7:34PM: Joining the jam-packed house at the legendary Saban Theater in Hollywood are executive producers Dean Holland, Dan Goor, co-creator Michael Schur, Retta (Donna Meagle), Jim O’Heir (Jerry Gergish), Chris Pratt (Andy Dwyer) and Amy Poehler (Leslie Knope). Also joining members of the cast and creative team are cardboard cutouts of cast members missing in action, including Aziz Ansari, Rob Lowe, Aubrey Plaza, and Adam Scott. Not included was Nick Offerman, who hoped to make it despite shooting a movie in nearby Burbank (He didn’t!).
7:35PM: “I think that Ben is the love of Leslie’s life,” says Amy Poehler with regards to her on screen love life. “And I think this season was really great because Mike [Schur] and all the writers did such a good job of exquisitely torturing us by pulling them apart and pushing them together. It was really great to get to play really big comedic moments and then really small lovely moments.”
7:36PM: Apparently, one of the working titles for the show when Greg Daniels and Michael Schur were tossing around ideas was THE EDUCATION OF LESLIE KNOPE. “The idea was that you’d follow Leslie’s professional and personal growth as a human with the original pitch being that Leslie would have a series of relationships with different kinds of guys,” says Schur. “But then we brought Adam Scott on board and we couldn’t break them up, they’re so good together and their backgrounds compliment each other perfectly.”
7:38PM: With so much of art and literature focusing on ‘making it in the big city,’ Amy Poehler believes there is something really sweet and moving about people deciding to be in love with their own small town.
7:40PM: In a town littered with what Michael Schur characterizes as “soulmate-y relationships,” the PARKS AND RECREATION co-creator thought it would be nice to have one lighthearted comedic pairing. Enter Tom (Aziz Ansari) and Ann (Rashida Jones)! “It’s very clear why Tom would be interested in Ann, yet it somewhat less clear as to why Ann would be interested in Tom,” admits Schur. “Yet if you live in a town of 7000 or so people, dated some guys and there was this one guy who you knew to be kind of funny and sweet, wouldn’t you just try it?” Adds Poehler, “If someone feels like they’re out of your league and you’re doing him a favor it’s kinda hot!”
7:42PM: Not-so-fun-fact: The idea behind Leslie’s election campaign was originally discussed for season 5, until that is the show got pushed to midseason in season 3. At which point, the creative team decided to pull the trigger on it, not knowing what the future held. “We don’t like characters to be in the same place in their lives for too long, I find that kind of boring,” admits Schur. “Leslie’s an ambitious person, as far back as the pilot she said she wanted to be President of the United States and for her that’s Pawnee city council.”
7:44PM: Spoiler Alert! “We’ll find out in the finale what happens with Leslie,” admits Schur. “We shot two endings, partly to hedge our bets in case we changed our mind and partly to throw snoopy snoopers off the scent.” Adds Poehler, “It was really touching and moving to do the acceptance and concession speech as Leslie at the end of the season, having to thank the cast who are all my friends and thanking them for their hard work. It was a waterworks factory up there for ol’ Poehler.”
7:48PM: Possibly falling under the category of ‘Too Much Information,’ Retta admits to being a huge Twilight fans, alerting the audience to the fact that the passages she reads from the book for the ‘Time Capsule’ episode were hand picked by herself!
7:52PM: The only thing more troubling to Jim O’Heir than the fact that he’s forced to play a 64 year old on the show is that the show’s already gone on record that his character of Jerry Gergish will be retiring in two years!
7:55PM: Fans of Tammy 1 (Patricia Clarkson) and Tammy 2 (Megan Mullally) may be disappointed to discover that neither will be back for the rest of the season. “The rule of thumb is one episode per year because they tend to blow up Ron’s world so much and we don’t want to overplay that card,” says Schur. “But I think it’s safe to say that they’ll be back.”
8:00PM: One favorite who fans can expect to see back is Jean-Ralphio. Promises Schur, “We haven’t finished editing all the episodes but we have certainly shot a scene with him.”
8:04PM: Poehler wrote and directed episode 20 revolving around the big city council debate with Bobby Newport (Paul Rudd). “Paul is in it and he’s so god-damn funny,” says Schur, who also revealed that the debate will feature three other candidates including a porn star, a single issue voter whose only concern is animals, and a gun nut (Played by FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS’ Brad Leland). GLEE’s Mike O’Malley will also guest star in an upcoming episode as the owner of a van rental company who Donna must convince to help Leslie out after Bobby attempts to keep Leslie from getting out the vote.
8:11PM: Not surprisingly, Pratt compliments Poehler’s directing. “Amy is really giving with her laughter, it’s infectious and the one thing you need as an actor is feedback,” says Pratt. “When you hear Amy laugh from behind the camera, you’re like ‘Yes!’ you made Momma proud.”
8:12PM: One of Schur’s favorite things about Rob Lowe’s character Chris is that he’s a crazy spiraler. “He’s Rob Lowe, a perfect human and a challenge from a writing standpoint was to give him an achilles heel because he’s very impressive as a human being,” admits Schur. “So when he had tendinitis, he was convinced he was going to die in 10 seconds, he got dumped by Jerry’s daughter, and is now seeing Tom and Ann get together. We’ve been chipping away at him this season and these last bunch of episodes will see him hit rock bottom and then figure out what he has to do to change his life.” Adds Jim O’Heir upon seeing Lowe shirtless during the Valentine’s Day episode, “We’re not even in the same species!”
8:20PM: Revelations from the audience Q&A portion of the panel include co-creator (1) Michael Schur’s love of the WEST WING “It was personally a huge dream of mine to have [Bradley] Whitford on the show,” says Schur. “I’m the biggest WEST WING fan in the world and the very first scene in the show is a walk and talk.” (2) Chris Pratt’s promise that real-life wife Anna Farris will make an appearance on the show should it be fortunate enough to see a fifth season. Promises Pratt, “I think it’s going to happen. If we get one more season, my darling wife is going to come and play and be hilarious. I promise you!” And (3) Cautious optimism with regards to that elusive fifth season. “It’s a weird aspect of the TV season that you kind of have to just sit on your hands for a month or two” says Schur. “We’re cautiously optimistic, I would say.”
PARKS AND RECREATION airs Thursdays at 8:30PM on NBC (CityTV in Canada). Catch up on past episodes you may have missed for free online at clicktowatch.tv