MM: "Is he going to come set whoever this … person … set him straight?" When you started, you were sort of the downer, you know. Here's Amy Poehler bubbling away, and here's Ron Swanson keeping everybody down.
NO: I think when any show is created you start with, "This person will be the protagonist; this person will throw rocks at the protagonist." And eventually, as you flesh the characters out, you find out that the person throwing the rocks is also a person and has feelings. And I think we found that it was really enjoyable to, you know, to pit Ron's sort of working philosophy, his hatred of government, against his strong personal loyalty to his friends. They get a lot of mileage out of that he wants to shut down the program, but he wants to support the people that are creating the program because he admires them. But I would appreciate it if you would continue to consider me a downer …
MM: I'll try to do that. Is it important for you guys to love your characters? How do you connect?
JTF: I do think it's very important to care about who you play. I mean, with my character, he's very much a part of me. I'm a lot like Mitchell in many ways. I think I have a little bit more of a sense of humor than he does. He's way smarter than I am. I think that there is a lot of truth within that character.
EH: I really envy Andy in a lot of ways, because he's so passionate and expressive, and he does wear his heart on his sleeve, and he makes bold sort of statements of love. He puts himself out there. And I am a much more reserved kind of protected person. And even the anger that Andy struggles with and sometimes bursts out of, I am a little bit more repressive with some of my own anxieties, and so forth. So I sort of love that. He's cathartic for me in certain ways. I think he in some ways exists in a more honest way than I do in the real world.
JLD: [Selina] is highly ambitious and, given this sort of so-called powerful position, finding herself being quite powerless. I think we can probably all relate to this to a certain extent. I certainly can. The idea of being ambitious. And there are a lot of parallels to being in show business and being in politics — a lot. And you can certainly draw down from that area. And the other thing is, is that ambition is also a slippery slope and it can get in your way. And it does for her. And I understand why. You know, I get it. But that's really fun to play too.
EH: And desperation.
JLD: Desperation …
EH: That's like the fuel of this town but also D.C. in so many ways. I don't think comedy people, or comedic actors, or actors in general, are necessarily more or less anxious, depressed, psychotic, whatever you want to call it, or neurotic, than the general public. But I do think that we sort of like dealing with it and thinking about it and…
JLD: Tapping it?
EH: … and, yeah, and sort of fighting with it a little bit.
JTF: I will say the greatest roles that I've enjoyed playing have always been parts that I'm scared of. You know, I do think that coming at something … I just said "the greatest roles I've ever played." Did everyone hear that?
MM: When you did Lear?
JLD: You're falling apart, man.
JTF: I'm falling apart. No one's recording this, right?
JLD: No, no, no, no. This is just us.
NO: Would you include your role on your current program?
JTF: I was very nervous to play that at first, yes, absolutely. I was terrified.
JTF: Gay? No …
MM: Where will I find it?
JTF: No, I mean, I actually was scared to play Mitchell just because I felt that there was a responsibility behind it. I thought, we're portraying these two men who are raising a baby, and it's going to be on network television. Please, God, let me do this with as much care and sensitivity as I possibly can. You know, because there's only so far the … the writing is obviously the base of what we're doing. But, you know, you have to bring a whole other level of sensitivity to it. So I was actually very nervous. And, you know, now I've relaxed a little bit … a little bit. But I do think that, not coming from a place of fear but being certainly scared of certain roles is always a good sign to me that it's going to be something that's going to be validating and rewarding.
MM: So you try to harness it.
EH: Fear is a good indicator that maybe you should explore that thing.