maligned by critics when it first launched, NBC’s Parks and
Recreation has truly come into its own with this writer
considering it the best comedy on television right now.
Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, best known for their strong work on
The Office, Parks and Recreation follows the same
mockumentary style mined by that popular NBC show, its focus not on
a Scranton paper company but rather a Parks and Recreation
department based in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana.
Spearheaded by the marvelous Amy Poehler as deputy Parks and
Recreation director Leslie Knope, the show has really found its
groove, its tight ensemble meshing beautifully, balancing touching
pathos with screwball frivolity. The welcome addition of new cast
members Rob Lowe and Adam Scott as state auditors slashing the
town’s budget adds yet another delicious layer to this highly
as the ambitious and often clueless Leslie Knope has evolved from
early episodes to a finely detailed and indelible character. The
talented Rashida Jones plays Ann Perkins, perhaps the show’s most
centered character, a modicum of pragmatism and restraint. As
Leslie’s best friend, her attempts at keeping Leslie grounded and
out of trouble are delights. A budding romantic arc between the
dour office worker April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) and Pawnee City Hall
shoe-shiner Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt) doesn’t hit a false note,
lending the perfect combination of laughs and awkwardness. Breakout
star Aziz Ansari, who plays the role of the sarcastic self-professed
“playboy” Tom Haverford, is a scene stealer while Nick Offerman, in
his impressive deadpan portrayal of the stoic and perpetually bored
Ron Swanson, is finally showing signs of humanity in surprising
Parks and Recreation event was held at the Leonard H. Goldenson
Theatre in North Hollywood, attended by cast and its show creators.
Featuring the premiere of the season finale (“Freddy Spaghetti”) a
day before its official air date, press, industry insiders and a
coterie of devoted fans gathered to salute this remarkable show.
After the screening, Saturday Night Live’s Seth Myers (Poehler’s
former partner on “Weekend Update”) moderated an informative and
often hilarious Q&A with the cast, show creators and editor Dean
Holland. A key point was made during the panel discussion by series
co-creator Greg Daniels addressing how the show’s come into its own
since its inaugural slate of episodes. “The cast was great before
the show was great. We had the scripts and the ideas before hand but
then when someone comes along and brings so much life to the
character, we try to incorporate it and it becomes much more alive.
I think right now the character of Leslie is so much more cool and
interesting because of the stuff that Amy brought to it. We've found
out how to write with her personality."
PopEntertainment.com contributing writer Ken Sharp spoke with the
cast and here are highlights of those conversations…
POEHLER (“Leslie Knope”)
really evolved as a character since the beginning of the show. Now
you’re really hitting your stride. You’ve created an indelible
intended for this character comedy to have moments of pathos and I
think that Greg and Mike are especially good at that and that’s why
I love their other work. We had such a small little kind of
seasonette and the show evolved and I’m happy to hear that you think
it evolved in the right way. But I know that we always wanted to try
and make this character seem like a real person in absurd
show received unfair criticism from entertainment writers but it
takes time for a show to come into its own. Now many of those same
critics are now championing the show as the best comedy on
true; it does take time for a show to come into its own. It’s great
to hear that the critics like it. We spent a lot of time in the
beginning to tell people what we weren’t. We weren’t an Office
spinoff. I wasn’t on SNL anymore. There was a lot of that. We
spent three episodes reminding people that I wasn’t doing sketch
comedy and that it wasn’t The Office. Once people started
just watching the show for what it was and not looking for ways to
compare it, I think both those things work.
What do you
like best about your character?
and her sense of duty and also that she’s kind hearted. It’s kind of
fun to play someone who has no game. (laughs)
JONES (“Ann Perkins”)
Coming from a
with a similar vibe, how were you able to draw from that knowledge
with your role on Parks and Rec?
Well, I think
I was a probably a couple of steps ahead of the awkwardness of
playing with the camera. When I first got the job on The Office
it’s a weird thing because you’re trained your whole life to not
look at the camera (laughs) and then all of a sudden you’re
supposed to look at it and treat it as kind of a character. That put
me a step ahead but everything else with this show gives it a life
of its own. I got to be a part of it from the ground up which is
It was pretty
ballsy of you to leave
as you were a popular character and doing well on the show. What
made you want to make the jump to Parks and Rec?
I think my
character had seen her final days on the show. It was always going
to be a limited kind of thing; initially, I was slated to only be on
six episodes so I was lucky for it to go that long. But I always
kind of knew it would have an end. So when an opportunity came up to
work with Greg and Mike, I didn’t even know what the show was, they
hadn’t written it, but I just blindly said “whatever you guys want.”
One of my
favorite moments of season two is last week’s episode (“The Master
Plan”), in the scene where you were drunk and you were holding the
plastic cup drunkenly moving your tongue back and forth trying
desperately to find the straw..
That’s weirdly way harder that I thought it was gonna be. It’s hard
to not catch a straw. But thank you, I’ve had a lot of practice on
pretending to be drunk. (laughs)
show, it’s obvious that there’s a great chemistry that exists with
the cast. Is that positivity conducive to pushing you even more on a
absolutely. I’m sure there are scenarios where nobody gets along and
you still make things funny this is definitely not the case. The
first thing we think is think “how can we crack each other up?” and
hopefully that extends beyond just the people that are around you
and you get to make everybody laugh.
ANSARI (“Tom Haverford”)
best part of the day for you on the set?
I love our cast so much and we all get along so well so it’s hard to
narrow it down. Maybe the thing I like best is when I get my
paycheck. That’s what I do it for, I do it for the money, I’m not
really here for the passion or the work, top me it’s just a
How do you
find balance in your character, who is often coarse but occasionally
you see glimpses of vulnerability?
It’s hard to
balance it. In real life I’m a way bigger dick and it’s so hard to
tone it down because I’m really mean to people and I’ve got to tone
it down. So it is tough. (laughs)
Yeah, it’s not
that hard. You just pretend. That’s all acting is.
As a stand-up
comedian, you’re well seasoned in improv. How much improv are you
allowed to do on the show?
ask that. Most of the stuff you see is scripted. Every now and then
there are certain scenes that lend itself more to improv and there
are definitely things here and there that are improvised but most of
what you see on the show is scripted by our amazingly talented
What was your
favorite episode this season?
I really have
a few. I like “Sweetums.” I really like “The Telethon” episode that
Amy wrote. I think that was one of my favorites. “Master Plan” also
turned out really good and I really like the finale too. I really
like the show even though I’m biased and I’m on it but even if I
wasn’t I would really enjoy the show. I feel very privileged to be a
part of it.
OFFERMAN (“Ron Swanson”)
In one of this
season two’s episodes, your character as musician is revealed. Do
you really play saxophone?
I do in fact.
I played it all through my youth and thought I was gonna become a
saxophone player before I found out you could study theatre in
college. I still play but not as regularly as I’d like to. I’ve got
a gig coming up playing with a friend.
Who are your
sax icons, “The Big Man”?
I was a big
fan of Clarence Clemons but I’d have to say John Coltrane who I was
obsessed with all through my youth. And even thought they’re a
little corny I love Kenny G and David Sanborn.
surface, your character is shockingly blunt but as the season has
progressed, you’ve softened a bit and shown glimpses of humanity
like a tentative tap of reassurance on the shoulder of April
offering some solace for her troubles.
That’s a lot
of the fun about Ron Swanson. We’ve set him up as this edifice
carved in granite. Once that’s been established then you can have a
lot of fun with finding the cracks where a little bit of syrup might
be squeezing out. Him giving begrudging affection is a really fun
place to do that. I think he’s really grown fond of April, Aubrey
Plaza’s character, in a paternal way. We’re seeing his relationship
with Leslie develop as well along with Chris Pratt who plays Andy
and whether it’s a spousal or sibling or parental feeling that he
has, he’s like a gruff Dad. He wants to have an influence on these
people because he cares about them but he does it in a sort of Clint
When the doors
are closed to his office does he actually do any work?
doesn’t do any work. (laughs) They say he’s like a machine.
He arrives at 9:02 and leaves at 4:58 every day on the dot and
there’s never anything on his desk.
episode was classic, especially when you were demonstrating how to
cane a chair. Do you really know how to do that in real life?
I do. I’ve
built a couple of canoes. There was an episode when we went to my
woodshop and that was my actual shop and at the end of the episode I
give the character Mark Brendanawicz a canoe and I made that canoe.
So the seats in the canoes are hand caned like an old wicker chair.
It’s really gratifying doing it and it’s really not that difficult
to do. If you go online and Google “chair caning” you get this web
site and this pamphlet, you get everything you need. It’s like tying
your shoes for a long time.
PRATT (“Andy Dwyer”)
really found its center. Did you feel that way at the beginning
where you needed time for the characters to find themselves?
It’s great to
hear that critics think the show has gotten a lot better. I don’t
think anyone had thought that it wasn’t good to begin with, I’m
talking about cast members and writers, I just think that we knew
the scripts were really funny and what we were shooting was really
funny. I remember watching a few episodes and thinking they weren’t
as good as the scripts but I think then something clicked in the
execution. They’ve always been funny scripts and it’s always been
fun to shoot and now it seems the synergy has caught up and the
episodes have gotten better and better.
initially only slated to appear on six episodes.
were only obligated to pay me to be in six episodes contractually as
a guest star. (laughs)
I think as we
moved along they were finding funny scenarios to write between
Rashida’s character and my character and things started clicking.
Television’s such an evolutionary medium. You just have to kind of
take what’s working and run with it and push it. The jokes that they
were writing for my character were working and they picked me up and
let me be on the show for good.
Who writes the
songs you perform on the show?
All of the
credits for all the songs except for one song, which I wrote, the
“Ann” song, were all written by a guy named Mark Rivers. He’s a
musician and a recording artist in LA and he creates the sound. He
plays every instrument, he lets us listen to a temp track and the
four band members play but we’re just copying the song that he’s
created for us.
you like to see you character go, would you like to see him finally
hook up with April?
If it was let
up to me to decide what my character did our show wouldn’t be nearly
as good as it is. (laughs) I trust our writers. We really
have superstar writers. I’d like to see Andy hook up with April and
I’d like to see Andy hook up with Ann again. My idea would be an
April, Ann and Andy threesome but that will probably not happen.
O’HEIR (“Jerry Gersich”)
is kind of doormat, will there ever be a moment where he stands up
Jim O’Heir, I love it. I think it’s a great thing for my character.
Offices have those kinds of people. The joke has always been that
the last episode we ever shoot, Jerry walks in with a machine gun
and just takes them all out. (laughs)
You had one of
the funniest moments this season during the episode when your pants
It was in the
script for the pants to split and we go to do the scene. Wardrobe
has pre-split the pants but we don’t know how it’s gonna play out.
I’m doing the scene, I bend over, the pants split and I turn around
and they’re gone, the cast is hysterical. It’s a take that cannot be
used because no one expected that. The pants split perfectly and I
had the right underwear on, and everyone just lost it. I did the
fart noise myself, I had a little bit of something. (laughs)
We did that take eight or nine times and it was hysterical every
time so it was a lot of fun to do.
best part of your day on the set?
Every day on the set is awesome. We have a lot of fun on the set
every day. I love when they let us ad-lib. We get to do a little bit
of improv. We shoot what’s on the script first and then afterwards
we get a fun run and get to do what we want. They usually only give
us a few takes where we get to go nuts and say whatever we want.
Chances are it won’t make it on the air because what we usually say
it s pretty obnoxious (laughs) but it’s fun. You’ll get to see some
of those outtakes on the upcoming “Parks and Rec” season two DVD. I
also love when we do our table reads. I love actually hearing the
script for the first time. I crack up a lot because I actually won’t
read the script before the table read because I prefer to hear the
characters read them out loud. Aziz is the prankster on the set. I
enjoy him a lot. He’s always cracking us up.
Where do you
the shoot the park scenes?
SCOTT (“Ben Wyatt”)
How much of
the show is scripted and how much is improv?
Oh, it’s all
scripted. Every scene we do a take where we screw around and
improvise just for fun and sometimes they find bits in there that we
can use. But on the whole the show is tightly scripted. The writers
are just incredible so there’s no real need to improvise other than
just to have fun, which we do. It’s such a well-written show.
Were you a fan
of the show before you came onboard?
Oh yeah. I was
a total Parks and Rec nerd. So it’s surreal coming in and
knowing all the characters and sets and realizing that it’s all
fake. It’s just a set. I was a little like a kid on a Universal
plan for your character?
see. I think there’s a crossroads for the character where I’ll have
to decide if I’m gonna continue on going from town to town being a
state auditor or if I might stick around Pawnee and get a job there
so that crossroads is coming up.
I really like
the twist in the show where you reveal to Leslie that you were a
teen mayor. She really seems to warm up to your character when
true. It’s a really funny back-story point as well.
Do you think
they recognize that sense of ambition in each other?
absolutely. I think they’re slowly finding that they have a lot in
HERE TO SEE WHAT AMY POEHLER HAD TO SAY TO US IN 2008!
CLICK HERE TO SEE WHAT RASHIDA JONES HAD
TO SAY TO US IN 2012!
CLICK HERE TO SEE WHAT ADAM SCOTT HAD TO
SAY TO US IN 2012!
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