Nick Offerman & Creator Ethan Nicolle Talk Axe Cop

Written by Lucas Jones

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Axe Cop, a show based on the stream of consciousness of a young boy named Malachai, and brought to life by his older brother Ethan, has been renewed for a second season on FXX, as a part of their Animation Domination line-up (Thursday nights at midnight beginning April 16th). For those who have not seen the show, or read the online comic on which the idea is based, the story follows our hero, Axe Cop, as he makes his way through several different adventures over the course of the season. The show takes its unusual and somewhat random nature from Malachai, who puts Axe Cop in all types of strange situations, often leaving the writers on the show struggling to fill in the gaps.

Nick Offerman, best known for his portrayal of the mustachioed Ron Swanson on Parks and Rec, is a man that I’ve often thought of while making life’s tough choices. What Would Ron Swanson Do? usually leads me to the correct answer, and usually that answer is scotch and smoked meats. And so it was with great excitement (and very minor pant wetting) that I rang in to ask him some questions about his returning show, Axe Cop.

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Is Axe Cop inspired by a character from somebody that you know or from a movie?

Ethan Nicolle: I mean, I guess the look, the actual look of Axe Cop because it all started just with my brother saying, can we play Axe Cop? And, he had a toy axe, so from there I just kind of—I drew an axe, and that’s just—has always kind of been my standard cop that I would draw just because they always have that mustache, aviator glasses, the hat. So, just kind of like a Burt Reynolds 70’s cop was just kind of what I was going for. There’s not like a real person that it’s based on.

AXE COP -- (Airs Thursday, April 30, 12:00 AM e/p) CR: FXX
Photo Credit: FXX

As a follow up, there are a lot of bad guys. Do you guys have a favorite bad guy that you guys have created, or is there somebody else you would want to create during Season 2?

Ethan Nicolle: The funny thing about a bad guy is it really is like he doesn’t seem to get as excited about creating the bad guys. Like, he gets more excited about ways of killing the bad guys, so he’ll just pick anything, like an avocado, or like some random object to make that a bad guy. Let’s kill it.

Can you guys talk a little bit about how there was a gap between the first season and the second season? Can you talk a little bit about what was going on during that time period, and how Axe Cop got a Season 2?

Nick Offerman: FOX couldn’t handle us… Is the honest truth. There is too much—we reveal too many secrets both of free masonry and a couple other secret societies that I can’t mention, otherwise they wouldn’t be secret, and so they’ve stepped back. I think, sincerely, they tried the Saturday night ADHD thing, and they sort of took a step back, and rearranged the dominoes and said, oh, we have a much better strategy for this, and now we’re trying this FXX plan, which is thrilling. I mean, I was a big fan of—I don’t know if you guys are aware of the graphic novels from which the cartoon has sprung, but I’m just crazy about those, and so when something is that funny, and whimsically perverse, and you can make a show out of it, and have a network show it to people, it’s incredibly exciting.

So, in the past with other characters say, like a Ron Swanson, you’ve had stuff in common, I heard that you like doing woodwork in real life, like he likes, too. What can you relate to, in terms of Axe Cop? What do you have in common with the character of Axe Cop?

AXE COP -- (Airs Thursday, April 23, 12:00 AM e/p) CR: FXX
Photo Credit: FXX

Nick Offerman: Gosh, well I think once Ethan and I got together, he began to draw from my own life. I often wear a cat suit at night in the house. Mine is not black. I’m more of an autumn, so I go with earth tones. I’m ape shit about birthday cake, and I’m really handy with an axe. My dad taught me to use an axe, and keep it sharp and maintained, never let a spot of rust get on your axe head.

Before I saw this show, if I were to envision you as an animated character, I would say that it’s pretty close to Axe Cop. So, of all your great co-stars in your other past projects, who would you be most interested in seeing as an animated cop character, and what would be their weapon of choice?

Nick Offerman: Gosh. It’s a hard one with a long stretch. Well, I’ve always—my favorite actor is a lady named Megan Mullally, and I’ve always thought it’d be really funny to put a mustache on her and make her a sheriff in a western. She’s got a heck of a swagger, and I suppose—she doesn’t like guns. She’s not a fan of the firearm, so I believe I’d give her the—do you remember that movie Walking Tall with Joe Don Baker from the ’70s? He makes himself a cudgel the size of an ox’s foreleg. I’d give her something like that, perhaps a large shillelagh. She would walk softly and carry a heck of a big stick.

Ethan Nicolle: I should have been thinking about it the whole time he was answering. I mean, I don’t know if you can—I wouldn’t have said it until I experienced it, but Ken Marino with the flute [he voices the role of “Flute Cop”] is pretty amazing. But, outside of that, man, that’s like I feel really put on the spot. I’m trying to think of— So many choices. Yes. I never would have thought that “Flute Cop” would be pretty much—I mean, he’s possibly the funniest character on the show. He’s just so funny, like the delivery of those lines. It really is the team, like the way that Nick and Ken play off each other is so funny.

What was your reaction for Axe Cop getting a Season 2? Were you more surprised or excited?

Photo Credit: FXX
Photo Credit: FXX

Ethan Nicolle: It’s probably a good combination of both of those. It’s probably hard to discern how much of each. I think, it was a process because it really did go into a limbo there where it seemed like FOX didn’t know what they were going to do with it for a while. Nobody seemed to know where it was going to go, what was going to happen, even with the whole ADHD block. And, then there started to become talk, it was like a slow boil, like it started to be a little bit of talk here of maybe FXX is going to do something or whatever. Suddenly they’re calling me and they’re—then it just happened, suddenly really fast; they’re making more shows again, and it’s happening, they have a date. And, so yes, I think it’s actually still hitting me that it’s actually really going to—like Season 2’s actually going to happen. So, yes I’m really excited because I think that these episodes are the best ones they’ve made so far. They’re really good.

Are you planning, or can you tease any other guest voices that you might have on this season? Or, is that a no go?

Nick Offerman: Well, one thing I love about the show, and it reminds me of Childrens Hospital, as well is that when people in our business respond to a show, it is unadulterated fun. No holds barred silliness, with no apparent rules. Actors really respond to that, and so we—I’m always, when they call me and say, oh hey we got—for every little guest spot, hey we got Giancarlo Esposito; we got Jonathan Banks. What? And, I haven’t—I don’t know what the status is—I’ve not discussed with the brass what I’m allowed to spill or not, but I will—I’ll give you one small piece of information, and that is Harry Styles, to my knowledge, does not appear in Season 2… But, if he did, he’d be an incredibly cute furry-nosed wombat with a penchant for snack cakes. I may be overstepping my bounds here, Ethan, I apologize.

You said that Malachai’s consulted for advice if the show kind of hits like a dead end, or it needs back stories or something. Has there ever been something that he contributed that has like totally floored you with its complexity, or just something so out of left field that you go, how did you even come up with that? 

Ethan Nicolle:  Well, I think that’s the average response to Malachai, is how did you even come up with that? But, there was—my favorite memory, and I think I have told this story before, but it was one of the first times we called Malachai when we were at ADHD working on the show, actually in Season 1. He got on the phone and he was giving us—he was helping us come up with an ending, and he got going and you could hear him, like he—there was no interrupting him, he was just—you could hear him running around the room talking on the phone and the entire office, like everybody from the whole—all the different rooms at ADHD had come into the conference room, and they were listening to him on speaker.

He had no idea he was gathering this massive audience. So, by the time he got done, he probably went on for 20 minutes, just going—and then he chops at them, and he jumps up here and he goes, I have the power to make all the bad guys escape from prison, and attack you. And, then he goes down this—just on and on and on, and on, and finally super dramatic Axe Cop wins, and then he gets this like standing ovation because he doesn’t realize that now there’s a crowd around the phone listening to him.

So, that was really funny. But, generally, when Malachai gives us his ideas for the show, it’s a whole bunch of stuff that we have to sift through, and it’s way more complicated than you could put on the show. We have to figure out how to—it always helps spark something and often generates new episode ideas, too, like I think the “Grey Diamond” origin. We have an episode where we look more into “Grey Diamond,” and we got a lot of stuff from Malachai on that one, and stuff like Secret Town. There’s actually comics that I’ve drawn that are based on stuff he gave for the show that ended up not fitting into the show, so I just made into a comic. So, yes, he gives us tons of information and tons of stuff to play with when we talk to him.

Nick Offerman: That kid’s a God damn gold mine. He’s something else.

Photo Credit: FXX
Photo Credit: FXX

Nick, I actually had a somewhat random question to ask you. Your mustache has kind of become like a pop culture icon in and of itself, and I remember watching an interview where you said it’s not about having a mustache or not having it, it’s the journey that it takes to grow one. Is there a favorite part of that journey for you?

Nick Offerman: No. I mean, the topic of my mustache is a rather insipid one that I’m very grateful that really as a result of the great writing of Parks and Recreation, somehow my mustache came out on top, and my mustache is actually represented by CAA, and I have to be careful what I say on its behalf. But, I’m lucky I guess that I—my hair and whiskers, and also all of my fingernails and toenails continue to grow in a way that is useful and pleasing to me. I hope that continues, but I—when people ask me about it, I do my best to give them something they can write in their journal. And, so to specifically answer your question, I enjoy the entire journey equally. You know what I enjoy? People say, do you have any tips on growing a mustache like that? I say, yes, there’s one important tip, don’t shave, and that is my favorite part of the journey is I hate shaving. I like to let Mother Nature’s ribbons be unfurled for all the world to see, and so that’s key that I don’t have to shave, scrape my precious soft skin with a sharp piece of steel.

After the interview, executive producer Hend Baghdady came on the line and shared a funny story about the writing process of Axe Cop:

Well, I am a girl and according to Axe Cop, which is really Malachai, girls are on the dumb list, and very stupid, and we were working out of the house at that point. It was in the very, very early stages, and we were all having lunch on a picnic table in the back, and I can’t remember what question was asked, but somebody asked him a question. And, he said, it’s a secret, and I think Nick was like, well, this is a safe place, these are all of the people that work on the show. And, he goes, I will whisper it to you, but she has to leave, she is fired. And, I had to get up and leave the picnic table. And, then there was another time where we were actually watching the show at a conference, and he was on the panel and he gave us notes on the final cut to change it back because we had rewritten part of the story that he pitched us on the phone. And then when I said that this is the final one if it’s airing, like we had to make this change, and he fired me and quit the show.

Hear the voice of Nick Offerman as Axe Cop on, you guessed it, Axe Cop, every Thursday night on FXX.

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