Over on the Sundance channel’s website, you can watch the first episode of Behind the Story, a new series that tackles some of best behind-the-scenes moments from certain television shows. The debut episode covers Parks and Recreation. The panel is hosted by Patton Oswalt (who had a few great behind-the-scenes moments on the series, himself).
I didn’t plan on watching the entire hour-long episode, but I got sucked in, in part because it’s fantastic, and in part because I miss Parks and Recreation so much that it’s fun to spend some more time with those characters.
Here were the highlights from the panel:
1. Showrunner Mike Schur suggested that an old adage about people voting Republican when they want a father, and people voting Democrat when they want to be mothered helped to inform the Leslie and Ron’s characters. They were — in spirit — the father and mother of the Parks and Recreation.
2. To the above point, Amy Poehler said that she and Nick Offerman filmed themselves making out after every season for the gag reel, but that it never made it into the gag reel because — as Schur noted — it’s “super disturbing,” basically like seeing your mom and dad make out.
3. On whether she saw the relationship between her character, April, and Chris Pratt’s character, Andy, developing from the beginning, Aubrey Plaza said, sarcastically, “I saw it, Patton. I saw it in a fiery nightmare.” Then, she flirtatiously played with her hair because she is Aubrey Plaza and she is amazing.
4. Chris Pratt, the only cast member who actually hunts, said that he was so pissed when he wasn’t included in the hunting episode. “You did a hunting episode, and I’m stuck in the office, you asshole.” But that episode, actually, is where the April and Andy relationship began. “We were stuck in the office, and we were doing on these bits together, and it just took off from there.”
5. On the episode where Donna’s Mercedes got shot up, it was apparently “a mess,” according to Retta. She could only wear flats, and the wardrobe department gave her boots. She had to run, and she can’t run. The car door also slammed on Rashida Jones’s face in that episode, injuring her. Retta said that her real-life fear of Greg Daniels — who was directing that episode — helped her to to cry. “I lost my sh*t,” she said. “I was wailing to the point that Greg [Daniels] was in tears. Greg was on one knee.”
According to Retta, the wardrobe department on Parks and Recreation got fired on that episode.
6. The scenes of Ron Swanson’s woodshop were filmed in Offerman’s actual woodshop. When the writing staff discovered that Offerman had his own woodshop, they came over on a bus and said, “You, sir, are a nerd.” As a wrap gift at the end of the series, Offerman also made the entire cast Pawnee baseball bats. Interestingly, when the writers mentioned to Offerman that they were going to create the alter ego of Duke Silver for him, he said, “Perfect. I also play the saxophone.” The writers had no idea previously to that. (In the special, Jim O’Heir made an aside in reference to similarities between himself and his character, Jerry: “Perfect. I also have a giant penis.”)
7. Amy Poehler wrote the episode when the election returns are coming back, and in that episode, Andy had to stall for time. The part where Andy basically recounts the entire plot of Roadhouse was mostly improvised. According to Schur, the script just said: “Andy talks about Roadhouse.” According to Retta, Andy kicking the TV wasn’t actually in the script, either. “Great. Now we have to buy another TV,” she said.
8. Mike Schur said that his favorite improvised scene was in one of the D.C. episodes, where April is screaming at an intern. She’s just reaming him out, and then she gets up close to his face and says, “Kiss me.” Because the line was improvised, the actor playing the intern had no idea whether he was supposed to kiss her or not, but as he started to lean in to do so, Aubrey yelled, “Get away from me. Don’t f*cking kiss me.”
You can see that play out in the Season 5 gag reel (at the 5:00 mark):
9. Mike Schur gave a lot of credit to the brilliant casting of Parks and Recreation to Alison Jones, who also cast Freaks & Geeks, Undeclared, and most of Judd Apatow’s work. They began the series with Amy Poehler and Rashida Jones, and the next person they hired was Aziz Ansari, who they saw on Human Giant and loved. They hired him without even having a part for him yet. In fact, they didn’t even know the concept for the show yet, but Ansari signed on immediately.