Parks & Recreation returned to our screens earlier this year for its third season, and since then the show has delivered the funny week in and week out. Prior to the season even airing, word got out that Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, Retta, and Jim O’Heir would be promoted to full on series regulars for the entirety of this season. Last night’s episode, titled “Jerry’s Painting,” put Jim O’Heir’s Jerry Gergich in an (unsurprisingly) embarrassing spotlight after a painting he made caused some controversy in Pawnee, Indiana’s parks department. In this interview, O’Heir talks with ShaneSSaunders.com about his promotion on the show, an upcoming death in Pawnee, and what it’s like to be the city’s laughing stock.
O’Heir: I actually found out about becoming a series regular when I was at the Fort Lauderdale Airport in Florida. I had just landed and checked my messages. My manager left a message telling me that the show was interested in negotiating for me to become a series regular for Season 3. Of course I couldn’t have been happier to hear that news. This was in December of 2009. They started the process early to keep me from auditions during pilot season. I was more than happy to stick around Parks & Recreation. No pilot would have given me the joy I get from working with everyone on P&R.
Saunders: Jerry has certainly had his share of unfortunate embarrassments. Are those moments, such as the burrito incident in season two, fun to play?
O’Heir: I LOVE Jerry’s embarrassments. I’ve always been primarily a comedy guy, though I love when I get the chance to do drama, so when you read a script that says you’ll be splitting your pants and farting… that’s the jackpot. (laughs) I also love doing crazy stunts as much as they’ll let me. When Jerry falls into the creek they had a stunt guy, who was amazing, take the initial fall but then I laid in the creek and took it from there. It was raining out and I was laying in a flowing creek and I just loved every second of it. I always tell them that I’m willing to do anything… but for the sake of the show they have to be careful how much they can let us do.
Saunders: Do you think Jerry ever considered a bigger political dream, or was the parks department always the place he envisioned working at?
O’Heir: I don’t think Jerry ever had big political aspirations. I think he somehow fell into this job after graduating from community college. I don’t know that Jerry ever saw himself at the Parks Department per se but probably had an “in” to get him the job. I do think he does his best at the job but is aware of his limitations. Jerry’s main priority is his wife and kids.
Saunders: There’s been mentions of Jerry’s family throughout the course of the show, but never any physical appearances. Are there plans for them to popup?
O’Heir: I don’t know if there’s any definite plans to introduce Jerry’s family but I sure hope so. It’s been well established that Jerry cherishes his relationship with Gayle and his girls. I think getting a peek into his world would be really interesting. It will be interesting to see Jerry’s wife… is she amazingly hot? Is she a tyrant? Is she totally submissive? Lots of comedy to be figured out with any of those scenarios.
Saunders: I hear there’s a death in this season’s finale, and if I remember correctly your character had an emotional attachment of sorts with him. How does Jerry take the news?
O’Heir: Without giving too much away, yes, there is a huge loss that the department has to deal with. All I can say is that it’s a devastating loss that rocks the department. You’ll have to tune in to the finale to see what goes down.
Saunders: With the news of a renewal for next season, where do you see things headed for your character?
O’Heir: My guess is that next season there will be more Jerry bashing, at least I hope so. I also think we’ll find out about other amazing talents he has. Of course none of which will be appreciated.
Parks & Recreation airs Thursdays on NBC.