Best of 2012 (Behind the Scenes): Inside 'The Debate' episode of 'Parks and Recreation'

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In addition to Amy, Chris, and Aziz Ansari (read that interview), Nick Offerman also made our critic’s Emmy Wish List. When I chatted with Nick, he told me you have this wonderful way of making him cry. He said he cried when you handed him the script that included the Ron Swanson Pyramid of Greatness. Should I believe him?
I believe that’s true. I believe I’ve seen him cry several times. Nick is like a writer and showrunner’s dream. First of all, he’s just a wonderful human being. He also is just incredibly grateful for being able to play this role. He’s been a little bit of a square peg in a lot of different round holes. This part was obviously designed for him, and he settled into it immediately. He’s so happy playing the part and being a part of the team that he will just come and hang out in the writers’ room or on the set when he’s not even shooting. That’s a very rare thing anywhere, a person who loves his or her job so much that he or she goes to that job when he or she doesn’t have to. I remember he got very emotional and weepy on the night our series premiere aired because it was suddenly real. Sometimes he’ll call me and leave me a voice mail that’s just two minutes of him telling me happy how he is, and how great he thinks the show is, and how grateful he is to be a part of this. I play them for my wife, who’s also a writer, and she thinks it’s a bit or something. She can’t believe that it’s real, that someone would be that sincere and grateful and humble and emotional. It’s really who he is, and it’s amazing.

One moment I’ve always wanted to talk to you about is actually from last season, when Ben first told Andy that he has feelings for Leslie and Andy’s response is “You’ve chosen well.” That’s not what one of Liz Lemon’s coworkers would have said about her. I just love that Leslie is actually appreciated.
We take great pains in all the episodes to show how much her friends’ happiness means to her and the crazy lengths that she’ll go to to help her friends when they’re in trouble. Like when Ron is in trouble with his ex-wives, she’ll throw herself on a number of different grenades for him. In the first ever Ron and Tammy episode, Ron saw that happen and it really affected him. It laid the foundation for the rest of their relationship. Part of the theme of the show is if you’re that kind of person, that will come back and help you. That was the whole design of last season for us: When she was in a crisis and her campaign managers pulled out, her friends said, “Screw it, we’ll help you.” That’s the essence of who the character is and the world she inhabits: She’s a person who is so genuinely mindful of the people around her and wants so badly to help them succeed and achieve their goals and dreams that she’s now in a situation where there’s no length to which her friends will not go for her. It’s a little bit of a friend fantasy. [Laughs] She’s what everyone wishes their best friend could be like.

Last but not least, let’s talk about Leslie’s relationship with Ben. I’ll find myself rewinding scenes, like the one in the finale when he tells Leslie he never wrote her a concession speech, just because a smile on Adam Scott’s face looked so genuine. You believe Ben loves Leslie, and there’s no question that she deserves that love — which feels rare for a female on a sitcom.
He’s a very intuitive performer, and I think he very early on figured out what kind of guy this was and what kind of lady Leslie was, and how it would be that he would fall for her. My favorite line, it’s a tiny moment that probably flew right by most people, is in the Valentine’s Day episode. Leslie has set up this insane scavenger hunt for him that has like 25 clues spread all over the city that are incredibly difficult to decipher, and Ben’s rushing around with Andy and Ron trying desperately to solve this incredible Leslie puzzle before he’s supposed to meet her for dinner. When they get to JJ’s Diner, the end of the clue says like “Only 22 clues left to go.” Ben says, “22? God. Come on, Leslie, give me break.” Then he says to no one, “Well, this is the woman I have chosen to love.” Her insanity and her intensity is what he loves about her. It’s why he’ll do things like the scavenger hunt, which is important to her.

Read more:
‘Parks and Recreation’ season 4 finale: Exec producer Michael Schur on why Leslie won the election
‘Parks and Recreation': Amy Poehler, Adam Scott and Mike Schur on the proposal

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