Comedic power couple, Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman, are back in Park City for a second year in a row following their work together on last year’s “Smashed,” for the deadpan family comedy “Toy’s House” (acquired yesterday by CBS Films). Fans of Mullally’s deranged guest appearance on Offerman’s beloved NBC’s sitcom “Parks and Recreation,” during which the two had sex on a table in the middle of a packed diner, will be sad to know the two share scant screen time together in their latest Sundance film. Still, despite their lack of on-screen cavorting, “Toy’s House” is a hilarious heart warmer that heralds the arrival of a fresh new comic voice in writer-director Jordan Vogt-Roberts.
Indiewire sat down with a very much in-love Mullally and Offerman (when they weren’t holding hands during our interview, they’d take turns gazing into each other’s eyes) the day following “Toy’s House” world premiere at the Library theater to discuss their second Sundance experience together, Offerman’s love for Mullally’s Emmy-winning performance as Karen Walker on “Will & Grace,” and their first encounter.
Loved “Toy’s House.” Have to say I was a little disappointed you two didn’t play a couple in the film.
Mullaly: I know, we haven’t done that yet in a movie.
What surprised you both about each other’s performance, given that you don’t share many scenes together?
Mullally: Well, I always know that Nick’s going to be great. I’d read the script so I kind of knew what was required. I was surprised about that scene where you have intercourse on camera with that other actress.
Offerman: Yeah, I wanted you to be surprised.
Mullally: It had to take me a second to get adjusted. You did it really well!
Offerman: Thank you. Two takes. We were there together for two weeks, so we were very aware of what each other was shooting. But I think part of our work, is whether we’re together or not, we’re always trying to make each other laugh with our work. And so we knew what each other’s scenes were and where the jokes were, but there’s always nice Easter eggs in the thing that we improvise. So there’s always fun surprises.
This marks your second time at Sundance with a film you both star in, following last year’s “Smashed.” How great is it to spend this time together in Park City?
Mullally: We always talk about how lucky we are. We were saying, “Here we are going to Sundance again for the second time in a row…together.” It’s crazy.
How’s this experience comparing to last year?
Mullally: Well the movies are so different.
Offerman: it was really great to see a premiere at the Library that had so much laughter. “Smashed” felt more like – forgive the adjective – an ‘important’ film with a heavy, affected story. This also has a great sense of drama to it, but it’s just one of the funniest movies we’ve seen in a long time.
I’m a fan of your individual work but I especially love seeing you paired together. Do you two come to these independent projects as a pair, or is it just happenstance that you ended up in both “Smashed” and “Toy’s Soldier” together?
Mullally: Nick was cast first in both “Smashed” and “Toy’s House.” He has a bigger roles in those movies, so they start with the bigger role then they work their way down (laughs). They cast Nick, then go, “Well wait a minute, what about…your wife.”
Offerman: Well they often…the conversation will come up where, if I say, “It would be really fun to have Megan play this part.” And they go, “Do you think we could get her?!” And I’m like, “She also thinks that this is a great script.” People often forget that we both come from theater, so we’re looking first and foremost for the best material. It doesn’t matter how splashy the film is. If we think the writing’s good, then we’re sold.
Here I was thinking that you took these projects on knowing full well they had a shot at getting into Sundance, so you two could enjoy a nice week away on the slopes.
Mullally: No (laughs). You never know, that’s what so nuts about it.So, how did you two meet?
Mullally: Well, we were both cast as actors in this play called “The Berlin Circle.” The director didn’t want to cast either one of us. We didn’t know each other, but we found out later that he was resistant to casting us. We weren’t company members, we were the outsiders. So anyway, we had a table read on the first day. Nick was the only person that came up and said hello to me. It was like, ‘That was nice.’ We had a lot of scenes together. We started doing bits you know, just joking around. Then one day I was like, ‘Is he kind of sexy? What is happening?’ Then we made out.
Offerman: I didn’t have a TV at the time so I hadn’t seen “Will & Grace,” which had been on for two seasons.
Mullally: Which was great.
The fact that he hadn’t seen it or the show?
Mullally: Oh, it was such a great show, let me tell you (laughs). No, it was great because he hadn’t seen it!
Offerman: So the table work was my first experience of Megan’s work. I went in dubious because I thought, ‘Oh great, we have a sitcom actress as the lead of our play. I wish they had a thespian!’ Of course, Megan was so masterfully funny from the get-go, that I was like, ‘Let’s be friends please.’
Mullally: Plus I’d done a ton of theater. We have a very similar background. Nick is like 11-and-a-half years younger than me, but we have a similar upbringing in that we both went to theater college, although I transferred out and was an English major. I lived in Chicago in the early ‘80s and did a ton of theater, and then Nick lives there in the ‘90s and did a ton of theater. Then we both moved to LA and did a ton of television.
Have you since seen every episode of “Will & Grace,” Nick?
Mullally: He went to every taping!
Offerman: I was a fast convert.
Mullaly: From the third season to the end, I think there was one to two tapings you had to miss.
Offerman: I watched a couple that summer and realized it was the greatest job. Getting to be on the floor as the spouse of Megan, I sort of had an all day pass. I could go wherever I wanted to. I took complete advantage of it. It was so amazing to watch them make that show masterfully.
Mullally: Woody Harrelson played a long-term love interest of Debra Messing’s; I think it was for a whole season. They almost cast Nick in that part. They almost had given to him. But at the eleventh hour Jim Burrows put in a call to Woody and he said he would do it.
Did Woody’s casting create any friction on set?
Mullally: Well, I think you know we were just excited they even considered Nick, because he wasn’t a name. You know how the stunt casting they did on that show was outrageous. So for them to even consider him was a big thing. When they cast Woody Harrelson, we were like, ‘Oh, okay.’ ‘Cause you know the network wants famous people.
Speaking of stunt casting, who was your favorite famous co-star to appear on the show, Megan?
Mullally: God, it’s rough. I mean Matt Damon was so funny. John Cleese was my personal favorite because he played my husband for a whole season – and Minnie Driver. We almost had our own like show all living in a house together. And Gene Wilder was just so dear.
Offerman: Alec Baldwin was nuts. I mean…in a good way.
Mullally: He did one of the live episodes, and of course he killed it.
Offerman: Just to be clear, Alec Baldwin’s comedy was nuts. It was crazy how funny he was.
Mullally: We just had so many great people. And all the great pop stars that came on. I had a whole episode with Madonna. She was so professional, very nice and very friendly. She wanted to chat all the time. She was a perfectionist and always wanted to rehearse her scenes a ton.
It’s fascinating to compare a show like “Parks and Recreation” to “Will & Grace,” a show that now seems of a different era. What’s it like to look back and see how the sitcom template has evolved?
Offerman: That’s an awfully big thing to wrap your head around and I don’t know that I watch enough TV to answer.
Mullally: Oh, I do.
Offerman: I think the paradigm that Greg Daniels sort of perfected with “The Office” and then on “Parks and Rec” brings the comedy into a much more intimate, realistic setting.
Mullally: More naturalistic.
Offerman: The multi-cam has a hilarious and wonderful presentational feel that in ways can begin to feel canned.
Mullally: Networks really want to try and resurrect the multi-cam because it’s so much easier to shoot. Aren’t the two highest rated half-hour shows both multi-cam? “Big Bang Theory” and “Two and Half Men?” So you know, it’s not without reason. “Modern Family” would probably be third and that’s single cam. I know they want to do that. Maybe audiences are ready to go back to multi-cam, but for me it seems when I watch multi-cam, it feels a little ‘time capsule-y.’ But I think there’s a way to maybe freshen it up again and make it seem new again. Everything’s cyclical.