The Cast of NBC’s Parks and Recreation + Creator/EP Mike Schur (center)
WARNING: Spoilers Discussed + Some Colorful Language is Used
The cast and producers of NBC’s Parks and Recreation appeared on the fifth night of the Paley Center’s annual TV festival simply known as PaleyFest. They nicely filled in for the cast and crew of The Office, who had to cancel at the last minute due to production scheduling issues. The audience screened the March 8 episode as well as an exclusive end of Season 4 gag reel. Though there were many of the show’s cast members missing in action, the evening was so much fun and so incredibly hilarious. The Moderator:
Michael Schneider, L.A. Bureau Chief, TV Guide Magazine
Amy Poehler, Leslie Knope
Chris Pratt, Andy Dwyer
Mike Schur, Creator/EP
Retta, Donna Meagle
Jim O’Heir, Jerry Gergich
Dan Goor, Co-Executive Producer/Writer
Dean Holland, Producer/Director
Cutouts of Aziz Ansari & Rob Lowe, Parks and Rec
- When moderator Michael Schneider introduced the panel, the participants came out carrying cardboard cutouts of their missing-in-action cast members: Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, Aziz Ansari, Rashida Jones, and Aubrey Plaza. At various times, the camera would focus on one of the cutouts. The funniest had to be the Rob Lowe stand in. The camera would cut to it every time Creator/EP Mike Schur talked about how Lowe was a perfect human being. There was no cutout of Nick Offerman. He was shooting a movie but was hoping to make it to the panel at some point. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen but he was definitely there in spirit. He wrote the episode that was screened. He did a fantastic job.
- Loved Amy Poehler revealing that they called Ann’s slutty phase (when she was dating a lot) her “rumspringa.” Hilarious.
- Retta is super into the Twilight book series. She asks the audience how many people read the books. And then she broke it all down for us saying that the first one was very “teeny bopper.” The second one was boring. The third one was “good sex.” And the fourth one, she was beside herself. She said something unintelligible before saying: “That s–t is so f–kin’ good.”
- Two words: Philly Justice. On the set, Amy, Adam, and Rashida, along with guest stars Kathryn Hahn and Paul Rudd, created this faux TV show called Philly Justice, about a group of Philadelphia lawyers in 2003. They came up with storylines, back stories, and character names. Paul Rudd was even replaced after the pilot. His replacement was Dylan McDermott who was then replaced by Dermot Mulroney.
- We found out even more about the intricacies of Philly Justice. Adam’s character is named Nick Bellows. Nick’s still reeling from the events of 9/11. He’s a real loose cannon. Rashida’s character is Joanna “Joey” Suarez. She was testing a little angry so they put her in glasses so she’d look sweeter. Amy Poehler’s character is Holly McEntire. Holly develops an eating disorder. The “press photo” they showed us was shot 4-5 weeks ago. Even though this whole thing isn’t real, they would tease Rudd mercilessly over being replaced. Philly Justice is on after Joan of Arcadia. It got a 22-episode pick up.
- Regarding improv and the cast — the actors usually stick to what’s written but they have absolutely been successful in improvising a line or two. Donna’s “Do I look like I drink water” from the recent “Campaign Shake-Up” episode was all Retta. Chris Pratt has been pretty successful. Mike Schur’s all time favorite improvised line came from him in the show’s flu episode from Season 3. Andy: “Leslie, I typed your symptoms into the thing up here and it says you could have network connectivity problems.” In “Telethon,” Pratt improvised a line after April gets all smart ass with Andy. He says “Douché!” Poehler says Pratt gave her a line in an upcoming debate episode where Leslie calls herself a “master debater.” Classic.
Amy Poehler, Parks and Rec (w/ cutout of Rashida Jones)
- One of the original titles for the show was supposed to be The Education of Leslie Knope. Through a series of significant relationships, Leslie was supposed to learn more about life and herself. We’d also witness another kind of education through her experiences at work. But then Adam Scott (Ben Wyatt) came onto to the show. He became a love interest for Leslie and because they were so good together they knew they couldn’t break them up.
- The Leslie Knope campaign story was originally a possibility for Season 5. But then NBC made Parks and Rec a mid-season show so they decided to “f–k it” and do it right now. According to Schur, it makes sense to do it now, with this being an election year and all.
- Treat. Yo. Self. Retta has been treating herself for years. She’s big into online shopping, especially on Amazon.
- They almost never write in when an actor looks to the camera. That is all them. So brilliant. Chris Pratt looks into the camera as if Andy’s sharing something with his best friend. Aziz’s Tom looks are like “check this s–t out.” Donna’s looks convey “Did you see this jackass?” And Jerry doesn’t really do them. Jim O’Heir says he’s just glad when the camera is on him.
- Speaking of Jim, he reveals that his character is 14 years older than he is in real life. Jerry’s 64 and Jim is 50. O’Heir admits to looking great for 64 but “sh–ty for 50.” Later he calls Lowe inhuman because they’re only a couple of years apart in age in real life.
- Pratt is a stuntman at heart — he and his brother even wanted to be a stuntman team at one point. Pratt will do one or two stunts before his fabulous stuntman takes over. For example, he did try the whole running into the ambulance bit…twice.
- Whenever there’s a touching moment, Amy says she cannot look at Nick Offerman. He has these big blue googly eyes like her — he’s mostly eyeballs — if she looks at him, she’ll start crying.
- Right before the start of the season, the only idea that the writers had was the one for Ben’s Low-Cal Calzone Zone.They loved the idea of Ben being into calzones.
- Retta can cry on cue — big crocodile tears. Nick can too. He can get super worked up to the point where tears are just falling down his face.
- There’s a Pawnee book that hit newsstands that has become the bible for the show. The writers have referred to it when making sure they stay canon.
- There’s a general rule that everyone is in every episode.
- Pratt says Poehler is a terrific DJ. They’ll often have dance parties in the makeup trailer after lunch. In fact, recently, a dance party caused them to be late to the set one day. Schur had no idea that that was the reason. Woops.
- They are “cautiously optimistic” about a Season 5. If it were up to them they’d go ten seasons.
Chris Pratt & Mike Schur, Parks and Rec
- Amy Poehler said she considers Ben “the love of Leslie’s life for sure.”
- They don’t know what the future holds for Ben and Leslie. But they like what they’ve been able to explore with the couple, especially when Ben chose to stay in town. Poehler feels it was romantic to show when someone decides to stay and be in love with their small town. Usually, it’s the big city that holds all the appeal.
- With Tom and Ann, the writers thought of this pairing as early as Season 2. The idea behind putting them together was that they already had a couple of soulmates in town; they wanted to do a pure comedy relationship. Plus, this coupling couldn’t have materialized before. Yes, Tom was into Ann from the very beginning. Ann wasn’t ready until now. She had to first hit rock bottom (when Rob Lowe’s Chris Traeger broke up with her); and then she had to go through her slutty phase. All of this had to happen before she could accept any type of relationship with Tom into her life.
Retta & Jim O’Heir, Parks and Rec
Spoilers Section (do not read if you don’t want to know)
- We find out in the finale, whether Leslie wins or loses the election. They have shot at least two endings. Not a lot of people know which ending they are going to use. Poehler says it was touching filming Leslie’s acceptance speech and the concession speech. Those two kinds of speeches tend to be very similar…until the end, of course. She said it was “a real waterworks factory for ol’ Leslie.” It was awesome when Schneider asked if Chris Pratt knew the ending and he was like “I was there but I don’t know.” And then he followed that up with: “Would Andy know?” Which quickly evolved into “What Would Andy Do?” So funny.
- We’ve seen the last of all the Tammys for this season but they will be back in the future. Schur says their rule of thumb is one episode a year for the Tammys because they tend to blow up the world when they’re around.
- In one of the upcoming episodes, they have shot a scene with Ben Schwartz’s Jean-Ralphio. They haven’t edited that one yet, so they’re not completely sure if it will make the cut. Apparently, his hair is amazing in the scene.
- Poehler wrote and directed episode 20 — it’s the big city council debate episode between Leslie Knope and Bobby Newport. So Paul Rudd will be returning. He’ll actually be in the last three episodes of the season. Amy says it was a dream come true to work with the actors in a different way. Chris Pratt feels Amy was a great director. He says she’s very giving, especially with her laughter. And it’s nice to have that kind of feedback.
- There are three other candidates involved in the debate: porn star Brandi Maxxxx; another guy running on a single issue (he’s an animal lover); and Fester Trim — another single issue candidate. His platform revolves around guns. Who’s going to play Fester? None other than Friday Night Light’s Buddy Garrity, Brad Leland.
- Upcoming guest stars include The West Wing’s Bradley Whitford and Glee’s Mike O’Malley.
- Bradley Whitford — For Schur, it was a dream to work with a West Wing alum. In Whitford’s episode, there will be West Wing references, including the very first scene, which is a classic West Wing walk-and-talk scene.
- Mike O’Malley — runs a van rental company. Knope and co. rent vans from him but individuals from the Bobby Newport campaign pay him off to not rent the vans to the Knope campaign. Look for Donna to be a big part of this storyline. She steps up. “I make it happen,” Retta says.
- On Chris Traeger — in last four episodes of the season, he hits rock bottom and figures out what he needs to do to dig himself out.
- They will continue to mix and match characters in storylines. In the second to last episode the B-story involves Ron, Tom and Donna. There’s a Tom and April story coming up as well as a lot of Ron/Chris stuff coming up.
- Pratt says if the show is given another season, his darling wife, Anna Faris, is going to come play and be hilarious.
The Nick Offerman-written episode of Parks and Recreation airs Thursday March 8. Then the show goes on a mini-hiatus. It will return in mid-April.
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