How Wendy Davis inspired 'Parks and Recreation' filibuster storyline

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Image Credit: Colleen Hayes/NBC

Leslie Knope is in the fight of her life in the first of two new episodes of Parks and Recreation airing tonight: She’s filibustering in roller skates.

And as you might guess, the storyline was directly inspired by that other famous filibustering female — Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, who in June famously staged an 11-hour filibuster in an effort to block a bill that would place strict restrictions on abortion.

“When Wendy Davis was filibustering for real and we were all watching it on the streaming video, like, seven of our writers were instantly emailing saying, ‘Leslie’s got to do this,'” said executive producer Michael Schur. “And it wasn’t about the same subject, obviously, but it’s been really nice when national events emerge that seem interesting…to play them out in the elected office setting.”

In the episode, Knope is fighting to give Eagleton residents the right to vote in the election to determine whether she will be recalled from office. Her nemesis, Councilman Jamm, is opposed to the inclusion of their votes.

This is far from the first time the long-running NBC comedy has borrowed from the national headlines for a storyline. Schur pointed out that the seventh episode of the series tackled gay marriage (with penguins!), and most recently, a storyline about a tweeting scandal within the Parks and Recreation department was partly inspired by the political aftermath of the 2012 Benghazi attack. “It [was] not about Benghazi, but it’s about the way media circuses arise when political opponents want to make a mountain out of a mole hill,” he explained. “So it’s usually not coming out of a specific thing that’s happening; it’s more about a general way that people comport themselves in Washington or something I find irritating.”

In some cases, Schur added, the show has been ahead of the curve. Season 3 saw the town of Pawnee affected by a government shutdown, which, Amy Poehler joked, “drove Leslie nuts.”  Schur says they have no plans to tackle the story once again in light of the October shutdown. “It was a natural thing for us to do [at the time] but you can’t tell that story again,” he said.

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