Next week’s episode of Parks and Recreation is going to have a VIP: the VP.
Joe Biden — yes, the very guy who was re-elected Vice President of the United States less than 24 hours ago — will guest-star in the Nov. 15 installment of Parks and Recreation, EW has learned. His cameo occurs at the beginning of the episode, in which former Congressional campaign manager Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) takes fiancée/City Councilwoman Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), to the White House to meet America’s No. 2, who has long been her No. 1 crush. (As Leslie once noted, her ideal man has “the brains of George Clooney and the body of Joe Biden.”)
Parks scored camera time with Biden in July when the show traveled to Washington, D.C. to film its season 5 premiere, which featured appearances by Senators Barbara Boxer, Olympia Snowe, and John McCain. How big of a casting coup was Biden for NBC’s small-town government comedy? “Given that Eleanor Roosevelt and Bella Abzug are no longer with us, this is probably no. 1,” quips executive producer Michael Schur. “[Leslie] has a lot of female heroes that cross party lines. She has a lot of social figures that she considers heroes, but the funniest hero is Joe Biden. There’s an episode last season where she says, ‘Joe Biden is on my celebrity sex list — well, he is my celebrity sex list’… It was amazing to have her meet Olympia Snowe and Barbara Boxer because that meant something to her politically. But this transcends that. She’s meeting the man that she’s in love with on some deep level. It was a bigger deal to us in some ways that she meet Joe Biden than it was that she meet Barack Obama.” (Obama, by the way, has revealed that he watches Parks with his family, by the way. “It’s a very amazing and weird thing to find out that the President watches your show,” marvels Schur.)
Once the producers committed to shooting an episode in D.C., the process of landing Biden was “so much less difficult than we ever possibly imagined,” says Schur, noting: “His staff really loves the show, and he apparently had watched the show with his family and his family liked it… The hardest part was keeping it secret for so long because there’s all these FEC rules and equal-time rules. We couldn’t air it before the election because it was the equivalent of a campaign contribution to advertise for one candidate.”
The Biden-Knope summit, a surprise “engagement present” from Ben, lasts less than a minute and was written in a manner that would work regardless of the election’s outcome. “We did not in any way want the moment to be a political issue — we treated it in the writing and the execution like our main character was meeting her hero,” says Schur. (He notes that the writers did pen an addendum to the scene in the event of an Obama-Biden loss or a “weird Florida disaster tie.”) The meeting takes place in the Vice President’s Ceremonial Office in the White House-adjacent Eisenhower Executive Office Building, with Biden flanked by his real-life staff. “They have a conversation where she does what you would imagine Leslie Knope would do when meeting Joe Biden, which is she loses control of herself a little bit,” hints Schur. “She gets really giggly and goofy around him.”
When the Parks crew set up in his office to shoot the scene, Biden happened to be tied up in a meeting with… President Barack Obama. Then “Obama got on Marine One and flew away, and Biden walked across the executive building and we shot the scene,” says Schur. “It was really cool: You go this way and get on a helicopter that will take you to some incredibly important thing, and you come this way and shoot a scene with Amy Poehler.”
The Veep handled his scene like a pro, even ad-libbing a response to a crazy Leslie retort that wound up in the final cut of the episode. “He was very nice and charming,” reports Schur. “He was clearly a big fan of Amy. It was the day the Emmy nominations came out and when he walked through the door he congratulated her on her Emmy nomination… He said some very nice things about the show and talked about how the pro-public service message was meaningful.”
While Schur & co. were thrilled to venture onto hallowed Washington ground, they aren’t plotting the next great political cameo right now: “Since the beginning of the show, Joe Biden has been the No. 1 guy, so in terms of her achievements or personal milestones we’ll have to go in a different direction,” he says. “She’ll have to get her thrills elsewhere.”
You can see a tease of Leslie’s historic meeting with the Veep in the following video. Also, check out a montage of her dreamy-eyed mentions of Joe from previous episodes in the second video.