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Jim O'Heir discusses Parks and Rec and meeting the Indianapolis Colts (Photos)

Left: Aziz Ansari, Adam Scott, Andrew Luck, Jim Irsay, Rob Lowe, Jim O'Heir, Chris Pratt, Reggie WayneFront Center: Nick Offerman
Left: Aziz Ansari, Adam Scott, Andrew Luck, Jim Irsay, Rob Lowe, Jim O'Heir, Chris Pratt, Reggie WayneFront Center: Nick Offerman
Indianapolis Colts

I was recently given the amazing opportunity to speak with the hilarious, very genuine and brilliant actor, Jim O’Heir, who plays Jerry Gergich on Parks and Recreation (P&R), which is based on the fictional town, Pawnee, Indiana. I am pleased to announce how much fun it was to talk with him, learn more about him and how many shows I had likely already seen him in without even realizing it.

Jim has performed on many popular shows, such as Rizzoli & Isles (2011: “Dr Little” in Don’t Hate the Player), Star Trek: Voyager (2000: ”Husband” in Critical Care) and Friends (2004: “Adoption Agency Worker” in The One With the Birth Mother). More recently, he has been spotted in the movies, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012: "Cop 2") and Accepted (2006: "Mr. Schrader"). During our conversation, we discussed his present and past and focused on the recent episode that featured Indianapolis Colts NFL players, Andrew Luck and Reggie Wayne, as well as Colts Owner, Jim Irsay.

Wilson: What was it like while on the Indianapolis Colts’ playing field?

O’Heir: We were all super excited. The excitement level was off the charts when it was happening. Even if you’re not a die-hard fan, it doesn't matter. The stadium was gorgeous, relatively new and amazing. We shot in the morning at St. Elmo [Steak House] and the plan was to head over to Lucas Oil [Stadium]. All of a sudden, we were on the move. We were like little school boys. They put us in a place to park and the cameras were rolling. I just wanted that first impression of walking for the first time onto a field. It was stunning. You see the football games that are filled with thousands of people and it’s just amazing. We walked back to the field. It was mammoth and amazing and because it’s a new stadium…we were out of our minds. We turned into a bunch of five and ten-year old's playing. Nobody did a lick of work for the next 45 minutes. We were just boys being idiots. The tunnel scene was shot six or seven times and we all got so excited each time we did the take. It was such an amazing feeling each time.

Wilson: St. Elmo is known for their shrimp cocktail. Did you try it?

O’Heir: Everyone talks about the shrimp cocktail. Holy crap. Number one, it is fire in your mouth…that first bite. They’re not shy with the horseradish. It was unbelievable as we’re eating it. Next thing you know, we were obsessed. They [also] do a wedge salad that is unbelievable. It’s like this big wedge of lettuce that’s got different things thrown in. Obsessed. We ate there three times: the night we got there, the next day and that night after wrap. I had their filet butter. I know what I’m in for when you take the first cut and it just melts through the steak. It’s gotta be surreal for the people watching us.

Wilson: So, you got to see the Colts’ stadium. But, who is your favorite NFL team?

O’Heir: The Bears. Rob [Lowe] knows everybody and he knows Jim Irsay. I think that’s how a part of this came to happen. We all left [the stadium] thinking, ‘How can you not root for the Colts now? Andrew Luck was so gracious and amazing. Reggie Wayne was incredible. Irsay greeted all of us and he was just…gracious. It comes across that they watch the show. When they know who you are, it’s cool.

We shot on a Monday [and] they were in great spirits. Luck shows us where the ball should be when running, how to hold it…everyone has their home favorites.

Wilson: How did you get this part on P&R?

O’Heir: It was weird because I just went through articles. The word was out that Amy Poehler was doing a show for NBC and I think it would be a strong show. Then, I get a call to audition for it. But, I audition for the role of Ron Swanson [Nick Offerman], and almost everybody agrees that Nick is their guy. I did the audition and I left thinking I did what I wanted to do with the rest out of my hands. Two weeks later, I get a call from my manager saying they wanted to see me for P&R, for the role of Jerry. So, I go back there and there’s a room full of people applying for Jerry. I guess there’s something I did in the Ron Swanson audition that worked. I then got the call two weeks later that they wanted to book me for P&R. They didn't know what was going to happen. Jerry, at this point, was just going to be sitting at the desk and they think something will happen. For me, it was a no brainer. The creators are genius and so I did it and I have a line here and there for the first season. In the second season, there was an episode that revealed I was adopted but didn't know it. I was the guy who was the punching bag…the guy who just doesn't get it. If there hadn't been a spot for Jerry, [Creator] Greg Daniels said to put me at a desk and something will happen, and it did. I’m like an [The] Office character…always there, some weeks heavier than others and some story lines are about me. It’s just a dream come true.

Wilson: What is it about Mary Tyler Moore you love so much?

O’Heir: If you watch the Dick Van Dyke episodes and Mary Tyler Moore episodes, the acting is as if there’s no camera in the room. It’s so flawless, so natural and so non-forced. That world felt very real as a kid. As I’m getting older, I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s a pretty girl.’ And then, the Mary Tyler Moore Show comes on. She became one of the people I became loony tunes about.

Wilson: So, you met her once and it didn't turn out the way you expected. Did you ever get the chance to meet her again?

O’Heir: Never, and I hope that day happens. I don’t think my love for her has waned at all. The other day, I was sitting at home and watching a Dick Van Dyke marathon. I would like to think I’m more of an adult and can handle it this time. But, I can make no promises. With [meeting] her, I was absolutely tongue tied and couldn't speak.

Wilson: I read your obsessed with animal stuff, like dog charities. What do you do for animal charities?

O’Heir: I go to different events during the year, wherever I’m at. The Hollywood Dog Charity was the first one. I missed this year. I’m good about donating to a bunch of different ones throughout the year. I rescue dogs. There’s just too many dogs. Rescue dogs are so awesome, as if they realize how lucky they are. I had one dog that was eight months in a cage. Then that Sarah McLachlan commercial comes on and I can’t click it off fast enough on how people treat and abuse animals. People will leave homes and leave their dogs in their house. I try to promote that people should neuter. Rescues are out there. We have to be kinder and sweeter to dogs. I’m not saying we shouldn't treat people this way, either. It’s just, animals totally rely on us.

Wilson: Do you ever read anything from the writers and think, “Wait…what? I have to do that?”

O’Heir: Yes. It’s happened once and it’s my own thing. I’m a big guy and have always been since I was four, from what I understand. I’m not the guy who mocks being fat. I’m not the guy who does Chris Farley scenes. We had a bathtub scene and…I’m a very hairy person. I told Amy [Poehler], ‘You’re gonna see some things.’ She said, ‘That’s not true.’ I shot that and a normal person wouldn't have given it a thought. But, a fat guy who had to lay in a tub…it was great. As far as Jerry, I’m sure things go on in the writers’ offices where they think, that’s just too mean. Andy [Pratt] said he couldn't do something one time [to me] because it was too mean. I told him it was fine! When we all cut, we all love one another. It’s all good. They have Jerry’s back when it counts.

More from Jim…

…about the “Newt” scene:
After, we’re at St. Elmo and Roy Hibbert (NBA Center, Indiana Pacers) is doing the scene. We’re there and shooting and I’m doing a scene when Chris [Pratt] comes over to says to me, ‘Newt Gingrich is here.’ I say, ‘Yeah, right.’ All of a sudden, I hear this buzz that Newt Gingrich was at St. Elmo to meet somebody for lunch. He went in with all the actors into the motor home and we threw it out to [Creator] Michael Schur. This was literally thrown together in minutes. Our writers came back and forth. Half an hour later, we’re shooting the scene and we’re putting it into the show. We kept asking [ourselves], did Newt Gingrich just shoot a scene with us?

Click here to watch the Newt/Jerry scene.

…about politics:
We don’t put politics in your face and we don’t push anybody’s agenda. It just happens that our lead, Amy Poehler, is obsessed with politicians. But, we do not label who we are or what way we swing. Whether or not you love Newt, he is a well-known politician.

…on singing:
I had to sing on the Christmas episode and my [on-screen] wife, Christie Brinkley, is in Broadway right now. So, I’m thinking she’ll have to cover this because she’s the Broadway singer. But, she says, ‘Oh, no. I don’t sing well.’ She must sing really well to be on Broadway because I know she’s doing great and they love her.

…on the Midwest:
“I’m proud of a million of our episodes. But that one…shooting in Indy…I just think it was really special. I did not expect the chanting. Everyone was chanting our name outside St. Elmo Steak House. I walk out of the door of the trailer and all these people just start chanting, “Jerry! Jerry!” They had pictures and autographs. At the night of the shoot at St. Elmo, there were hundreds of people. I’m totally a Midwest boy, right on the border. But, I have my connections here in Indianapolis.”

…on getting along:
As actors, we are laughing in the morning. The girls have dance parties at lunch. It’s laughter all day long. So many actors want to guest on our show because they've heard of the experience. People that have been blessed with an amazing script. We are super appreciative. A day doesn't go by when I don’t think, ‘Thank you, Lord.’

Click here to watch the Parks and Recreation "Two Parties" episode.

Watch Parks and Recreation, Thursdays at 8:30/7:30c on NBC.

Think actors still aren’t connected? Six degrees of Kevin Bacon: {1} Jim O’Heir was in {2} Welcome to Paradise (2007) with {3} Beth Grant who was in {4} Flatliners (1990) with {5} Kevin Bacon. Visit http://oracleofbacon.org to play.

Follow Jim on Twitter @JimOHeir
Read about Jim on IMDb
Many thanks to Jim O’Heir and Rob Greenwald of Forefront Media.

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