Chris Pratt’s story is so remarkable that it’s worth telling over and over, if not as a source of inspiration for everyone, then at least so we can talk about how it couldn’t happen to a nicer person. The short story is that Pratt was living in a Scooby Doo van in Hawaii and working at a Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant, when Rae Dawn Chong, of all of the people in the world, walked in. Pratt flashed his trademark charisma and she eventually hooked him up with a role as the “hunk” in a movie she was directing, and soon he’d break out with roles on Everwood and The O.C. before eventually becoming one of the biggest movie stars in the world. But in between those two distant moments, there was Parks and Recreation.
When we spoke to the creators and writers for Parks and Rec over the last several weeks leading up to last week’s beautiful and hilarious finale, I had one question that had nothing to do with the finale and evolution of the series, and everything to do with pure fascination: Did they ever think, during all seven seasons of this series, that Pratt would become Star-Lord, the main character in the second highest-grossing film of 2014? That his jovial prediction of becoming the new star of the Jurassic Park franchise would come true? That this guy who made us all piss our pants with a filthy joke about Kim Kardashian would be the frontrunner to become the next Indiana Jones?
In one of his many, many, MANY interviews published last week, Parks and Rec co-creator and executive producer Michael Schur was asked if we’d see Leslie Knope and her coworkers reunited at any point in the future, to which he said something that is probably very accurate: “The cast is about to disperse and dominate Hollywood for the next 25 years.” And while we love Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari, and the rest of that cast so much, arguably none of them is set to dominate show business with his talent, charm, and overall kind-heartedness quite like Pratt. So did the writers of Parks and Rec believe that this goofball with a boyish grin and immeasurable charisma know that he was on the verge of something incredible? Maybe a little.
GREG DANIELS (Co-creator and Executive Producer): When we started with Rashida’s character, we didn’t want to recreate The Office, where it was set in that workplace, so the notion for Parks was it was going to be set around a project. The project was filling in this pit that was next to this nurse’s house, and it had a committee, and on the committee would be this nurse and her boyfriend who fell in the pit and broke his legs, the city planner from across the courtyard, and the parks department people. They would all be brought together and Leslie would eventually have a relationship with the city planner, she would become friends with the nurse, the nurse would dump her bad boyfriend with the broken legs and find somebody else.
Definitely one of the most exciting people that we saw in the casting process was Chris Pratt. He was coming in for the role of the guy with the broken legs. He was not supposed to be a series regular. But we just thought he was fantastic so we hired him for that role and started rewriting that character so he wasn’t such a bad guy. That was another example of changing the characters from what you initially conceived of them to try to take advantage of something good that fell in your lap.
ALAN YANG (Writer, all seven seasons): It’s truly unbelievable what a great cast we had. I think TV historians in the future will look back and ask, “How did that cast ever exist?” And that’s credit to everyone on the show. Mike and Greg. Allison Jones. Dorian Frankel. I think we all knew how genuinely likable Chris Pratt is, and he is an actor that does something a little different every take and all of them are good and interesting in different ways. And he’s just possibly the most charismatic and nicest person I’ve ever met – that’s not even hyperbole. Everyone who meets him loves him.
DAN GOOR (Writer, Seasons 1-5): When he auditioned for Allison Jones, who is the best casting director in the world, he had to play Grand Theft Auto, and he just improvised this incredible run. It was like, he was in the leg cast and he was describing his day, and all he was describing was Grand Theft Auto, and how he picked up a car and dropped it on a bunch of prostitutes. The timing and the improv that he came up with was so funny and so perfect. It was like, that’s the guy. Immediately.
YANG: To give you another idea of how much people love him, I was at a bar and I was talking to some random person who was like, “Oh, you write for Parks and Rec? I went to high school with Chris Pratt.” And I said, “Oh, what did people think of him?” and he said, “Oh man, everyone loved him. We’re all rooting for him.” So he’s just been the most likable guy for his entire life. And now he’s Indiana Jones and in Jurassic Park. It’s really cool. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person, and a more genuine person.
NORMAN HISCOCK (Writer, Seasons 1-5): When I was there that first year, we looked at audition tapes of people they were thinking of, and they said “What do you think of this guy?” And I remember Chris Pratt improvised a scene and he was hilarious and just very charming. So he’s got that charm factor, he’s just very charming and he always surprised me on set. And he always did a line reading that you never thought he would do. If you asked him to do it again he could never repeat it. It was like a gift. It was one of those things of like, what did I do? He just did it. Like a savant or something. A comedy savant.
KATIE DIPPOLD (Writer, Seasons 2-4): Mike used to talk about Andy having this crazy arc where he becomes mayor of Pawnee in the end. I feel like Pratt did the real life version of that, going from an actor that was supposed to be the jerk boyfriend just in the pilot episode to becoming a series regular and then the biggest movie star.
GOOR: He’s incredibly handsome, naturally funny, and one of the most intrinsically charming people in the world. You can’t be around him and not think he’s going to be a star.
Writer Aisha Muharrar is credited with writing “Kaboom,” the sixth episode of the second season. The episode focused on Andy being badly injured in a giant pit next to Ann’s house, and when he thought that she was ready to take him back, he arrived at her home completely naked. As Muharrar told us, that was not in the script. That was 100 percent Pratt.
AISHA MUHARRAR (Writer, Seasons 2-7): He actually went naked in one take and that was his idea. It was hilarious. I knew Pratt was super talented, funny, and charming. And then after he came back from shooting Zero Dark Thirty, it was clear he could also look the part of a “leading man.” One of my best friends from college actually went to high school with Pratt. Before I moved to LA, my friend kept talking about this Chris Pratt guy and how he was the pride of their town and so amazing. And I was like, “Shut up about this guy! There’s no way he’s that great and also I probably won’t meet him because LA is a huge place.”
Then we ended up working on Parks and my friend was right! Pratt totally lived up to the hype! I think it’s great that Chris is a big movie star because he’s genuinely nice, smart, and cool and doesn’t it just seem like it’s good for everyone if a huge movie star is also a nice person? If the world is going to adore someone, I’m glad it’s someone like Pratt.
How could anyone not love a guy who is willing to crap his pants for the sake of selling a joke? Long live Chris Pratt.