“First of all, this is awesome.”
That opening declaration from co-creator Mike Schur perfectly summed up the attitude for everyone in attendance at the Dolby Theatre for Thursday’s special — and emotional — 10-year anniversary Parks and Recreation reunion.
Joining Schur for the PaleyFest panel, which was moderated by Parks guest-star Patton Oswalt, was the entire cast of Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Rashida Jones, Rob Lowe, Retta, Aziz Ansari, Adam Scott, Aubrey Plaza, Jim O’Heir, and Chris Pratt. Hell, even Perd Hapley (played by Jay Jackson) was on hand to open the event with a live news report. “Good evening, I’m coming to you tonight from where I’m standing, which is here,” he said in classic Perd form. “The story of tonight’s event is that it is happening.”
And plenty did happen, with the cast reminiscing about some of the most memorable moments, how Parks and Rec has blended into pop culture (see Fyre Fest), and whether they could get back together for more. So grab a plate of waffles and a bottle of Snake Juice and read on for some of the highlights.
Jerry/Garry/Larry/Terry still gets treated like Jerry
As the cast came out one by one, they took their seats and cheered on their costars. But, when Mike Schur was announced, he sat in the last remaining seat, which became a slight problem when Jim O’Heir walked out and discovered that he had no place to sit. The reactions from his castmates were spot on as Aziz Ansari laughed just as uncontrollably as Tom Haverford would have in the situation. O’Heir would eventually drag out his own chair from the back but it really delayed the start of the proceedings. Dammit, Jerry.
The emotional star
Ahead of the panel, Amy Poehler told EW that it was going to be “awesome” and “surreal” to be back together talking about the show with her former costars — and the emotions hit her early on. “I’m totally overwhelmed right now,” she admitted as she got choked up and came close to tears. She later said of playing Leslie Knope, “Leslie was really good for my physical and mental health. It really did extend my life, I think.”
Rob Lowe literally says literally a lot
During Thursday’s event, it was clear that Lowe literally brought something crucial to the character of Chris Traeger. Schur recalled his first meeting with Lowe about possibly joining the show and asking the West Wing alum about his involvement with the purchase of the entertainment company Miramax. “Rob says, ‘I’ll tell you the story, I was literally on a yacht…’ Before that sentence, Chris Traeger didn’t exist. Then he said, ‘I was literally on a yacht’ and my mind went blank and then after that that was who Chris Traeger was.” Upon Lowe exiting the show in season 6, he says Schur gifted him the writer’s notes from after that first meeting. “I always wondered how much of Chris was me and how much of Chris was Mike,” shared Lowe. “And in your notes, it literally…there I go…it says, ‘He says literally all the time.'” Schur was right, as evidenced by the many times Lowe accidentally said it in casual conversation throughout the night.
Was Entertainment 720 behind Fyre Festival?
The internet isn’t alone in thinking that Fyre Festival was really something that could have been crafted up by Tom (Ansari) and Jean-Ralphio’s (Ben Schwartz) short-lived company. “It’s literally Entertainment 720,” said Ansari. “Tom and Jean-Ralphio were definitely buddies with [Fyre mastermind] Billy McFarland.” Added Schur, “They could have gotten Ja Rule.” But that’s not the only controversial story that Ansari thinks the Parks and Rec universe was behind. “The other day I was reading about the college admissions scandal and I was like that is some Eagleton sh– right there.”
Into the Pawnee-Verse
it’s not just pop culture that the show seemed to be ahead of the curve as Oswalt noted that Parks basically predicted the 2016 election. “If only we had Bobby Newport at the helm,” cracked Poehler of Paul Rudd’s Sweetums heir and City Council election opposition. The actress then recounted a story of someone asking her before the panel if we need Leslie more than ever right now. “I do feel like she’s kind of the Spider-Man of public service,” said Poehler. “It does feel a little bit like we’re looking up into the sky like, ‘Leslie, where are you?!'” She continued, “I kind of do wish she was around. But she wouldn’t be able to have any access to the White House [laughs].”
Chris Pratt manifested Jurassic World into existence
Pratt, now one of Hollywood’s stars, shared the story of how during an early season of Parks, he was asked to make a behind-the-scenes video, and when he got a text, he pretended it was from Steven Spielberg (“which was f—ing insane at the time”) and ended it by saying he’d get back to him about Jurassic Park 4. “And then like five years later,” said Pratt, who would eventually star in Jurassic World. “It’s not crazy,” declared Poehler. “It’s The Secret, you can manifest anything.” Pratt says the video is funnier than him telling it so enjoy below.
Galentine’s Day pride
This is the first full-fledged reunion since the show ended, but there’s always a smaller one at least once year when Poehler, Jones, and Plaza get together on Feb. 13 for Galentine’s Day, the holiday that Parks created. Schur says they take “a great deal of pride” in Galentine’s Day turning into something so popular — until it went too far. “Just this year it kind of bummed me out because like I’d go on Twitter and it would be like, ‘Hey ladies, this Galentine’s Day why not share a Mountain Dew Code Red?'” he revealed. “What does that have to do with Galentine’s Day? It was like appropriated by every brand and it kind of bummed me out.” Retta then interjected and declared, “Try walking into Target and all you see is Treat Yo’ Self.” She then brought up recently seeing a Treat Yo’ Self mug from Crate & Barrel. “It’s obnoxious,” she said of how Donna and Tom’s catchphrase has been monetized. “I was like what the f—? Crate and Barrel too? I mean, God bless.” Important — and awesome — note: Retta was wearing an epic dress that was covered in the words “Treat Yo’ Self.”
Rashida Jones’ opinion on Ann might start a fight
Schur says when creating Parks, he looked at Ann and Leslie’s friendship as the “core of the show,” which is why Jones departure in season 6 was the “saddest I ever got on set.” He said of her final episode before leaving, “It was the end of an era, and also because Rashida and Amy were very good friends in real life. If you look at the tape that was in that episode, it’s just two really good friends saying goodbye to each other. It was devastating.” But Schur also thinks that the best episode they’ve ever done was also centered on that relationship, pointing to season 3’s “The Fight,” which featured “the realest moments we’ve ever shot” with Ann and Leslie drunk fighting, not to mention Snake Juice, Burt Macklin, Janet Snakehole, and the epic drunk — and improv’d — dances from everyone in the cast.
And speaking of fights, Jones almost started one when she was talking about Leslie’s obsession with Ann and dared to say, “Ann is just like alright.” This prompted Poehler to respond in peak Leslie fashion: “I just want to say that if I ever hear you talk about Ann like that again….Ann’s perfect.”
Adam Scott now watches Game of Thrones — but he still doesn’t get Li’l Sebastian
In recent years, Scott has become even more like Ben Wyatt. While his attitude on Li’l Sebastian hasn’t changed (“I still don’t get it,” he jokes), his character’s next level Game of Thrones fandom has rubbed off on him. “After mentioning it a couple of times on the show, I started watching it and I could not be more into Game of Thrones.” That answer from Scott came in response to what he’s brought from his character into his real life, and for Pratt, it was something that would equally make Andy Dwyer proud. “My relationship with the FBI in real-life is legit,” he said in a hat tip to Dwyer’s alter-ego Burt Macklin. “Especially now I think they’re just really happy to have someone In the zeitgeist that’s like, ‘I love the FBI.’” So much so that they allegedly leave him care packages. Oh, and O’Heir, scoring the biggest laugh of the night, says in his case, “art and life kind of combined,” referencing the revelation that Jerry was very well-endowed.
Never say never to a reunion movie (but probably never)
In less of a highlight and more of like a sadlight, don’t get your hopes up for a reunion movie or reboot. “I think that in the world we live in now nothing is ever gone; everything comes back and is cycled through again,” shared Schur. “I would only say that I think everyone on this stage and like six other people would have to feel like there was a story that needed to be told. Part of what I felt personally is that the show had an argument to make…. I don’t feel like we left anything on the table. I feel like the show sort of made its argument.”
Schur also pointed to the show having jumped well into the future in the finale, which he jokes may have been a “preventive measure” against a follow-up. “There’s nothing I loved more than working on this show,” he continued. “It felt like the most important thing that I would ever do. And so I would never ever say never. The chance to do it again should it arise would be incredible, but I think that we would all only do it if we felt like it was something compelling us to do it. As tempting as it is, I don’t want to just make more episodes of the show or something. If one single person says no, then we wouldn’t do it — whatever that would be.”
The ultimate Ron Swanson goodbye gift
Well, even if the show never comes back, the cast will always have a special keepsake from it, courtesy of Offerman, who — without telling anyone — salvaged all of the doors from the set and made them into canoe paddles with the seal of Pawnee on them and gifted them to Schur and the cast. “It was perfectly good red oak,” deadpanned Offerman.
Ron F—ing Swanson.