“Parks and Recreation” premiered in 2009 and ran for seven seasons on NBC. Originally conceived as a spin-off of “The Office,” the cult favorite series is centered on Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and the quirky characters of the Parks and Recreation department of Pawnee, Indiana, as Knope strives to make her community a better place. While critics loved the workplace comedy, it struggled year after year to stay on the air.
“The cast, crew, and writers spent a decent amount of time worrying about getting canceled, we nervously waited for our (usually) very low ratings mornings after we aired and, every season, we prayed that we would get picked up,” recalled Rashida Jones, who played Ann Perkins, to People. The show gained a loyal following, thanks to relatable characters like Leslie’s earnest do-gooder and Nick Offerman’s Ron Swanson, a crusty boss with a heart of gold.
“This cast is about as close to perfect as you’ll find on TV,” Garrett Martin wrote for Paste Magazine in 2011. The series was a springboard for the careers of several members of the talented ensemble cast. Before “Parks and Rec,” Aziz Ansari was doing sketch comedy, Chris Pratt was mostly a TV actor, and Aubrey Plaza was just getting started. A lot has happened since then. As for what all the actors are up to now, we’ve got everything you need to know.
Amy Poehler received five Emmy nominations for her portrayal of Leslie Knope, the plucky small-town bureaucrat with Oval Office dreams. Poehler honed her craft for seven seasons on “Saturday Night Live,” creating many unforgettable impressions, including Britney Spears and Hillary Clinton. “You get this crazy skill—quick decision-making, standing up for yourself, and seeing things through quickly,” Poehler told Parade. The comedian also made a friend for life in “SNL” castmate Tina Fey.
The two women co-hosted the Golden Globes three times, and co-starred in the 2015 film, “Sisters,” as two very different siblings throwing one last party in their family home. Poehler told The Guardian the true love story on “Parks and Rec” wasn’t between Leslie and Ben. It was about her bond with BFF Ann Perkins, played by Rashida Jones, her real-life friend. “There’s so much created conflict between women on TV shows,” Poehler said, “and I don’t find that to be my experience.”
“I work primarily with women, most of my projects are female-driven, and my female friends are very important to me,” she added. In 2019, Poehler directed and starred in “Wine Country,” along with Fey and fellow “Saturday Night Live” gal pals Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer, and Rachel Dratch in a story loosely based on a trip they took to Napa Valley. “It’s an adult comedy and an exploration of female friendship,” Poehler told Parade. “It’s like ‘The Four Seasons’ meets ‘Apocalypse Now.'”
Before her stint on “Parks and Rec,” Rashida Jones played Karen on “The Office.” In an interview on “Off Camera with Sam Jones,” Jones revealed, (1:43) “I always felt like a guest star on ‘The Office.’ I never felt comfortable. I knew because I was like the small point of a love triangle that I would eventually just … I’d have to be sacrificed.” In 2016, “The Office” star Steve Carrell tapped Jones for the titular role in his cop comedy spoof, “Angie Tribeca.”
Speaking to Deadline about the TBS series, Jones explained, “Every single scene is highly choreographed as there are several visual gags in any given scene. I say, ‘It’s a booby trap,’ and then someone is touching the boob on the mannequin.” In 2020, Jones played Kenya Barris’ wife Joya on his short-lived Netflix series, “#BlackAF.” “I’ve played a lot of very supportive, sane, thoughtful, generous, unconditional friends and girlfriends and wives,” she told Variety about the role. “And I kind of get to be selfish on this show.”
Jones partnered with Bill Murray in Sofia Coppola’s 2020 film, “On the Rocks,” playing a father and daughter on a mission to find out if her husband (Marlon Wayans) is cheating on her. In another interview with Variety, Jones said, “She really goes through this process of going on a caper with her dad, she has to let go of this idea that her dad knows better for her than she knows for herself.”
Adam Scott has been having quite a run after his turn as Ben Wyatt, an auditor who ends up being the love of Leslie’s life. His most notable roles have included some bad dudes, including a recurring arc as the demon Trevor on “The Good Place.” He also played Ed, Reese Witherspoon’s loyal, yet sometimes creepy, husband on “Big Little Lies.” “He genuinely loved Madeline. … He’s there to protect her and keep her safe, which makes him feel safe,” Scott told Glamour in 2017. “But yeah, it obviously wasn’t the healthiest relationship.”
In 2017, Scott teamed up with “The Office” alum Craig Robinson on “Ghosted,” a Fox comedy series with an ’80s action vibe. “Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run, Ghostbusters…you don’t see that so much anymore, that very grounded comedy…..we all saw the potential for that,” Scott said during a panel discussion at the ATX Festival, per Deadline. He also appeared in the Netflix mini-series, “Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later,” alongside Amy Poehler.
After he read the first script for the Apple TV+ series “Severance,” Scott told The Daily Beast, “It sounds corny, but it felt like this was a role I’d been waiting my whole career for.” In the series, he plays two sides of Mark, a man who is saddled with overwhelming grief. “He’s in this place where he is grieving his wife and he’s sort of stuck. He hasn’t moved on. He doesn’t want to move on.”
After his tenure as the gruff but lovable Ron Swanson on “Parks and Rec,” Nick Offerman has taken on a variety of distinctively different roles. He shaved his signature mustache to play con artist Karl Weathers on Season 2 of “Fargo.” “I’ve had to learn to take it as a compliment when people say ‘I saw Nick Offerman without his mustache, and I vomited because it was so horrible,'” he quipped to Entertainment Weekly.
Offerman played Dick McDonald in the 2016 film “The Founder,” the story behind the rise of the fast food chain. In FX’s sci-fi thriller “Devs,” the accomplished character actor takes the lead. He plays Forest, the CEO of a huge tech company, “a genius, like, twice as smart as Elon Musk,” Offerman told Men’s Health. “That guy’s an idiot compared to [series writer-director] Alex Garland’s tech genius.” In 2021, he played Colin Kaepernick’s adoptive dad in Ava DuVernay’s series, “Colin in Black & White.” More recently, he’s been seen in Hulu’s “Pam & Tommy” and HBO’s “The Last of Us.”
In 2022, Offerman was cast as Casey “Dove” Porter, coach of the women’s baseball team featured in the Amazon series, “A League of Their Own.” It’s a role Tom Hanks played in the 1992 film which stars Geena Davis and Madonna. While he seems pretty busy these days, he told The Independent in 2017, “The industry is not breaking my door down to get me in stuff.” Offerman, who has a side hustle as a wood craftsman (like Ron Swanson) added, “I’m very lucky to have more than one hat to wear to work.”
Aubrey Plaza, who played deadpan intern April Ludgate on “Parks and Rec,” has worked steadily for more than a decade. In the 2017 black comedy “Ingrid Goes West,” Plaza stars as a social media stalker desperately seeking the perfect Instagram life. “Ingrid is doing horrible things and behaving in an insane way, but I wasn’t interested in just playing a ‘crazy girl,'” Plaza told Time Out when asked about how she approached the role. “I was more interested in understanding why someone would behave this way.’
Plaza took on the role of psych patient Lenny Busker in the FX superhero series, “Legion,” a character she found difficult to figure out, and physically and emotionally draining to portray. At the 2018 Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour, per Fox News, she revealed, “I think traumatic is the right word. It’s really scary to play a character that you don’t know who she is.” Plaza received rave reviews as the titular character in 2022’s “Emily the Criminal,” playing a woman who resorts to a life of crime to pay off her staggering student loan debts.
In Season 2 of HBO’s “The White Lotus,” the actor plays not-so-happily married Harper, one of the central characters. In an interview with Backstage, Plaza shared, “It’s only been two episodes and everyone’s like, ‘This woman is kind of an uptight b***h.’ Which, maybe I am,” she admitted. “But you’ll see, as the show goes on, the layers come off; the vulnerability starts to show.” In 2023, Plaza will star in the Disney+ series “Agatha: Coven of Chaos” (via the Hollywood Reporter).
Chris Pratt has come a long way from the goofy shoe-shine guy on “Parks & Rec.” Pratt, who started his career on the small screen with roles on “Everwood” and “The O.C.,” was starring in blockbuster films before “Parks and Recreation” signed off. In 2014’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” he originated the character of series protagonist Peter Quill, a role he reprised in several Marvel films. Director James Gunn told ABC News at the time, “I knew within 20 seconds of his audition this is absolutely the guy.”
“And the truth is, Chris Pratt is the biggest movie star in the world. It’s just people don’t know it yet,” Gunn added. The following year, Pratt entered the world of dinosaurs, playing Owen Grady in “Jurassic World” and its sequels, including the final chapter, “Jurassic World: Dominion,” a film which also stars original franchise leads Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum. Pratt told People in 2022, “The first time I saw Jurassic Park, I was 13 — I had no idea I was gonna ever be an actor … and these folks were, like, cemented in my mind as icons.”
In 2022, the actor launched an action series on Amazon called “The Terminal List,” which also stars Riley Keough, Taylor Kitsch, and Constance Wu. Pratt plays a Navy Seal officer who comes home to discover he’s dodging potential killers everywhere he goes. Speaking to Variety about the series, Pratt explained, “We’re really hoping we’ve written a love letter to the thriller genre.”
Rob Lowe was an established film and TV actor before he joined the cast of “Parks and Rec” as Chris Traeger, the character who literally coined the catchphrase, “literally.” The former Brat Packer and “The West Wing” cast member also appeared in “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” and “Wayne’s World.” In 2015, Lowe joined the cast of the CBS medical drama “Code Black,” where he played Colonel Ethan Willis, who is brought in to help the hospital develop its trauma unit.
Speaking to CBS News, Lowe explained, “So much of what we are learning with cutting-edge trauma medicine is from the battlefield.” Around the same time, Lowe teamed up with Fred Savage for the Fox comedy “The Grinder.” Lowe played Dean Sander, a successful TV lawyer who leaves Hollywood to join his brother, a real-life attorney, in his Idaho law firm. “The theater of the courtroom is a perfect place for him — or so he thinks,” Lowe told Fox News in 2016. “But the show raises the question: Is ACTING it as good as BEING it?”
In 2020, the ageless heartthrob was cast as Owen Strand, a captain from New York City overseeing a group of young Texas firefighters in the Fox drama series, “9-1-1: Lone Star.” “Trying to herd the cats of younger people finding their way through the world felt really natural,” the father of two young men told Closer Weekly. “Captains are like the fathers of the firehouse, so that was very easy to relate to.”
On “Parks & Rec,” Aziz Ansari played Tom Haverford, a government worker who wears designer suits and imagines himself as the next Jay-Z. “You have this guy with all this ambition but he’s ultimately too scared to go for it and move to LA or New York,” Ansari explained to Esquire in 2013. Before booking the role, Ansari starred in the MTV sketch comedy series “Human Giant.” He also appeared on “Scrubs,” and in the 2009 film, “Funny People” with Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen.
Ansari co-created the critically-acclaimed Netflix series, “Master of None,” which premiered in 2015. He plays Dev, a New York actor trying to advance his career while navigating single life in New York. “Aziz Ansari nails modern love, modern families, and cultural assimilation in a potent comedy that often camouflages its depth with Ansari’s quick wit and snappy patter,” wrote Eric Deggans for NPR. But Ansari’s real superpower is his stand-up comedy.
In 2014, the comedian performed to a sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden, joining an elite group of comics that includes Kevin Hart and Eddie Murphy. The show was later turned into a 2015 Netflix special, which racked up a perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes. After a date accused Ansari of pressuring her into having sex with him in 2018, he kept a relatively low profile in Hollywood. In 2021, “Master of None” returned for a third season, with a storyline centered on Lena Waithe’s character and her wife, rather than on Ansari’s Dev. He also released two Netflix specials, “Aziz Ansari: Right Now” and “Aziz Ansari: Nightclub Comedian,” in 2019 and 2021.
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Retta, who played Donna Meagle, became famous for another “Parks and Rec” catchphrase created with Aziz Ansari — “Treat Yo Self.” The standup comic has voiced characters for several TV and film projects, including “Where’s Waldo?” and “Pinky Malinky.” Retta played Barbara on Bravo’s “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce,” a role that required her to tangle with cast mate Lisa Edelstein. “I appreciate [the focus on female friendship] and what I also appreciate is when they portray the women fighting, they’re real,” she told Bustle.
In 2017, Retta landed a role she had only previously dreamed about, starring alongside Christina Hendricks and Mae Whitman in “Good Girls,” a crime caper series about three suburban moms on a risky mission. In a 2019 interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Retta said, “I never thought this was something that I would be asked to do because I have never gotten these types of opportunities before. Usually, I am just the sassy black friend.”
In 2022, Retta added TV host to her resumé with the premiere of HGTV’s reality competition, “Ugliest House in America.” In the series, Retta tours the nation checking out homes in need of a serious makeover, and the worst one wins a major renovation. The star was hesitant about the concept at first. “I didn’t want anybody to feel bad,” she told People. “But then the producers reminded me, ‘They submitted their home.’ It’s not like we walked past the house, like, ‘This place is trash. Do you want to be on this show?'”
Jim O’Heir, who played Jerry Gergich, the bungling office worker on “Parks and Rec,” guest-starred on several primetime series, including “Veep,” “The Neighborhood,” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” In 2017, he won a Daytime Emmy for his role as an overbearing airline passenger on an episode of “The Bold and the Beautiful.” When Michael Fairman asked if he expected the honor, the elated actor exclaimed, “Not in one million years!”
O’Heir also took on his first leading role that year, starring as Lenny, an aspiring stand-up comic who recently lost his mother in the black comedy, “Middle Man.” “For me, as an actor, it’s been great because it shows he’s not just the wacky, sad neighbor who can come in with a punchline and leave,” O’Heir told Glide Magazine. O’Heir also appeared on the ABC sitcom “Bless This Mess,” and in 2018’s “Bad Times at the El Royale,” which stars Jeff Bridges and Cynthia Erivo.
On a 2022 episode of “Better Call Saul,” O’Heir ended up consuming so many Cinnabon rolls shooting his scenes that a medic had to closely monitor his blood sugar. “I did end up eating a lot of them,” he admitted to The New York Post. But the sweetest part of the experience was meeting one of his all-time idols — comedy legend Carol Burnett. “I’ve worked a lot and met a lot of amazing people, but there are certain people who are above and beyond for me, and she’s at the top of the heap,” O’Heir said.
On “Parks and Rec,” Paul Schneider played city planner Mark Brendanawicz, Leslie’s potential love interest and one of her early supporters. After exiting the show at the end of Season 2, Schneider starred in the 2014 film, “Goodbye To All That,” playing a man going through a divorce and jumping from one ill-fated relationship to another. “What attracted me to the script was the character of Otto and his very playable foibles. There’s actable stuff,” he told Tribeca Film.
Schneider also starred alongside Nia Long in WE tv’s legal drama series “The Divide.” In a 2014 interview with Film School Rejects, the former production assistant on “Third Watch,” which also starred Long, revealed he brought the star her breakfast on set. “I like the symphonic nature of making films,” Schneider said. “I say all that to say that what I’m interested in is the symphony. I’m not interested in being a soloist.”
The actor also played Mike Painter, a child psychologist, in Season 1 of Syfy’s anthology horror series, “Channel Zero: Candle Cove.” In the season finale, Painter returns to the scene of a horrific murder mystery in his hometown. For viewers who may not be real “scary movie” fans, Schneider told Entertainment Weekly about the show, “Well, it’s different, it’s fear in a different way. It’s sort of like remembered fear instead of shock frights. I feel what the guys did very well is capture that dreamy feeling of fear and not so much the slap-you-across-the-face version.”
Ben Schwartz joined “Parks and Rec” in Season 2 as Jean-Ralphio Saperstein, Tom Haverford’s party boy buddy and frequently misguided business partner. In Showtime’s comedy “House of Lies,” he played an eager young consultant and notorious womanizer who is constantly scheming against his co-workers. “My character, Clyde, just says the things he wants you to hear. You never really know what he’s thinking or feeling or doing,” Schwartz told Collider in 2012.
Schwartz co-starred with Billy Crystal in the 2020 film, “Standing Up, Falling Down,” playing a comedian who struggled for years to make it in Hollywood. “I connected with the idea that he’s failed at this thing that he’s told his family he was going to do for the rest of his life,” Schwartz told The Independent. “There are hundreds of very funny and very talented people, and there’s no way that all those people are gonna find success and be able to make money.”
The actor put his improv skills to use for his role as Tony, the social media director in the Netflix series, “Space Force,” and as Yasper in Apple TV+’s murder mystery comedy, “The Afterparty.” He also played the titular role in both “Sonic the Hedgehog” films. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly in 2022, Schwartz explained the unique challenges of acting for animated projects. “I realize that in the booth, nothing is animated yet,” Schwartz said. “So, I have to express all my emotions through words and performance.”
Billy Eichner joined “Parks and Rec” in its sixth season as Craig Middleton, per HuffPost. The comedian is best known for “Billy on the Street,” Fuse TV’s pop culture quiz show held on the streets of New York City. In 2015, Eichner joined fellow comedian Julie Klausner for Hulu’s celebrated series, “Difficult People,” playing characters based on their real lives — aspiring comics trying to make ends meet with their respective side hustles, per Deadline.
Eichner’s role as Felix, a fertility doctor, in Netflix’s “Friends From College” gave the actor a chance to show his range in a more nuanced, subdued role, per Bustle. In 2017, he took a bold leap, joining the cast of Ryan Murphy’s “American Horror Story.” “I get to be dramatic and violent and sexual,” the actor told Entertainment Tonight. “People may not be prepared to see that side of me.” In 2022, Eichner made history with his groundbreaking film “Bros,” the first gay rom-com from a major motion picture studio, per NBC News.