When it was announced that Parks And Recreation would be doing an episode entitled “Doppelgangers,” where Leslie Knope and the rest of the gang from Pawnee meet their Eagleton equivalents, none of the casting announcements felt quite as perfect as the actor assigned to play the part of Ron Dunn, Eagleton’s counterpart to Ron Swanson. This is not coincidental: in an interview with Vancouver’s TV Week Magazine, executive producer Michael Schur admitted that, when it came down to deciding who would be squaring off against Nick Offerman, “There’s only one human on earth who can do this, and it’s Sam Elliott.”
In addition to praising the onscreen chemistry between Elliott and Offerman, Schur seemed pretty sure that the two actors had become fast friends off-camera as well. “I hope that they hang out someday outside of work,” said Schur. “I want to know that we live in a world where Sam Elliott and Nick Offerman can sit down and have dinner together.” Naturally, when Elliott chatted with The A.V. Club about his appearance on Parks And Recreation during his Random Roles interview, Schur’s comments were presented to him, which earned a laugh and an initial assurance that “we definitely will do that.” Ever the gentleman, however, Elliott quickly amended his comments slightly, clarifying, “I’d say so, at least.”
Rather than just sit around waiting and wondering if this off-camera summit of manliness might indeed come to pass someday, The A.V. Club promptly put together an e-mail containing all of Elliott’s comments about his Parks And Recreation experience and sent it in Offerman’s direction, asking if Michael Schur’s dream might someday become a reality.
What follows are Offerman’s reflections on working with Elliott, but in the process of thanking Schur and his fellow Parks And Recreation co-creator Greg Daniels for all the wonderful things he’s been able to experience because of them hiring him in the first place, Offerman also slipped in a scoop: He just recorded a guest voice for The Simpsons.
The reason it took me so long to become available is because I’ve been sobbing the whole time since I read what you sent. When I heard that Sam Elliott was going to be playing my Eagleton equivalent, my first feeling was a deep, ruby flush of embarrassment that anyone would remotely consider putting me in the same room as my personal hero. It’s just another in a long line of ridiculous bounties that Parks And Recreation has brought to my doorstep. I have admired Sam Elliott for so many years for such an incredible body of film work, and as an aspiring sheriff myself, I can’t help but have been tipping my cap to that guy for my entire lifetime.
It’s cheap to limit the conversation to moustaches, but in terms of that currency, he’s basically the bank that has issued my ATM card. His moustache is a work of art and then some. It’s a work of art like the Grand Canyon is a work of art. Sam’s testosterone is real. Mine is the product of a classically trained theater education. I think if we were in some sort of honky-tonk brawl, I would quickly be labeled a pantywaist, and I would only hope that Sam would allow me to hold his beer while he set about his business.
Getting to meet him was incredibly surreal, because he’s someone I admire greatly, and to discover that he was a fan of the show and therefore excited to meet us and work with us was really a bizarre sensation. To me, it would be like Teddy Roosevelt showing up and saying that he liked my work in the legislature. And much to my intense gratification, Sam turned out to be incredibly sweet and classically generous as an actor. He may not have done a lot of television comedy, but he knows how to play scenes. He showed up knowing his stuff and was ready to give and take with the best of us, and he laid us all out with a few lines about almond milk at one point. He came in saying, “I’m a little nervous, I’m not sure if I can run with you guys,” but then at some point he remembered that he’s one of the greatest actors of our generation and laid us all on the floor with the merest batting of an eyelash.
Sam comes from a much simpler time, one that I envy. He’s already had his foundation well established for decades as an artist, so he’s able to continue to be offered great work without needing to stay hooked into the electronica as the rest of us are. He and his wife are very lo-fi, and my wife and I are going to continue to try and emulate them as much as we can. We’re looking forward to seeing them at my book signing. In fact, I’ve got to be honest: when I heard that he was planning to come to the signing, I welled up. You know, I’m still very much a freshman in this outfit, and to have Sam give me the time of day is an incredible gift to a kid like me. I am tickled pink that he will put up with my conversation, and if he’ll stomach any more of it, then, by God, I’ll give it to him.
I’m greatly indebted to Mike Schur for putting me together with one of my heroes, and I’m indebted to Sam for being such a swell and welcoming guy when men and women in his position can show up and never have to talk to anybody. Sam went out of his way to make pals with all of us, and that scores a hell of a lot of points in my book. When we were getting to know him first thing in the morning, Amy asked him, “So did you grow up in Portland?” And he said, “No, no, I was born and raised in Sacramento.” And then for the rest of the day, we kept trying to trick him into saying “Sacramento” again, because it was like a classical symphony. I’ll take his “Sacramento” any day of the week.
You know, earlier in the day today, I recorded an episode of The Simpsons, and that was such an incredible life dream for me that I had kind of lost sight of. For a couple of decades, I’ve been ape-shit about that show, and I thought, “It would be so amazing to be on that show, but that could never possibly happen.” And today it happened, and I was incredibly on cloud nine. And I called Mike Schur, and I said, “Once again, I have to thank you. Without your generosity and tenacity in casting me in this job, this would not have happened.” So all these things that keep coming to me, I cannot ever lose sight that they come about because Mike Schur and Greg Daniels saw to it that I was on their excellent television program. And now, you know, here we are talking about, “How do you feel about the fact that Sam fucking Elliott came and played in your office?” And I have to say once again, “Thank you, Mike… and if I could buy you the island of New Zealand, I would.”