When Amy Poehler first thought about doing crafting competition show “Making It,” she knew there was only one person she wanted to do it with: her former “Parks and Recreation” co-star and renowned woodworker, Nick Offerman.
“It was so nice to just be on a set with him again and spend time with him,” Poehler tells Variety of reuniting on the new show. “Nick and I kind of share a similar giddiness for new things, and I’m not as bubbly as [‘Parks and Rec’ character] Leslie and he’s not as grouchy as Ron — we kind of meet in the middle — so it was just great to walk around and see interesting things being made and not have to memorize lines.”
“Making It” is Poehler’s first dive into unscripted TV with her Paper Kite production company, where “makers” from all across the country compete in a series of design challenges, ranging from creating terrariums and wedding cake toppers to building forts and redesigning entire rooms. The contestants are judged by Barney’s New York creative ambassador Simon Doonan and Etsy trend expert Dayna Isom Johnson, while Poehler and Offerman take on hosting duties.
“Most of the show we’re just like ‘Wow, good luck, we’re glad we’re not judging’ — like ‘Good luck you guys!'” Poehler jokes. “It’s so fun to not judge because you can help the contestants, you can root for them. Most of the episodes we did I just kept trying to, behind the scenes, convince people that no one should go home. We left that work to somebody else.”
As for Offerman, he immediately signed on to be a part of the show because he share he feels a “real sibling relationship” with Poehler.
“She’s like an amazing sister because she is the member of the family who makes sure everything’s taken care of, so she has great leadership skills — but then when the time is right she’ll also screw around and be the greatest clown on the bus, which is a great combination. I just stand next to her, and then once in a while I say a word and that’s my job. That’s a pretty lucky situation,” he says.
After also serving alongside Poehler as an executive producer on the series, Offerman says that a key part of the process for him has been “creating a show that hasn’t really been done, a crafting competition show” in the unscripted TV space.
The actor who played skilled handyman Ron Swanson for seven seasons on “Parks and Rec,” also has a real-life passion for woodworking, operating his own Los Angeles wood shop and writing several books on the craft. The show, then, allows him to spread a message that is important to him.
“[It’s] sort of a soapbox issue for me — encouraging everyone on the planet to make things with their hands,” Offerman says. “I think it’s great personally, but also think it’s great for a community if everyone is handy and responsible and you’ve taken better care of your family and your neighborhood and your river and so forth.”
For Poehler, a longtime lover of crafts and interior design, creating the show was both a passion project and a desire to create more positive, uplifting TV.
Teasing that unlike most competition shows, “there’s not any yelling — like zero yelling. No one stabs each other in the back, unless they accidentally bump into each other with shears or something,” Poehler was inspired by shows like “Project Runway” and “The Great British Bake Off” for the foundation and tone of “Making It.”
“There’s a sense of camaraderie. It’s the kind of show you can watch with your kids and be rooting for people and also be inspired. I don’t do well with competition shows that stress me out, there’s enough things to be anxious about,” Poehler says. “It will make you cry, but in a really good satisfying way, after you’ve had a glass or two of wine, and don’t we want that from our TV?”
Judges Doonan and Johnson took that uplifting theme to heart when judging the show, with Doonan saying that Poehler and Offerman “were very clear from the very beginning [that they wanted] this show to be a nurturing, good-natured show.”
“This isn’t that old idea of reality shows where people are just being humiliated — this is absolutely the antithesis of that,” Doonan stresses. “It’s really not like any other reality show. It’s sort of profoundly nurturing. When you see people making stuff with their guard down you want to help them — we had to restrain ourselves from jumping over the table and grabbing the glue gun and helping them.”
Johnson adds, “I think people will really walk away from ‘Making It’ wanting to make something, wanting to engage with their family and friends, and wanting to create something fun. I think it’s something that’s needed right now in our society and hopefully we will serve as the inspiration for that.”
Poehler also promises that unlike lots of reality TV, there’s “a lot less singing than anyone’s used to.”
“I mean, Nick and I sing constantly but just for sport,” she jokes.
But more seriously, Poehler is hoping that the show is the kind of show that will inspire its audience.
“I kind of hope that this show is the kind of show that you’ll watch it and then you’ll turn off the TV and go make something,” she says. “My goal is to make TV that makes you turn off the TV, in a good way.”
“Making It” premieres July 31 on NBC.