Real-life husband and wife Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman are frequently cast as warring exes. From Parks and Recreation, where Mullally plays the sex-crazed second former wife of parks director Ron Swanson, to their current roles in the New York premiere of Sharr White's emotional two-character drama Annapurna, the two have spent a lot of time at each other's fictional throats.
But for the last 11 years and counting, Mullally and Offerman have been the picture of Hollywood wedded bliss. "Maybe sometimes people don't cast us as that because it's too on the nose or something," muses Mullally. Ever supportive, Offerman agrees: "Happily married couples are probably gonna be more boring unless we're junkies or something."
"Which we are," Mullally quips.
The couple's secret to contentment could be bringing complementary skills to their projects. Offerman, the founder of Offerman Woodshop, is a maker of things (like canoes and cutting boards), while Mullally is a self-described "cleaner-upper of things."
TheaterMania stopped by the pair's impeccably neat dressing room at Theatre Row following a recent evening performance to discuss dream projects, Nick's sturdy inner bureau, and the cramped trailer where they spend their evenings.
Annapurna's grittily claustrophobic set was first created by Thomas A. Walsh for a tiny L.A. theater in 2013. As a builder himself, Offerman was interested in the set-creation process but was largely hands-off. "It's like going on a trip with Gandalf and saying, 'How much input did you have on picking the route?'" says Offerman. "He's a master. Between Tom and Bart [DeLorenzo], the director, it was pretty incredible. It was like a fully blown, really dirty Disney ride."
"We were in the lobby giving a toast after the last [L.A.] performance. And I saw the guy going in with a sledgehammer to smash it, and I was like, Gasp!...I said, 'Wait a minute! Wait wait wait! Stop that guy! Maybe we should keep it.' And so we did. Months later Dede Harris and her producing partner David [Carpenter] approached us about bringing the show to New York. And we were like, Well…we have the set…all ready to go…"
Reassembling half a mobile home on the other side of the country proved to be easier (in Offerman's eyes) than one would think, at least with the help of an expert craftsman. "It was initially such a great piece of design and work of art, and The New Group did an amazing job of reassembling it. The crew here is led by Peter, who has a French last name that is unpronounceable—"
"Ooh-la-la?" Mullally offers.
"Ooh-la-la, that's it. They did a magnificent job of putting it all together and making it work."
When looking for work, Offerman and Mullally's first priority is to attach themselves to projects and teams they respect and enjoy — whether or not that means playing rabid ex-spouses — but they do have dream projects. "A porn," says Mullally. "Flinstones porn," Offerman specifies. "No, I mean, generally I think we have rules for choosing material. We've talked about someday doing Virginia Woolf…but generally the things I've enjoyed doing the most have been things that were original or that I never would have imagined." The pair agrees that at some point they'll probably play a couple, but for now the closest they've gotten to domestic bliss was as coworkers. "On Smashed, I was the principal, and he was the assistant principal," says Mullally. Offerman corrects her: "Vice principal."
Even though their characters are still not exactly happily married, both Offerman and Mullally have found elements of themselves in Annapurna (and learned a thing or two as well). "This is totally different from our real life in the sense that we're a happily married couple and we don't live in a trailer," Mullally says. "But, in another sense, in some ways, it's the closest to myself I've played, just because I'm playing a naturalistic character. I'm not playing Karen Walker or Tammy 2 or some crazy nut job. I'm playing a relatively normal woman. So that's a departure for me. Gosh, I feel like I've learned so much about — I hate to say this — but about acting. It's a humiliating sentence to have to utter." Offerman agrees: "Every night, this feels like the greatest education I've ever gotten. Because it's a ninety-minute scene study where we're locked in. It's riding like it's a roller coaster that they rebuild every night, and we're like, Whoa, that curve was f*cking crazy, but now, let's get on the straight away...Even with all the fun we've gotten to have in TV and film, we find working in live theater to be the best medicine."
Always ready to tackle a new challenge (be it a play or a plank), neither Offerman not Mullally skips a beat when asked what kind of furniture they would be — if, in fact they were a piece of furniture, both would go for something sturdy. "I'd be a chest of drawers…made of oak…by Garry Knox Bennett from Oakland," Offerman says. "He's a fine craftsman, but his thing is then he'd take a beautiful, perfect piece of furniture and hammer a big nail into the side of it and just bend over the nail to represent his imperfections as a human being. And it makes me feel akin to him."
As for Mullally, she says, "I'd be a fainting couch, and one of those women from an Edward Gorey book would be, like, swooning on me, wearing big feathers and a gown. It would be one of those tufted fainting couches with the little buttons."
"And claw feet?" asks Offerman.
"Oh yeah, for sure."