Ben Schwartz Q&A: ‘House of Lies’ & ‘Parks and Recreation’

The most recent season of “House of Lies” left a whole lot of things up in the air. Indeed, as series star, Ben Schwartz joked with Gold Derby during our recent webcam chat: “It’s so exciting to not know what’s going to happen. Is Kristen [Bell] in charge? Is Don [Cheadle] in jail? Or am I in the circus? Maybe I’m in the circus for a season and have to work in Cirque du Soleil?” 

The past three years has seen Schwartz pulling comedy double duty on television with his role on "House of Lies" and a recurring guest spot on “Parks and Recreation.”

On "Lies," his character, Clyde Oberholdt, faced his most turbulent year falling out of favor with Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle). As he explains: “They gave me so much to play with… he realises that he’s totally alone and that all he has is drugs and alcohol and stuff like that… a lot of the confidence he has, a lot of it is very false… He’s a very insecure human being and I feel like a lot of people who are lying and cheating their way… put on this persona like they are everything and the second you get them in a place where they’re uncomfortable you see who they really are… this is the first time you learn he can’t do it by himself, that he needs his friends… he needs them desperately.” 

This all led to a dramatic confrontation between the two. The actor says that scenes like this “makes you want to elevate your game, it’s like you’re playing basketball with someone way better than you and you just want to try to hang on and see if you can play with him… It was much fun and we got to improvise a little bit and be in the moment and say things and there was this whole little Obamacare run that we improvised, and to play with him… it’s amazing.” 

As for “Parks and Recreation,” Schwartz says working on the show is “just like playtime, you’re with the funniest people in the world… and then they give you the funniest words and you get to be the stupidest; I’m a muppet, I’m a cartoon in that frickin’ thing.” And his character — the smooth, confident, loud and sleazy Jean-Ralphio — is "the ultimate fake it til you make it guy… Everything is the best thing in the world; he can get the worst STD and be ‘dude I got the worst STD which means I’ve had sex with someone…’ Nothing is bad; he looks on the bright side of every situation… You can’t really get mad at him because he’s trying so hard to get people to like him… because he is annoying… but I try to play him in a way that you kind of want to root for him and you kind of want him to succeed and when he makes a mistake you laugh at him as oppose to being like ‘you idiot!’”

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UPLOADED May 19, 2014 9:44 am