports a more flow-motion hairstyle than Ron Swanson’s Lego-man ’do. Mullally points out that she is having a sweet hair hangover from yesterday’s photo shoot, as seen above. Speaking of which …
Megan Mullally: Neither of us are paragons of physical perfection. That’s why I pitched that nude-photo idea: It’s as if we were Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, but of course we’re not. Yet before we met with you, Nick told me how beautiful I looked in my pajamas in the hotel. I didn’t really, by somebody else’s standards, but it’s very nice to hear that, especially as an actress in Hollywood. Nick has said he would divorce me if I got Botox.
Nick Offerman: I’m very hairy, and men in film and TV are no longer allowed to be hairy. If you’re going to be topless you have to wax everything. My uncles, who are farmers in Minooka, Illinois—I grew up with them and their pickup trucks and mustaches, and to me that was masculinity: big hairy sweaty guys who could pick up a bus.
Tammy and Ron had one of the best hate-sex scenes in modern history. That throwdown in the restaurant—was that hard to pull off?
N.O.: It was really good therapy, because in any relationship you have love times and you have who-didn’t-do-the-dishes times. We’ve worked together before in different ways, but we’ve never had the opportunity to be a team, and in that episode we were like a two-fisted weapon, battering comedy in the audience’s face.
M.M.: We basically destroyed the diner. We ran the gamut of wild, crazy, exhibitionist sex acts and screaming at the other patrons, throwing things, berating the manager and …
N.O.: We actually tore the table off the wall.
M.M.: That was kind of an accident. [Laughs.] When we screech into the motel parking lot, that was the first shot on the first day, six o’clock on Monday morning. We’re in that car and I was like, “I’m going to throw my bra out the window and take my top off as we run in.” I didn’t care. I didn’t know anybody. It’s not my set.
How did you meet?
M.M.: We did a play together in L.A., in 2000—The Berlin Circle, by Charles Mee. It’s kind of a deconstruction of Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle.
N.O.: I had just moved from Chicago. I was a theater snob. Megan was the lead and was on a successful show, and I was like, “This fancy TV chick thinks she’s so great.” By the end of the first read-through, her comedy had melted my wall of ice.
M.M.: He hadn’t seen Will & Grace, by the way.
N.O.: I didn’t have a TV. So I introduced myself and said, “I think you’re really funny even though you’re on TV.” It was a funny actor prejudice, because once [the whole cast] got to know her, everyone said, “I can’t believe how down-to-earth you are.” Which means you’re expected to be some huge asshole if you’ve had success.
Theater actors do seem to be more grounded.
M.M.: During Will & Grace, we had so many things we had to go to where you get all dolled up. It’s like pulling teeth for me. People who have theater or sketch-comedy backgrounds seem to be more, you know, our speed. Like Amy Poehler and Will Arnett—we double date.
N.O.: We’re very boring. We never know what the good restaurants are in L.A. because we like to stay home and read books and hang out with our poodles. [At my request,Nick pulls out his iPhone and shows me a picture of two small poodles, Willa and Elmo, both wearing sweaters.] When I met Megan, we were both very staunchly single. But becoming friends with somebody backstage at a play is one of the greatest friendships ever: It’s like making each other laugh in church. But Megan made me work for it.