Nick Offerman has loaned his manly pipes to a variety of animated Fox shows—Bob’s Burgers, The Cleveland Show, Axe Cop—but his crowning vocal achievement will be heard this weekend when he pops up on The Simpsons.
In the episode (Sunday, 8 p.m.), relations between Homer and Bart reach a nadir over a serving of broccoli, prompting Marge to ship them off to sea—specifically to the Relation Ship, where conflicts between fathers and sons can be worked out while they learn to become sailors. The Parks and Recreation star voices the man in charge of that vessel, Captain Bowditch. “Not only to just be on The Simpsons, which is the crazy manifestation of a lifelong dream, but to do so as a sea captain was so dreamy for me because I love old seafaring novels and any lore of Her Majesty’s Royal Navy, all the Horatio Hornblower books and Patrick O’Brian novels,” raves Offerman, an accomplished woodworker who has built two canoes and a rowboat, written a book called Paddle Your Own Canoe, and subscribed to WoodenBoat Magazine. “This fits right into my nerd pocket.”
How did the gig come about? Did he simply lean over in his wooden recliner, pick up the phone, dial Simpsons HQ, and say, “I want in”? “I don’t think I have one-eighteenth out of that clout, would that I did,” Offerman tells EW. “Instead it worked quite the opposite. They conceived a role of a questionably moralled ship’s captain, and he gets a bit sloppy and he proves to be a bit of a broken man,” says Offerman. “And Mike Scully, a veteran Simpsons writer who’s also a Parks writer, said, ‘Drunken jackass? Get Offerman.'”
On the Relation Ship, “we tie knots both in the rigging and the sails, as well as shore up the torn relations between the family members,” explains Offerman. There is also singing and dancing—as well as a few revelations about the “well-seasoned and salty” Bowditch, whose own waters run deep and maybe a little disturbed. “It’s not like we wake up one day and make a cognitive choice to be a drunk buffoon, it comes usually as the result of trying to medicate some other failure or pain that we’re going through,” he notes. “Our noble Captain Bowditch is no different.” (Click on the exclusive video below to see Offerman in action as Bowditch.)
Was a Simpsons guest spot high on his career bucket list? “Oh god, yes,” he answers. “It was outside of the realm of the bucket, like, ‘Well, there’s no way I’m ever going to get on The Simpsons. I might get a nice job on TV or maybe I’ll get to do a scene with Patrick Swayze’—which I did, I got a goddamn scene with Swayze, I was so happy—’but I’m not going to get on The Simpsons. They’re writing parts for Paul McCartney.'” He pauses. “So basically I’m now like a Beatle.”
Back on dry land, Offerman is busy shooting the final season of Parks and Recreation, details of which are largely being kept under wraps. Asked for one cryptic tease about these last 13 episodes, he says: “All I can tell you is: Death is not the end.” (Let’s take a moment—of silence?—to reflect on that and pray for Li’l Sebastian lookalike Bucky.) Are he and the rest of the Pawnee gang already getting emotional on set, now that the end is rapidly approaching? “Sure. I mean, it got emotional at my house when they announced it was the last 13,” he says. “I think I cried for three days.”