We Shine the Spotlight on PARKS AND RECREATION Star Jim O’Heir

By Victoria Nelli

Jim O’Heir stars on the wonderfully charming NBC hit, PARKS AND RECREATION. O’Heir plays the overly nice, and sometimes punching bag, Jerry/Gary/Larry Gergich. I spoke with O’Heir (Or what I hope to be words, I was a bit nervous being he stars on my favorite show and all) about Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe exiting the show, who on the show resembles their character in real life, and how awesome it is to work with Amy Poehler!

PARKS AND RECREATION really is the little show that could, how would you say the show has grown and evolved over the course of its six seasons on air?
Jim O’Heir: I think mostly we’ve seen all of the characters grow, we’ve seen a lot of big changes with characters like with Aubrey Plaza’s April, who started off as just this little girl who wanted nothing to do with any of it and now she’s running a department, she’s doing the dog shelter, she’s married, she’s made some big changes. We’re seeing people like Donna, who is played by Retta, now we’re finding out more about her, who she is, kind of this sexy in control woman with all of her men. Jerry, we met his family, we know that he might be put down at work, but when he goes home it’s all good. They love him to death and he really has the best life out of all of them, so I really think we’ve seen all of the characters grow. Even Leslie, (Amy Poehler) who is all about work, work, work now has Ben, (Adam Scott) and there are some other big changes coming up for her, and I just think people like watching the characters have different life moments.

How do you feel about Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones leaving the show, what it is like on set now that they aren’t on the show anymore?
Well you know, we’re really blessed it’s a great set, and has been a great set since day one, and it’s still a great set but they are definitely missed. Rob we always joked, no one thought he would stick around for three years cause he’s Rob Lowe! But Rashida had been there from day one. So even in the trailer getting hair and makeup it’s a little different, it doesn’t have her energy. There’s a dance party most of the girls will do every afternoon or after we have lunch and they redo their hair and makeup, so she is definitely missed. And Rob tells great Hollywood stories, and I love to hear Hollywood stories, so it’s different but we have this really amazing crew and it’s still a lot of laughs. The rest of us that are still there still have a great time with each other, so it’s all good but they are missed. There is definitely a sense of “Ugh they’re not here any longer.” The days that they shot their last episodes were just lots of tears, it was really rough. We are a show that we’re all so blessed to be this many episodes in and we all still like each other and love to be around each other. A lot of shows that doesn’t happen and in this case it did, so to see them go, there were a lot of tears.

Do you resemble Jerry at all? Does anyone on the show resemble their character?
I certainly have some Jerry characteristics. This is a little self-branding but I think Jerry is a pretty nice guy, and I think I’m a pretty nice guy. I wouldn’t put up with what Jerry puts up with so we’re very different there. I would’ve told people to go to hell by this point but Jerry’s most important thing is his wife and his daughters. That’s all that matters to him, everything else is just what you do to get home at the end of the day and have a great life. And I have a lovely home and I love where I live too so I guess that’s the same too. I would say Nick Offerman is a lot like Ron Swanson, maybe not politically in his beliefs but in his demeanor, I think there is a lot of Ron Swanson in Nick Offerman. Aubrey is nothing like April, although she can kill you with a glare.

Do you ever pitch ideas to the writers, if you have an idea for your character or a story arc?
To be honest I’m not a writer per say, but I can come up with ideas that you know I think are good here and there. They are incredibly receptive, every idea is looked at, every idea is welcome, there’s never a feeling of “hey, you do your job, I do my job.” It’s just the opposite; it’s very collaborative to the point where after we’re done with a take and everyone’s happy, director, the writer, and the actors, we do what’s called a “fun run.” Where we can do whatever we want. The scripts are so strong when we get them it’s rare that we have to do anything to them, but if something else does work for them it absolutely can make it. So, yeah it’s a very receptive room and they are open to any ideas. Just the other day we were on set something happened, an actor had a great idea. I can’t tell you because it’s the season finale, it’s a big secret, but something happened and it changed the whole scene for the better. So, absolutely collaborative and they are more than welcome to hear any ideas we have.

You guys have had a lot of long running jokes on the show a lot of really fun scenes. Are there any scenes that stick out to you as your favorite?
Well for me personally just as an actor having fun, that’s always cool. I loved Jerry’s heart fart attack, that was a super fun scene to shoot, where I come out of the bathroom and Amy and Rashida scare me and I go into the cardiac thing but I also happen to be farting at the same time, so that was a lot of fun. I love any scene where we are in the conference room together because that means before and after we’ve just been bsing and laughing and joking, so those are always my favorite. And anytime we do like, the harvest festival, those are big group scenes and because we do enjoy each other so much, it just means it’s going to be a lot of laughter and a lot of craziness from the cast, and those are my favorite days. I guess one time a director said to one of the producers, “every once in a while it’s tough to get these guys moving” the producer said “if it’s because they are talking amongst themselves and enjoying each other that’s a good problem to have, we have actors who still enjoy each other. So that’s a problem we can work around.” So any group scenes are always my favorite, and of course like last weeks episode I got to dance with Adam Scott, that was ridiculously crazy and fun, we got to go to a cooking class together, we took a massage together, we went on a carriage together. So that kind of stuff is just a blast. It’s so crazy to say I know a lot of actors say it, but everyday on set is just so much fun, I don’t like the days I don’t work I would rather be there it’s so much fun.

Can you give us any spoilers! Anything we can expect to see this season?
There are three huge things that are going to happen before the seasons over and I would be shot dead if I told you any of them. (Laughs) They’re huge! Three huge things that are coming up that I cannot reveal. As you know Jerry has a bromance going on with Adam Scott’s character Ben, and I can tell you that there will be some more Jerry support coming up.

How is it working with Amy Poehler? (Couldn’t resist asking that question!)
You know there’s an old rule of television, the set is as nice as the top actor and the producers and it sort of works its way down. And the fact that all I’ve been saying about how great it is it’s all because of Amy Poehler, because she comes to the set and she’s got a smile on her face. We’ve had the same crew, a lot of the same crew for all these seasons which is amazing because a lot of the time if the crew isn’t happy on the show they get the hell out of there, there are a lot of other opportunities. But we’ve kept a lot of the same crew, which says a lot. But Amy is one of the funniest and most talented people you’ll meet. But I say what’s even more important than that, and that’s pretty important, is that she’s also the nicest person you’re ever gonna meet. There’s no BS with Amy, she’s just got a big heart and she worries about us. I got injured during the dance scene last week, the one that aired last week I tore a calf muscle. That night we all went out just for drinks and next thing I know a waiter is coming over with a bag of ice and a chair, she had told him my leg needed to be put up. She’s very motherly towards us, she just watches out for all of us. So, all I can say about her is there’s no one nicer and more talented, she’s amazing.

You can watch Jim in an all-new PARKS AND RECREATION tonight on NBC at 8:30. And you can follow Jim on twitter at @JimOHeir

Victoria Nelli loves TV so much that she is paying $30,000 a year to learn about it in College. When she’s not learning about TV she enjoys writing about her favorite shows, interviewing anyone in the industry that will let her, and ranting about how underrated Parks and Recreation is. She is very much aware of her Netflix addiction, and no she will not be seeking help anytime soon. You can follow her on Twitter @VictoriaNelli