Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
You may or may not be aware that there’s an animated television show created by a five-year-old (Malachai Nicolle) and his 29-year-old brother (Ethan Nicolle) on FXX called AXE COP, but now that show is heading into its second season.
Executive produced and starring the voice of Nick Offerman (otherwise known as Ron Swanson in PARKS AND REC), AXE COP follows the adventures of a police officer who prefers to wield an axe in battle. So from the title alone, you know exactly what you’re in for: ridiculous, good fun.
Fresh Fiction had the opportunity to ring up creator Ethan Nicolle and Executive Producer Nick Offerman. We chatted about the show’s characters, favorite TV shows, and of course, Offerman’s legendary lip-locks.
Axe Cop’s look is so great and comical. Did you base it off a particular person?
Nick Offerman: “That’s a good one for Ethan.”
Ethan Nicolle: “I mean, 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 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, and 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.”
Before I saw this show, if I were to envision Mr. Offerman 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?
Offerman: “Gosh. It’s a hard one with a long stretch. Well, I’ve always—my favorite actor is a lady named Megan Mullally.”
Your wife. Nice.
Offerman: “Yeah. 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 70’s?”
Yeah. The original.
Offerman: “He makes himself a cudgel the size of an ox’s foreleg.
Offerman: “I’d give her something like that, perhaps a large shillelagh. She would walk softly and carry a heck of a big stick.”
That’s so great. What about you, Ethan? Any people that you look up to, or are friends with that you would like to see in that kind of medium?
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, I feel really put on the spot. I’m trying to think of—”
Offerman: “He’s got a skill [Laughs].”
Nicolle: “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.”
No doubt, man.
Nicolle: “It really works. I’m just going to go with that, it’s just like a cheating answer, but— it’s your turn.”
Offerman: “It’s a hometown answer.”
How do you guys record your voices? A couple of months ago we talked with the cast of ARCHER and they said they record everything separately. Do you guys do it together or separately?
Offerman: “We generally— only in very rare instances do a couple people get together, but the nature of our show is such between the four most prevalent characters, Axe Cop and Ken Marino as Flute Cop, Rob Huebel as Grey Diamond, and the effervescent Patton Oswalt as Sockarang– we’re all running around like complete assholes.”
Nicolle: “Oh yes.”
Offerman: “Trying to find our fannies with both hands. The most desperate scramble and impressive feat of every episode is simply that they manage to record each of us. I mean, I’ve done AXE COP this year alone in London, Cape Town, South Africa, Calgary, Los Angeles and New York.”
Offerman: “So, I cannot get those guys to travel with me, and plead as I might. I think it’s a lot more fun— I know I’ve done some Bob’s Burgers. I think that’s such an excellent show, and they often have a group of actors together, and that’s a lot of fun. It’s a luxury if people’s schedules permit it, but the great thing is when you get in the room together, then you start screwing around, and you end up with an extra level of tomfoolery.”
You mentioned all the main players, which was Patton and Ken Marino. But are you planning, or can you tease any other guest voices that you might have on this season? Or, should we bite our lip on this one?
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 so-and-so for a guest spot.’ Or, ‘Hey, we got Giancarlo Esposito.’ — ‘We got Jonathan Banks.’
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’ll give you one small piece of information, and that is Harry Styles, to my knowledge, does not appear in Season 2.”
[Laughs] Alright. Good to know.
Offerman: “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.”
Nicolle: “Well, maybe we’ll see him in Season 3, then?”
Offerman: “Yes, maybe. By God, we’ll make that wombat sing.”
[Laughs] Oh, man. Alright, Nick. I gotta talk whiskers with 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?
Offerman: “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 REC, 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 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 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.”
Offerman: “I say, yes, there’s one important tip: don’t shave. That is my favorite part of the journey; 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.”
[Laughs] Perfect. Thank you.
Offerman: “You’re welcome. Oh, I’ll go on. I’m just getting started.”
Well, I’m sure you get asked about it all of the time, but I know that one had been particularly burning at me for a while because I’m a fan. But yes, I’m sure you get asked about it, like you said pretty much every time you have an interview.
Offerman: “Well, it’s a funny thing and it’s the fact that anyone would ask me about anything reminds me that I’m a very lucky boy with a very lucky job, and so I’m game to have fun with my mustache, as much as the next super cop.”
That’s great, and I appreciate you passing along your wisdom. On different note: what kind of television shows do you guys watch outside of this?
Offerman: “Gosh. Well, mine’s — now, Ethan, you start thinking now — mine’s easy. I greatly enjoy the wealth of the menu of available television these days is just an embarrassment of riches. But from my own part, all of the very fortunate opportunities that have come my way really have killed my TV time, and the last few years it’s all I can do to watch PARKS AND REC, and then CHILDRENS HOSPITAL, BOB’S BURGER, and AXE COP, the things that my wife and I work on.
If I could take a vacation and just watch TV, I would binge watch GAME OF THRONES, and the show AX MEN that I’ve not— which I now realize is connected; it’s all connected. I keep hearing about AX MEN, and I can’t begin to watch it because I know it’ll be like getting sucked into a video game. I’ll go underground for a month, and won’t come up, but it’s crazy.
I mean, all of the amount of great comedy right now– it’s astonishing. It’s amazing, and BROAD CITY, THE LAST MAN ON EARTH— I catch pieces of those everywhere I can. BROOKLYN NINE-NINE, forget about it.”
Nicolle: “I have an obsession with shows about people who think they like almost died, but then didn’t, like I SHOULDN’T BE ALIVE, I SURVIVED, SURVIVING EVIL, LOCKED UP ABROAD— all of these reality shows, who’s just a person sitting there telling their crazy story where they had a gun pointed at their head and they got away or something. So, I don’t know why, but I’m just like obsessed with those. I watch them like any time a new one pops up on Netflix, I’m watching it.
Outside of that, I really like AMERICAN PICKERS, but I don’t know why. I just like old stuff. I like seeing old stuff and seeing them find it, and BETTER CALL SAUL, I like BREAKING BAD, and I’m really loving the new DAREDEVIL on Netflix. It’s really awesome.”
Offerman: “I thought you were being funny when you listed those shows, and then I realized you weren’t– that those must be real shows.”
Nicolle: “They are.”
Offerman: “That’s kind of amazing. I’ll ask you about them later because I want to see a show that sounds really delicious. People living past almost dying.”
Offerman: “I’ve heard of one where people get thrown in prison in Mexico and they make it back kind of show. Is that one of the one’s you listed?”
Nicolle: “Yes. It’d be LOCKED UP ABROAD. It’s always a story about somebody who’d— a lot of them are smuggling, although they’ll end up trying to do some smuggling or tricked into doing a smuggling job, and then suddenly they are on a trip to Rio De Janeiro or some third world country somewhere and suddenly they’re in prison there for years, and then they have to try to get back or get out or— it’s crazy.”
Offerman: “Yes, but I’ll sit through that.”
AXE COP airs as part of ANIMATION DOMINATION, FXX’s late-night animated programming block, which premieres new episodes beginning tonight at midnight.