“She’s a responsible, smart woman, but she will drop all of that the minute she can fuck something up. […] I think that’s a really great approach to life.”
So stated Aubrey Plaza about her character on NBC’s sitcom, “Parks and Recreation,” the rebellious April Ludgate. The cast — including surprise guests Nick Offerman and Plaza — was in rare form Tuesday night at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood. Moderator Patton Oswalt, who famously appeared as a proud Pawnean filibustering for his beliefs, kicked things off with a few sharp jokes and things kept rolling for the nearly two hour discussion with Billy Eichner (Crazy Craig), Ben Schwartz (Jean-Ralphio), Jim O’Heir (Jerry/Gary/Larry), Retta (Donna), Adam Scott (Ben Wyatt), Amy Poehler (Leslie Knope), Offerman (Ron Swanson), Plaza (April), Chris Pratt (Andy Dwyer), and creator Michael Schur (of the current cast, only Aziz Ansari was absent while on his stand-up tour). Below, you’ll find the highlights from Paleyfest’s liveliest panel yet.
How Amy Poehler was convinced to work on “Parks and Rec”:
Poehler, who — keeping with her on stage tradition — was drinking a glass of wine throughout the evening, recounted how creator Michael Schur convinced her to sign on for “Parks and Recreation.” “Mike just said a very simple thing to me when he was pitching the show: ‘You will really like the way we do this show, and I promise you this will be the best job you’ve ever had.’ Something very simple, and he was right. The show, like most creative things, can become bigger than you, and this show became owned by the people who watched it and kept it alive. All the people who are here tonight feel like they own a piece of it, which I feel like is the secret to any success, that it’s collaborative. […] I’m going to cry. I’m drinking wine.”
Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson originally represented Democrats and Republicans.
After Oswalt asked a question about the relationship between Leslie and Ron, Poehler was ready with a multi-layered, clear response. “Leslie and Ron were like opposites, and still are,” Poehler said. “But at first we were really showing the two sides of government work. When you start a show, you kind of have to broad stroke it a bit. ‘This is a show…about two kinds of people…’ Ron and Leslie were a very Mary [Tyler Moore] and Lou Grant kind of relationship.”
“There’s an old adage — that I don’t think is really true — but the adage is when people want a dad they vote Republican and when they want a mom they vote Democrat. Republicans are kind of like stern and tough and personal responsibility and war and stuff like that. Democrats are like, ‘More people should have food.’ At the beginning, the main conception of the show was that there would be a dad and a mom in the office, but the idea was like a stern, but loving dad and a loving mom.”
Leslie and Ron make out every season.
After Schur explained the origins of the co-workers’ relationship, he touched on a point that has always been clear to fans. “They were not romantic options for each other,” Schur said. “We took that off the table.”
Then Poehler interrupted to the delight of the fans in attendance: “But I will say every year there’s a scene, just for the gag reel, where Leslie and Ron make out.”
“And it never makes the gag reel because it’s super disgusting to watch,” Schur added.
Why Jerry/Gary/Larry has the best life ever — outside of the office.
It’s been a running gag since the beginning that Jim O’Heir’s character Jerry (or Gary or, more currently, Larry) has always been the butt of office jokes — often times relating to the character’s overly-active rear end (see Jerry’s “fart attack”). It’s widely known, though, that O’Heir himself is an extremely kind and well-loved individual, making it hard for some of the actors and writers to constantly pick on him.
“When we started running a million jokes about Jerry when he would fart or trip, I said the only way we can do this is if we find out he secretly has the best life of anyone,” Schur said. “He should be married to Christie Brinkley. He should have three adult daughters who are the most beautiful women in the world. He should have a beautiful home. […] Outside the office, everything goes perfectly. That’s the only way I can emotionally cope with all the jokes.”
“And we should have the doctor on TV say Jerry has the largest penis he’s ever seen,” Poehler added.
The cast’s favorite improvised scenes:
Chris Pratt: “My favorite was Patton’s ‘Star Wars’ filibuster.” (see above)
Aubrey Plaza: “I don’t know. […] Everything is a delight [fake smile].”
Poehler: “Pratt did a fun run where he would explain movies, which I must say I think is very legendary. He did ‘Road House’ […] and we’d just go, ‘Do it!’ Can you imagine this, actors out there? ‘Do ‘Rambo’!’ And Pratt would go, ‘Okay,’ and do an entire reenactment of ‘Rambo.'” Schur added, “In the script, Amy would just write ‘Pratt talks about ‘Road House’.'”
Michael Schur: Schur described a scene in which April was sticking up for her boss, Ben Wyatt, while the two were working in Washington D.C. She had to get in an intern’s face for the scene, and Plaza almost went too far. “[Aubrey] did this take where she leaned in and got really, really close, and she’s screaming at him and then she just goes, ‘Kiss me.’ And he’s acting! He’s thinking, ‘Am I supposed to do this?’ And she says, ‘Kiss me,’ and he makes a small move, and she goes, ‘Stay away from me.'” “And that man was Matthew McConaughey,” joked Patton Oswalt.
Amy Poehler on why she loves playing Leslie Knope:
“We’re pretty much the same person. I genuinely love her. I want her to do well and succeed, and I love her. Every time I get to play her, I love her exuberance. I’m lazier and more cynical and more checked out than she is. To have a hero that’s all in, is cool. There’s nothing cool about her. She has no game. She has no tricks. Everything you know about her is face value, and she tells everybody all the time how she’s feeling…what’s cool about her is there’s nothing cool about her.”
“I’ll take Megan Mullally…in about 45 minutes.”
Nick Offerman naming his favorite guest star on “Parks and Rec” as well as who he’ll be having sex with within the hour, a joke that earned him a handshake from comedian Patton Oswalt.
Why Poehler and Adam Scott think Leslie and Ben’s relationship works:
“We had this great season where we had this secret that was so exciting to play and in real life we were excited, too,” Poehler said. “Then, what I love about the show and about the writers is that they didn’t just extend that [romance] for seven seasons. It would have been like, ‘Just tell her you love her. Fuck.’ They kiss. They fall in love. They got married. The way life happens. The writing of the show is so powerful and progressive and active. Things happen and no one’s afraid of them happening.”
“It’s a real testament to the writing that once we got together and got married there were no spaces,” Scott added. “The relationship is still so alive, and we’re continually throwing obstacles in each other’s paths and overcoming other obstacles together. It really is just the writing.”
The cast’s favorite aspects of their characters:
Billy Eichner: “What inspires me about Crazy Craig. I’m not going to lie it’s a tough question. I’ll say this: he’s not repressed. That’s a nice quality. You won’t find him on ‘Downton Abbey.’”
On the upcoming season finale:
“The last episode this year,” Poehler said before bursting into a fit of laughter. “The stuff that happens in that last episode is bonkers. I do not envy [the writers]. You have to figure out how to make it work!”
“I got chills when we got those final pages,” O’Heir added.
Amy Poehler on possible endings for Leslie Knope:
“I like to think that…[fans shout out “president”] I like to think that when the show ends — and I’m still in denial that it ever will — but when it does I would like to think about what happens to those characters [is] you can picture what they do on the weekends. […] I would like to have a happy ending for her. I don’t want to think about the ending […] but it’s coming. Her progression has been effectively and appropriately slow. I love that her dreams are big and her power is small. I think that she’s met the love of her life, and that’s sometimes enough.”