Chris Pratt is having one helluva moment. The box office mega-smash Guardians of the Galaxy established him as a leading man action star, another huge step in the career renaissance that began with Zero Dark Thirty in 2012 and continues with SNL hosting duties and coveted roles in features like Jurassic World, due in June, and an upcoming remake of The Magnificent Seven.

But the guy who started out on the small screen as the ironically named goofy jock Bright Abbott in Everwood wasn’t too big to return to his TV roots for the seventh and final season of NBC’s Parks and Recreation (Tuesdays, 8/7c). As Andy Dwyer, Pratt started out as a lazy, unemployed musician, but he’s grown into a responsible adult, married to Aubrey Plaza’s April Ludgate.

Meanwhile, in real life, he’s married to Mom star Anna Faris, the mother of their two-year-old son, Jack. We caught up with him to get the scoop on his unexpected success…

“Coming onto Parks and Rec as a guest star, I knew I could fight my way into being a regular—that prospect is very exciting for someone who has confidence and believes in what they do.”

Did you have any idea back when you were on Everwood that your life would turn out as it has? You’re a big movie star sex symbol now.
Of course not! I was happy then to be able to pay the bills doing what I love, and it’s kind of the same thing. I feel like I’m riding the same wave. It doesn’t seem any bigger and it’s still moving me forward. Maybe it’s going a little faster but I still haven’t hit shore. Maybe I’m better at riding it.

Were you in a good place when Parks and Rec came along?
Things were great, I had just gotten married or was about to get married, I was in love. I had just done a great movie called Kids in America and I’d gotten a new agent. I felt like a big surge. I was considering whether I should get into movies or get back into TV. It was a very exciting time.

You weren’t a regular cast member at first.
Coming onto Parks and Rec as a guest star, I knew I could fight my way into being a regular—that prospect is very exciting for someone who has confidence and believes in what they do. It was an amazing opportunity to work with the best comedians, an opportunity to do comedy and play a character that was different from what I’ve been offered before, the sort of douchey guy or the boyfriend role.

Did you ever consider not returning to the show?
That never occurred to me. I would never f**king ever leave this show. I could possibly have the good fortune of finding another group of people like this, but I don’t expect I ever will. I don’t care how much money someone would offer me, I wouldn’t abandon ship. The process of making this show spoke to me and was so perfect for me, like the way I like to work. It’s loose, and it’s fun, and you get to try something new every take.

You’re operating on a different career level now. How does it feel?
Great. But In Born Standing Up, Steve Martin talks about the moment he was standing on the stage and he’d become the biggest standup comedian in the world, selling out stadiums, and he could feel the laughter coming like waves. But it was disappointing in a way because it lacked the uncertainty, and he wished he could go back to the smoky bars. I’m not Steve Martin, but I kind of understand that a little bit.

You’ve got some action movies coming up. Have you kept up your fitness regimen?
I’m working on it a little bit, yeah. I’m trying to!