To those only familiar with him from his work on Parks & Recreation, Nick Offerman may seem like a strange casting choice for Devs, FX's new sci-fi series in which he plays the mysterious (and possibly villainous) CEO of a multinational tech company. But for those who've followed Offerman's career more closely, Devs is the just latest opportunity for the one-time Ron Swanson to showcase his abilities as a versatile and formidable performer. Indeed, Offerman has been giving notable performances — both comedic and dramatic — in TV and film for years now.
Here are five of his roles outside the town of Pawnee that are worth checking out:
This underseen 2013 indie flick features Offerman giving one of his most purely enjoyable performances. As the slightly overbearing father of the film’s teenage protagonist, Offerman manages to lean into the humor of the character’s bluntness without ever lessening the dramatic tension that exists between his and the other characters. The film’s emotional resolution gives Offerman a chance to be unexpectedly vulnerable on screen, all while maintaining the character’s hardened exterior. It’s a pitch-perfect performance, and one that not many other actors could have pulled off.
Offerman wasn’t one of the main cast members in this Adult Swim series, but that didn’t stop him from being one of its most beloved. A parody of TV medical dramas, Childrens Hospital trafficked in the truly absurd, and Offerman rose to meet the show’s ridiculous tone with unabashed glee. As Chance Briggs, the former police partner of Dr. Owen Maestro (Rob Huebel), Offerman got to be as outrageous as he’s ever been on screen, showing the lengths to which he's willing to go to in the name of comedy.
This 2016 film, which was based on the real-life story of how one man turned a local burger spot into the largest fast food chain in the world, was one of the first projects that really gave Offerman a chance to showcase his dramatic acting chops. Playing one of the original creators of McDonald’s, Offerman held his own alongside a cast of heavy hitters that includes Michael Keaton, Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson, B.J. Novak and John Caroll Lynch. His character’s downward spiral and constant battles with Keaton’s Ray Kroc provided the film with many of its most memorable moments. If he'd been looking for a project to announce himself as a considerable dramatic actor, The Founder was it.
This 2018 dramedy is one of the few projects to date in which Offerman is the lead performer. Playing Frank Fisher, a man who wishes his daughter would stay home and make music with him rather than go off to college, Offerman gave his most understated and heartwarming performance yet. Frank isn't a character who exists in the heightened reality of a sitcom or a screwball comedy; he's just a normal guy, struggling with changes in his life. Instead of being intimidated by that kind of a challenge, Offerman portrayed role with a subtlety and a warmth that he’s rarely been given the chance to demonstrate.
In a season of television that was filled to the brim with memorable performances, Offerman’s supporting turn as Karl Weathers in Fargo’s sophomore season was one for the books. His performance as the Vietnam veteran and small town lawyer remains a major highlight in Offerman’s career — one that gave him the chance to recite the kind of monologues that most actors can only ever dream of getting a chance to say. With Parks & Recreation ending just a few months prior to its season premiere, Fargo was an opportunity for Offerman to truly prove his versatility as an actor, and he did so in spades.
Promising yet another standout performance from Offerman, Devs will be made available exclusively to subscribers of Hulu through its new partnership with FX. The first two episodes drop Thursday, March 5, with new episodes released on Thursdays through April.
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Alex Welch has written about television and film for TV by the Numbers, IGN, The Berrics, Paste Magazine, Screen Rant and GeekNation. Follow him on Twitter @alexrwelch.