Interviews TV

PARKS AND RECREATION Amy Poehler, Adam Scott, and Mike Schur Interview NBC

Facebook Twitter Pinterest

Amy Poehler, Adam Scott, and Mike Schur took the time to chat about Parks and Recreation.  The last episode that aired was all about the proposal and poor Jerry’s (Jim O’Heir) fart attack.  It was one of those episodes that people still have not stopped talking about.  How can you not love this show?  Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) is the best character in television history.  This week we meet Ben’s parents.  Breaking Bad’s Jonathan Banks guest-stars.  Do not miss a single episode of Parks and Recreation, Thursdays at 9:30 on NBC.

Press Conference Call Interview Highlights:

Q:  I’m consistently impressed with how closely the story lines in this show hue to what’s happening on the ground in City Government with things like soda taxes and 311 lines.  What kind of research you do to stay so relevant and what other stuff might be coming up in the rest of the season?

Mike Schur:    We spent a lot of time just poking around the Internet trying to see what issues governments are dealing with. And there are obviously large stories that – sometimes there are local stories that take on national importance.  Like I think Bloomberg’s three – soda tax you say, that’s obviously become a national story and other cities are following suit. So we just kind of try to anticipate what the things are that are going to be in peoples minds.  And it’s obviously a lot easier to do that in an election year because everything is so heightened and everybody – every tiny, minor controversy gets, you know, amped up.  So, it’s – there’s nothing special we don’t have a crystal but it’s pretty easy to tell what issues are kind of capture the imagination of people across the country because often as with the soda tax, often it’s something that – it’s like a – it’s about soda’s in New York City but it’s also, you know, individual liberties, which is a thing that is obviously on the national stage.  And as far as what’s coming up, we try to, you know, alternative in terms of what episodes deal with. We try to do some that are politically sort of focused and esoterical and then we sort of back off that and go in a different direction.  And we sort of – we try to pepper them in, we don’t want to feel like the show is going – is doing one kind of episode to often. So there will be more throughout the rest of the year but for the next couple episodes we focus more on the sort of personal lives on the characters.

Q:  Do you find when you look at this stuff that City Government is inherently funny?

Mike Schur:    Yes, I hope so because it’s not then we’re in big trouble. But I think – I personally just think that government is funny. I mean I am constantly amazed at how absurd the things are that come out of Politician’s mouths. So I don’t think we’re in any danger of running out of material.

Q:  Obviously the big emotional moment was the proposal so could you talk a little bit about what the vibe was on set that day and what you all were feeling as you were shooting that scene?

Amy Poehler:  When I read that scene I cried because I was so happy that I had my job at Parks and then I got to do that scene with Adam and that Mike Schur wrote it because I knew it would be great.  And it’s very rare, you know, as an actor when you read a scene and you know it’s going to be great, you can just kind of see it. And so when we were shooting the scene I was really excited that we were getting to do it because I was – had really just been looking forward to doing it.  And I was really happy for Leslie, so I think the mood on the – on set was a really kind of joyous one. I know even though it was kind of a sweet scene I know Adam and I were really just happy to have such a well written scene to get to do.  And we care about our characters so we were kind of excited that this was happening for them.

Adam Scott:    Yes, I feel the same way, I mean I also just kind of felt like, you know, this was a really big deal for all of us. I mean we of course are well aware that these are fictional characters that we are playing on television.  But I think we also want them to be happy and want them to be all right and we all care about them. I can say, speaking for myself that I care about them, you know, quite deeply and so, you know, knowing this scene was coming, you know, it was – maybe a little nervous about it but mostly just really happy about it.  And happy to be able to do it and happy for the characters and, you know, so the day we were doing it it was – it was like Amy said very kind of joyous but also there’s a real feeling that this was very special and we wanted it to be special for the fans and for he characters and we were all – it was exciting.  It – I thought it was really exciting, then when we did it we, you know, it was really fun and very happy.

Q:  How long did you know that there would be a proposal?

Amy Poehler:  Well Mike no – Mike – when we were in D.C., right Mike? When we were in D.C. shooting stuff for the premier, you writing that scene right?

Mike Schur:    Yes, we, I mean we knew before we started shooting anything because when we were in the writer’s room in pre-production we broke out the first, you know, half dozen or so episodes that was encompassing the time that Ben was going to be in Washington.  And what we realized was we wanted Ben to do a good job in Washington and that – what that meant was that he was going to get an opportunity to keep going with that job and with Jen Barkley, with Kathryn Hahn’s character.  And so then it became an issue of all right well what causes a guy who’, you know, career is kind of moving in this cool direction to come back to tiny Pawnee, Indiana. And there’s only one thing that would really do that and that’s Leslie. So we just decided to sort of shape the episode around him just deciding look, this is my priority, Leslie is my priority and that everything else is in second place. So we knew before we even started the season that we were going to have him propose and come back when he was done with his arc he was going to – it was going to end with him proposing.  So I actually – yes I wrote the scene when we were in Washington.

Amy Poehler:  Well I remember we had dinner that night when we were in Washington and Schur said I had just wrote the scene where you and – where Ben proposed to you.

Adam Scott:    That’s right.

Mike Schur:    Yes, that’s right.

Adam Scott:    Yes I think also it was really – it was really great writing that, you know, the episode before this one was the episode where Ben and April actually meet the candidate that they’ve been working for and it isn’t exactly an inspiring, you know, it doesn’t exactly, you know, lend itself to, you know, kind of an inspiring figure in Washington. And so the work that they’ve been doing there compared with Pawnee and sort of the relationships that Ben and April have there and the immediate results they see from hard work in a place like Pawnee. It makes the whole kind of idea of going back there a lot more attractive as well.

Q: Amy, I have a fan question. They want to know when you discovered you were funny?

Amy Poehler:  Gosh, I don’t know about that. I don’t know that’s – that may be a question for someone else other than me but…

Mike Schur:    Frankly I’m still waiting to discover it.

Amy Poehler:  Yes, I was going to say. The jury may still be out on that one for many people. Yes, so I don’t know, I mean I tended to – even when I was trying dramatic, even when I was really young I was trying to be very dramatic I got a lot of laughs so I don’t know what that tells about me, but.

Q:  You must have thought you were funny to audition for Saturday Night Live.

Amy Poehler:  Well at that point I had been doing skit comedy and stuff so I was at least doing a good job of fooling myself. So yes, the combination of maybe naivete and bravado maybe got me in the door there.  And I was sleeping with (Horatio Sanz) so that made it easier.

Mike Schur:    Who wasn’t.

Adam Scott:    I remember the first time I got a laugh from like a joke, I mean I doubt this question was for me in the first place but I’m going to answer (unintelligible). I just took a line from MADD Magazine and just kind of inserted it into dinner conversation when I was like a really little kid and the whole place went – I remember the whole – we had friends over or something like it was at our house and my parent’s friends were over. And I remember I said this really like, witty – it was like a precarious thing a kid in a Sitcom would say and I remember the whole place just went nuts and it was a great – it was – because then MADD Magazine I think it was in a Don Martin thing, someone said, “Waiter there’s a fly in my soup” and the other and the retoire to it was don’t worry the spider in your salad will eat it.  So that’s what I did and people – everyone went crazy, so.

Amy Poehler:  And you toured, you did like a mini-tour, like a mini comedy tour just on that one joke for like a whole year.

Adam Scott:    Yes, it was just called Adam Scott Flying Spider.

Q: Mike, I want to talk about the intricacies of the fart attack. The volume, the amounts, just how much fun and testing did you guys do with all that, that was fantastic?

Mike Schur:    I’m not kidding we probably spent in terms of like man-hours or person-hours we probably spent 10 or to 12 person hours working on the farts. The sound of them, the volume, the style.  And that includes, you know, a lot of time in the edit bay getting it right and then in the sound mix we changed stuff. There were three different entire sort of fart overlays that we looked at. We ended up going with version three, which is a hybrid of versions one and two. I mean it was a – it was a very intensive work session and it’s because, you know, it’s a very important moment in the life of the show.  It’s – you only get to do a fart attack once and we just wanted to make sure that we got everything done right. There’s a whole – there’s like a billion dollar industry that’s just far sound effects out there. There’s so many – you have so much to choose from and then of course, you know, you have – there are a lot of things to consider. There’s volume…

Amy Poehler:  Well if you guys are ever in Louisiana you should check out the far library it’s beautiful down there.

Q:  What can we expect now for Ben and Leslie like are we going to see a wedding this season do you think or is it going to still kind of play out for a little bit this engagement?

Mike Schur:    Well, the reason that we wanted – the episode was called Halloween Surprise last night and it’s because as part of the shows DNA to try to not telegraph where we’re going.  And, you know, there’s a certain kind of playbook that you’re told to run or that you’ve learned how to run from watching, you know, TV shows. And we try to just do things that are surprising.  And it’s very hard to do in this day and age because the moment that anybody does anything it’s leaked under the Internet.  And so we’ve tried really hard to kind of be hard to pin down in terms of where we’re going. So I don’t want to give anything away at all but I will say that we just – what we want to do, I think the essential element of both comedy and just good story telling in general is surprised whether it’s comedy or drama.  And so I would like to believe that the path that we’re choosing to take will be satisfying but also surprising to people.

Q:  How are we going to see the proposal really impact the parks department?

Amy Poehler:  Well, you know that no matter what Leslie will involve and include everyone in her plans all the time. This engagement will be said of everybody’s engagement.

Adam Scott:    America’s engagement.

Amy Poehler:  Certainly there’s a upcoming kind of, you know, where everyone’s reacting to it in different ways and being included in different ways. And also how Leslie kind of handles – Leslie and Ben handle distance and jobs and what comes next. And, you know, the balance of what’s going on in their professional life and their personal life, that’s a lot of the stuff that’s coming up, you know, in the short-term.

Q:  Do you think there’s a potential to kind of see a little bit of a bridezilla emerge?  It’s fun to kind of think about how Leslie’s going to deal with the planning of it.

Adam Scott:    And there’s some surprises in how everybody handles it and talks about it and deals with it. So, I wouldn’t maybe use that term, no.  I think bridezilla, which is a term that I personally dislike is a term that is a little bit and I don’t mean to apply that you are this way but it’s a little bit misogynistic because it’s a way to – it’s like when every time two women are up for an award or something, it gets described as a cat fight.  And that is always very annoying to me and it’s like when two men are up for an award they don’t say, it’s a penis fight or something. And I think that bridezilla implies that it’s a person who is incredibly self-centered and who wants to make everything all about her.  And I would say that one of the main characteristics of Leslie as a character is that she is very other-directed and she cares very deeply about her friends and the people who are around her. And that the – that she would want her wedding to be as much a celebration of the people that she’s friends with and the town that she’s in as she would making it about herself.  So, not saying that there is going to be a wedding or anything but I think the idea of her – the whole idea of her character is that she is – she will walk to the end of the earth for her friends and so she is not a person who is going to make it all about her.

Q:  Amy, have you met with Tina Fey to discuss any ideas for what you’re going to be doing for the Golden Globes?

Amy Poehler:  No, no, you know, we’re both – we’re really excited but we’re both shooting now on our, you know, TV shows and we’re, you know, kind of used to S&L style, working a little closer to the date.  So it’s kind of a little to far out to start really planning because news and change and, you know, we, you know, things happen closer to the thing. So, no we’ve talked about – we certainly exchanged, we’ve seen each other and talked about how we’re excited but no we haven’t planned anything yet.

Q:  In the next episodes Leslie’s going to be meeting Ben’s parents, can you talk a little bit about that?

Amy Poehler:  Well it’s – how much do we talk about without spoilers. Well we’re really excited – we know who the actors are…

Adam Scott:    And they are so great.

Amy Poehler:  …they are so great, we have Glen Hedley who is amazing. And…

Mike Schur:    And Jonathan Banks.

Amy Poehler:  …yes and Jonathan Banks and who plays…

Mike Schur:    Mike Ehrmantraut.

Amy Poehler:  …yes, who plays Ben’s intimidating dad. And it’s a rate peek into kind of Ben’s world and family and that dynamic. And so it’s the kind of a combination of like a high stress party combined with relatives, which always is a mix – is a bad mix.

Mike Schur:    I love the idea of Ben’s father being just a little terrifying. I think it fits in really well with kind of, you know, with the character of Ben. It’s really funny and Jonathan Banks was hilarious.

Adam Scott:    Yes, they were both great and Kulap Vilaysack who plays Ben’s dad’s girlfriend (unintelligible) turned girlfriend is also great. And I think that it’s like the – it’s a very – it was a very contained episode. We basically wanted to put Leslie and Ben and Ben’s parents who hate each other and Ben’s dad’s girlfriend into a pressure cooker and just leave them there to simmer for 20 minutes.  So it turned out really, really well. And it’s – there’s some really just wonderful acting from everybody. And it’s also by the way in a side note is the return of John Ralphio Saperstein, Ben’s wife comes back to help Tom with his new business ideas. So there’s a lot going on and we’re very happy with the way it all turned out.

Q:  Are you guys anticipating or do you want this [engagement] to be that big a deal when we look back at the history of this show, is this going to be a before and after moment? Or is the idea more to just sort of work it into the body of the show as it already exits?

Mike Schur:    Well starting next week it’s an hour-long medical drama so it definitely is a before and after kind of a situation. No, I don’t – I mean I think it’s a watershed for the characters certainly but, you know, Ben showed up in Leslie’s life, you know, a couple years ago and it became pretty clear, pretty quickly that they were soul mates.  And I’ve said this before but we had the intention over the life of the show of Leslie having a lot of different boyfriends who, you know, were good and bad in different ways and from whom she learned things about herself and about what she wanted in life and stuff.  And we had started doing that, she dated (Luisi Case) character who was a police officer for a while and, you know, she was hung up on Paul Schneider’s character for a while. And she dated Justin Theroux’s character for a while and we were sort of moving in that direction, we wanted it to be a sort of a series of interesting relationships in the life of a self-possessed single lady. And then Adam Scott showed up and then it all went to hell because we realized that their two characters were just very good for each other. So we threw out that plan and just – and followed what made sense, which was that they were kind of soul mates. And, you know, I don’t – for that reason I don’t think that them getting married or getting engaged is a, you know, changes that much about the way that the show is, it’s just – it’s official now and we get to do stories about them planning a wedding and sort of intertwining their lives officially in what that means for them and how it affects other people and stuff. But I don’t think it’s going to – I don’t think there’s any massive, you know, see change in the way that the show functions.

Q:  At the heart this is a workplace comedy and yet you guys have found that balance. Is that something you are clearly conscious of trying to do or is just the way the show was developed over time?

Amy Poehler:  Yes, it’s certainly something – it is – it’s certainly something that Mike is very conscious and we are all conscious of that at the end of the day the show is about these characters and how they kind of wouldn’t be friends in real life but they’re all thrown together in a similar environment. And that we always return to the Parks Department all the time is a reminder of this is where, you know, this is where the comedy is and we kind of leave it and come back. And every time we leave and come back it’s different when it comes back. And so it’s been nice to – for the – the writer’s do such a good job of balancing letting big things happen and letting characters change so that each episode isn’t a reset, you know, it can be frustrating when you’re watching something and every – no one learns anything, no changes, no one grows and every episode is the same thing. But, however that being said I think I can speak for Mike when I say that it’s always really important that we stay true to what the show is, which is exactly that, a workplace comedy with – and a character mixed comedy. Also I think I can speak for Mike too when I say…

Mike Schur:    I think I can speak for Amy when I say – I’m Amy.

Amy Poehler:  Hey Mike – look at me over here, hey guys I’m stupid.

Adam Scott:    I think I can speak for the rest of us when I say, will you guys please cut it out.

Q:  So how did you guys all keep it under wraps?

Mike Schur:    Well there’s a lot of things, you know. We were extra, extra, extra careful not to – when we shot outside and you know, and there’s may paparazzi lurking around, we always would hide Leslie’s engagement ring and although a couple shots of it did get snapped a while ago but.  We titled the episode Halloween Surprise and then we built it around what you think is the surprise, which is that they – Leslie and Anne surprised Jerry and he has a devastating fart attack. So that was meant to sort of throw people off the scent. And I don’t know, we just didn’t – we just tried to telegraph where we were going to much, you know. Like Adam said we tried to build in – in the first four episodes we tried to build in, you know, that – like that Ben was having a good time and was working really hard at this job in Washington that he cared about. But also that there were things about the job that sort of annoyed him, like that the politician that he was – the politician he was working for who was kind of a robot who didn’t really care about anything. And that was contrasted when he, you know, he called Leslie at the end of that episode and she was so revved up and just wanted to just put boots on the ground and kind of – and fix this problem in her town.  And you saw on his face and in his delivery that he just liked that better, you know. So we just tried to – just not to telegraph in the storytelling where we were going but the goal is that once it happens you think back and you think, oh yes that makes perfect sense.  So it’s just very meticulous, you know, writing and re-writing and story breaking and a lot of discussions with the actors about, you know, where we’re going so that they know how to play different things and how to kind of give certain clues without giving everything away. And then just, you know, asking everybody on our production staff not to leak stuff to the Internet.

Amy Poehler:  And you know, the fans of the show are always – we have such great fans. And they – I think some of them kind of found out or dug deep and they were kind of excited to know but they also I think were respectful and kind of like keep things like, you know, like letting people know about spoilers and just kind of trying to keep it adrift because I think they were as excited as we were.

Mike Schur:    Yes, it’s funny that you say that because I kind of snooped around yesterday before the episode aired and I saw that a lot of our fans had kind of called that it was actually maybe happening tonight.  And but were really kind of keeping it to themselves and speaking in code to each other. They revealed that I’m digging a little deeper than I should be but it’s really lovely and they were, you know, really cool about it and not trying to spread it around and just kind of talking to each other and not wanting to like spoil it for others. And I just kind of seconded that that we have the greatest fans of any show – I really just – we feel very, very lucky.

Q: Adam, we’ve really been enjoying Ben and April’s evolving friendship this season. So can you talk a little bit about developing that relationship with Aubrey on camera?

Adam Scott:    Yes, it was really fun. Ben and April hadn’t really had a lot of time together just one-on-one. I mean they live in the same house but we haven’t seen the two of them just kind of break off and spend time together.  And I think it was great both for my character and for Aubrey’s character, you know, to see her sort of – all right go to Washington and, you know, get serious about something and sort of you get to see her enjoy herself and actually – Mike could probably speak better to this.  But you see her actually starting a career of some sort and you can see her kind of out in the world a bit more than usual. And I thought that their relationship really evolved into this really nice friendship. And it was fun to be made of by April for several episodes.

Q:  Ron Swanson is dating Diane now and she’s not a candidate so it kind of seems like his character is evolving a bit more. Could you maybe talk a little bit about the direction his character’s heading in?

Mike Schur:    Sure, I mean we’ve had this idea for a really long time that Ron would at some time have a real relationship with a woman who sort of fit all of his, you know, criteria. From the sort of important criteria that she’s like self-possessed and confident and strong and her personality to be superficial like that she has dark hair.  And we – the idea was give him a really great relationship possibility and then complicate it with two young girls. And, you know, this has been floating around for a while and for a couple years at least and then Lucy Lawless became available and we sort of jumped on it.  And, you know, he’s not a guy who’s going to change a whole lot in terms of the ways he views the world or the way that he, you know, comports himself. But I think he’s a man and he – it was important for us to create an episode where he realized it was just as important in the world of manliness to apologize when you’ve done something wrong as it is to be able to chop wood or cook a steak or something.  So that was the design of that story and, you know, it sort of gets lost in the kind of giant story move of the proposal but I thought that the scene where he apologized to Diane last night was maybe the best acting he’s ever done on the show. I thought he was just fantastic.  And, you know, the plan is long-term that, you know, this is an important person in his life and that he needs to make a couple adjustments. He’s a guy who hasn’t made any adjustments in his life in probably 30 years in any meaningful way.  And he’s found a woman who is important enough to him that he needs to make a couple adjustments in terms of how he spends his time and what he cares about in order to make room in his sort of lone wolf heart for these two little girls and this woman who he cares about.  So it’s going to – we’re going to follow that story for a while and it’s very exciting to have Lucy around because she’s really cool.

Q:  I was wondering how much of an influence the supporting actors like Aziz or Retta have over their characters arc’s because they kind of seem to get more wild as you go.

Mike Schur:    Well the story line obviously came out of real life because Retta has been doing this insane thing where she like live Tweet’s season to a Buffy and it’s hilarious, we all find it hilarious.  And so we just decided to work it into an episode. It’s a common theme on this show that we take aspects of the actor’s real life and kind of weave them into their characters and that seemed very much appropriate for Donna somehow. So, you know, I think that – I think we do that with all the characters but maybe Aziz and Retta more than – and Nick I guess more than almost anybody else because they just do things in real life that we find funny and the writer’s room and then we try to find ways to work them in to their characters.  But that’s – everyone’s character has some aspect I would say of their real life persona. And it just seems funny to have Donna live Tweeting a terrible horror movie from 1986, so. It was also another extra in joke that the guy who complains to her about it was played by Joe Mande who’s one of our writer’s who is like – essentially lives on Twitter. So it was our little nod to the obsession with Twitter that exists in this – on the writing staff right now.

Q:  Tom’s an Internet fan, how connected is your staff in general because you seem to know a lot about the Internet?

Mike Schur:    Well, I mean I’m – comparatively speaking I’m about to turn 37 and there’s a bunch of little whipper snappers on this writing staff and in the cast who are, you know, in their 20s. And I don’t understand anything they do.  There was a line that Leslie had in season two where she said the thing about youth culture is I don’t understand it. And that came right out of my brain because I don’t have any idea how these people, what they’re doing with their time.  I don’t understand it, it doesn’t make sense to me and I work out my own anxieties about the fact that I’m getting old by having young people do things that I don’t understand and then having Ron Swanson scold them. So, yes they’re incredibly connected, I mean it is absurd, the level to which 25 year-olds have merged with their electronic devices.

Q:  I was wondering if the outlook for another season of this show would have any affect on whether or not there’s a wedding this season or are you like really committed to sticking to whatever plan you already have in place.

Mike Schur:    We learned a long time ago I would say that we shouldn’t take anything for granted. And for that reason our motto has been just go for broke. Just tell every story you want to tell, don’t worry about what comes next, don’t’ worry about the future.  Just tell the story that you want to tell in the order you want to tell them and damn the torpedoes basically. And every time we get a piece of good news, you know, in the past about, you know, the next season pick up or something like that Amy sends a text to me that says, nice hustle.  And that’s the motto of the show I think if there is one. It’s like – let’s just hustle, let’s just go all out, run, you know, run to first base, run to second base, run to third, come home, go full bore the whole time and let the chips fall where they may.  So we’re not going to worry about next year or the year after or anything like that. We’re just going to hustle and try to make the show as good and as interesting as it can be possibly be.

Q:  Were there ever any alternative ideas for Ben’s proposals because I think making it so simple made it extremely impactful?

Amy Poehler:  I know, I mean I have to say before we get into that what I loved in watching it again last night is, I loved that the, you know, the scene is about everything to come, you know. It’s an empty room, which is – which can be depressing in some respects for some people but in this context it was all about hostility, you know, that nothing had filled that room. That that room was empty and open and ready to be filled with like the future.  And it was really cool that Dean Holland our Director and Mike Schur picked that it happened in front of the fireplace of the empty room, which is just really nice because it was like warm but, I don’t know. I just loved that Leslie looked around to see what was around here and there was just this big empty room, which was like basically the idea, you know, it’s basically what happens when you’re thinking about committing to someone.  It’s just the future seems really wide and open and clean and so that ended up being what it was and I thought it was perfect. But were there other ideas?

Mike Schur:    The original original idea was that he was going to sing “It’s Not Unusual” by Tom Jones next to a white tiger.

Adam Scott:    Which I was lobbying for.

Mike Schur:    Yes, you were really into that. And then we kind of scaled it back, we decided, you know, let’s make it a little, you know, classier and kind of quieter.

Amy Poehler:  We couldn’t get – we couldn’t get the rights to the song.

Mike Schur:    We couldn’t get the rights or the white tiger so we just used – all right well maybe he just proposes, you know.

Adam Scott:    Mike I told you I had a firm connection to both of those things I totally could have made it happen.

Mike Schur:    If showing me pictures on the Internet of Siegfried and Roy’s Vegas show does not mean you have a firm connection to anything.

Adam Scott:    That is exactly what that means.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest

Comments are closed.