It’s very fitting that Parks and Recreation began as a show about a hole that needed to be filled. After seven seasons and 125 episodes, Leslie Knope and the lovable, bizarre and often crazy residents of the fictional town of Pawnee, Ind. are saying goodbye with a two-part finale on NBC. It will be hard for any other comedy to achieve what Parks and Recreation did, creating and developing characters that were both unique and absurd, but also some that felt like they were real enough to be our friends and family.
If you look back at the debut episode that aired on April 9, 2009, you might not even recognize Leslie, Ron Swanson, Tom Haverford and April Ludgate, as these characters have changed so much since the first season. In order to understand how Parks and Rec grew from a small cast of characters with opposing personalities into an entire city filled with so much heart, a little obesity and a lot of weirdos, we spoke to some of the people who were instrumental in shaping the show into a beloved-yet-underrated gem of American episodic storytelling.