As the unfailingly charming slacker Andy Dwyer on NBC's Parks and Recreation—which returns this evening, finally, after an eight-month break—Chris Pratt wears many hats. Andy says so himself, in season two: "By day, Andy Dwyer, shoeshinist. By different time of day, Andy Radical, possum tackler. By night... no job. Do whatever I want." Audiences got to know Pratt's character as the would-be rock-star boyfriend of Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones), then the pining, homeless ex-boyfriend living in a pit outside her house. By the end of the show's second season last May, he was happily employed at the shoe-shine stand at Pawnee, Indiana's City Hall, just a stone's throw away from the offices occupied by his pals, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), and Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman); and he was embroiled in a bit of a love triangle between Ann Perkins and April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza).
In real life, Chris Pratt is even busier: he's balancing his Parks and Recreation job with a remarkable five films slated for release in 2011, not to mention his marriage to comedienne Anna Faris. We managed to catch Pratt while on a one-day break from shooting Ten Year, and talked to him about Andy's arc, his castmates, his Portmanesque performance in Moneyball, and the Tumblr created in his honor.
ALEXANDRIA SYMONDS: You're in New Mexico now, is that right?
CHRIS PRATT: Actually, I'm back in L.A. for the day. I'm doing Conan tonight, so I flew in today and I'll fly out tomorrow morning. I'm in L.A. right now, but I am working in New Mexico.
SYMONDS: Wow, so you have the longest commute in the world.
PRATT: Yeah, just like, you know, a thousand-mile commute. No big deal.
SYMONDS: Are you guys shooting out in nature?
PRATT: No, we're shooting at a place called The Andaluz Hotel, so we're in downtown Albuquerque.
SYMONDS: What's that like?
PRATT: It's nice, actually. For this project, it's really cool. It's called Ten Year; it's about a ten-year reunion, and the majority of the movie takes place at the hotel where we're staying.
SYMONDS: Oh, that's easy.
PRATT: So you just roll out of your room in the morning in your slippers and your robe and walk into wardrobe. It's really cool. It's kind of like acting camp.
SYMONDS: I'm so excited about the return of Parks and Recreation.
PRATT: Oh man, I'm really thrilled. I'm excited.
SYMONDS: Have you had a chance to celebrate with your castmates at all? Or have you been too busy?
PRATT: You know, I haven't. I got to go to the wrap party, which was nice. And we've been celebrating, and keeping in contact through emails and calls and texts, all that stuff. But I ended up leaving the day after we wrapped to work on this thing. So I feel like I'm missing out a little bit on the celebration—getting the mass emails saying. "Come to Greg [Daniels]'s house for the premiere party," and I'm thinking, "Oh man, that sucks, I want to be there."
SYMONDS: You've got to get them to Skype you in or something.
PRATT: Oh, my God, that's a great idea!
SYMONDS: Are there any hints you could give us about what new and unexpected roles Andy might be filling this season?
PRATT: Well, he's not going to be a shoeshine forever. [laughs]
SYMONDS: Good to know—although, he's really good at shining shoes, right? He's like preternaturally talented at shoe shining?
PRATT: I think he must be, because he's always got a customer or two. Actually, I think he's not very good. In fact, I doubt that he really makes that much money, or puts that much time or effort into it. I think he mostly just sits behind the counter eating free snacks.
PRATT: Andy is one of those kind of guys where, throughout the course of his life, the bar has been set pretty low. If he makes five or ten bucks shining some guy's shoes for a few minutes, he's like, "That's great! I did it!" You know? He doesn't put a lot of pressure on himself, and there's not a lot of pressure on him to succeed, other than being happy and playing his music.
SYMONDS: Have you ever talked to, or been approached by, actual shoeshine guys? It's such an old-world profession, yet Andy is such a young dude doing it.
PRATT: It's so funny, I have a pair of old boots that I have had for, shit, eight years. And the soles are basically falling off, and they're really worn-down, but I love them, and they're so comfortable. So sometimes when I'm going through the airport, I'll wear them so I can get a shoeshine. In fact, I went and got my shoes shined a couple of times right when I found out that Andy was going to become a shoeshine. I was like, I should probably go see what this is all about. So I went and got my shoes shined a couple of times. But the shoe-shining community hasn't quite embraced me yet.
SYMONDS: That's a shame! You haven't gotten anyone that runs a shoeshine blog asking you for an exclusive interview or anything?
PRATT: No, not yet. Maybe this interview will be the one that reaches out to the shoeshine community.
SYMONDS: Speaking of blogs, I was wondering if you were aware that there's a Tumblr dedicated to Andy Dwyer.
PRATT: Really? You're kidding. I'll have to check that out.
SYMONDS: It has quotes from your character, and little animated pictures and stuff.
PRATT: That's pretty amazing. To whomever began that, thank you. I'm flattered!
SYMONDS: That's how you know you've made it, I think.
PRATT: Yeah. [laughs] I have a Tumblr, I did it!
SYMONDS: Do you think Andy has grown up over the course of the show so far?
PRATT: It's hard to say. In the serialized glimpse of our show, the entire arc, the beginning to where he is now, I think Andy has grown a lot. In most of the episodes where he's a prominent character, there's a little bit of a growing process. I think that what's driving Andy is that he really means well, and he wants to do well and be a good person. He's not necessarily always capable of that, but I think he does mean well and he does want to grow, so naturally he will grow. I don't want to get too detailed or give anything away from the new season, but you'll see some growth. I think they have a 5-year arc for Andy, and there will be a ton of growth there, if we have five years to tell that story.
SYMONDS: Here's hoping! We'll keep our fingers crossed.
PRATT: Oh man, me too.
SYMONDS: As the actor who plays him, are you glad now that it seems like he's finally gotten over his thing for Ann Perkins and has a new idée fixe to pursue?
PRATT: Well, when we left off, there was kind of a love triangle between Andy, Ann and April. But I think we'll find out where his heart truly lies. And I mean, I'm happy, too—it's just such a weird and unbelievable reality, that I'll go to set and Rashida Jones and Aubrey Plaza are two girls that somehow have feelings for a fat, pratfalling, rollerblading shoeshine.
SYMONDS: Not that your wife in real life [Anna Faris] is any slouch, either.
PRATT: No, God! Anna—that's where I'm truly pinching myself, because that's not fiction. I'm like, "Oh my God, my wife is really cool, really hot, and really funny, oh my God." What happened? I just want to know what terrible things happened in my previous life that give me the fortune to have this happen.
SYMONDS: I know you and Anna are playing in a film together soon, right? And you play a character named "Disgusting Donald"?
PRATT: Oh, yeah. This is a movie that Anna is a producer on, so I kind of slept my way into this role. I play Disgusting Donald, which should be a really funny character. I wear a fat-suit prosthetic, which really looks amazing. The advances they've made in effects technology in the past few years—it's really mind-blowing how realistic this fat suit looks... It's a really hilarious movie that Anna carries, and she was kind enough to let me play that role.
SYMONDS: What was that conversation like, between the two of you? When she came home and was like, "Honey, I have this role for you in my movie and I want you in a fat suit"?
PRATT: Well the truth is, we have always made a pact—the reality is that I'll end up auditioning for a movie that she's doing, but it was important that when it comes to work situations, getting a role, we treat it like we're strangers to one another... I like to think that if we didn't know one another and weren't married and weren't friends, I still would have gotten this role, because I auditioned for it.
SYMONDS: That makes a lot of sense.
PRATT: Neither of us would want to come across as somebody who got a role because of the person we're with, you know what I mean?
SYMONDS: Right. You have a ton of other projects coming up, too.
PRATT: Yeah, there's a movie called Take Me Home Tonight, coming out in March, which is another movie that both Anna and I are doing with Topher Grace, Teresa Palmer, and Dan Fogler. It takes place in the '80s. It's one night in the life of these kids, and what happened to them in the course of these big epic parties. It's a really kind of fun movie, awesome soundtrack, really fun comedy. I did a more serious turn in a movie called Moneyball. It's a baseball movie, where I play the character of Scott Hatteberg, who was a professional baseball player for the Oakland A's in 2002. It was really intense. I lost almost 50 pounds in four months, learned how to hit the ball left-handed, and just immersed myself in the world of baseball.
SYMONDS: So you Black Swan-ed it.
PRATT: Yeah, I Black Swan-ed it. So you better recognize next year, Golden Globes! No, it was really fun. And I got to work with Brad Pitt and Philip Seymour Hoffman. It was awesome.
SYMONDS: Can I ask just something I've always wondered about Parks and Recreation? Is the cast as mean to Jim O'Heir in real life as your characters are to Jerry on the show?
PRATT: No! [laughs] There is an ongoing joke, and if anyone thought that Jim was really offended by it they wouldn't do it. He plays along with it. Jim is really funny, and really self-effacing, and completely different than Jerry. Jim is, you know, you wouldn't believe some of the stuff that comes out of his mouth. He's hilarious, and dirty and pervy. He's a comedian, he's got really thick skin, so we kind of keep the ball rolling.
There was an e-mail chain yesterday, because Aubrey was doing Leno, and I'm in Albuquerque, so it's an hour early. I said "Hey, did you guys see Aubrey on Leno? She killed!" and Jim wrote back, "Wait a minute, how did you see it? It hasn't even been on yet." And then Aziz wrote back, [doing a Tom Haverford impression] "He's on the East Coast, Jerry!" and Jim wrote back, [doing a Jerry Gurgich impression] "Sorry guys." [laughs] If Jim ever felt in any way like Jerry, then we would immediately stop and just hug him, because he's the most lovable person on the planet.
SYMONDS: Your Aziz Ansari impression is really good!
PRATT: [laughs, doing a Tom Haverford impression] "The East Coast, Jerry!"
THE THIRD SEASON OF PARKS AND RECREATION PREMIERES TONIGHT AT 9:30 ON NBC.