One of the most popular new sitcoms of the last few years, NBC’s Parks and Recreation, will come to the end of their second season tonight with a cliffhanger that will keep fans talking all summer long. The series was recently picked up for a third season, which they have already begun shooting but unfortunately due to programming will not begin airing until 2011. The cast, including star Amy Poehler (Leslie), Rashida Jones (Ann), Aziz Ansari (Tom), Nick Offerman (Ron), Aubrey Plaza (April), Chris Pratt (Andy), Jim O’Heir (Jerry), Retta Sirleaf (Donna), and guest stars Adam Scott (Ben) and Rob Lowe, joined series creators Michael Schur, Greg Daniels and editor Dean Holland at the Leonard H. Goldenson Theater in North Hollywood last night to premiere tonight’s season finale and talk a bit about the future of the show. On hand to moderate the event was Saturday Night Live cast member and Amy Poehler’s former partner on Weekend Update, Seth Meyers.

After a brief introduction by Schur the audience was treated to the season finale of the show. Fans of the series know that as of last week the government of the fictional town of Pawnee had been shut down thanks to budget cuts, leaving the jobs of many of our main characters in jeopardy. While we can’t give away too many details about tonight’s finale we can say that it revolves around the cancellation of a children’s concert in the park. When Leslie finds out that the budget cuts have forced the cancellation of children’s musician Freddy Spaghetti, for which the episode was named, she decides to take matters in to her own hands and rallies her former colleagues to save the day. At the same time, romance and heartache build for several of our main characters including April, Andy, Ann, Tom and Ron. Fans of the series are sure to not want to miss the closing credits as it introduces an interesting cliffhanger that will carry on into the show’s third season.

After the screening, which received a round of huge applause from the packed audience of industry insiders and devoted fans, the cast and crew took to the stage along with Meyers. The “Weekend Update” host began by thanking NBC for not moving the panel to mid-season, a crack at the fact that while the show has been picked up for a third season, NBC has decided to not begin airing any episodes until early next year. Meyers then asked series co-creator Michael Schur to talk about the genesis of the show and how they created the character of Leslie and cast Poehler in the role? “We talked to her in the early days because we knew her from SNL and we wanted to build the show around her but then she went and got herself knocked up,” explained Schur. “It seemed like she was out of the running because we had to shoot the pilot and we started developing the show for a man in the lead. Then it became a woman again and as soon as it did we knew we had to wait for Amy. We talked to Ben Silverman at NBC and said that we thought if we waited we could get Amy.”

“He is historically the most cautious man in show business,” interrupted Meyers. “Well they agreed and I called Amy and pitched her the show. She liked it and we delayed shooting three months and the rest was history,” finished Schur. Meyers followed up by asking Poehler what she wanted most from doing a primetime sitcom? “Money,” the actress answered. “You haven’t changed a bit,” replied Meyers. “I think I was just impressed by the work that Michael and Greg do and they developed a character who was complex and funny. Also when we were starting this it was around the time of the 2008 election and I just thought she had a great ‘Yes We Can’ attitude and I thought that would be fun to play,” answered Poehler.

The series’ co-creator Greg Daniels discussed how the characters and the scripts have grown since casting the actors in their parts. “The cast was great before the show was great,” explained Daniels. “We had the scripts and the ideas before hand but then when someone comes along and brings so much life to the character, we try to incorporate it and it becomes much more alive. I think right now the character of Leslie is so much more cool and interesting because of the stuff that Amy has brought to it. We’ve found out how to write with her personality.” “For example, our big emotional cliffhanger in the finale is April and Andy, which was never a combination that we imagined and it came out accidentally,” explained Shur. “We had the hunting trip episode and we just left them in a room by them selves for a little C-story and then the two of them seemed like that was pretty good so we just thought we would roll with that. It’s really because of Chris and Aubrey that it’s still incorporated into the show.” Speaking of Andy, the character has gone through a lot of changes this season and Meyers asked Pratt about the evolution of his character? “I never saw him as a guy who … honestly I’m just struggling to memorize my lines,” admitted Pratt. “I’m glad that I’ve put more thought into your character than you have,” joked Meyers. In fact, Pratt had been shooting scenes for season three all day and wasn’t sure if he would even be able make the panel so he was forced to arrive in Andy’s actual clothes from the show.

Next Meyers asked the show’s editor and occasional director Dean Holland to discuss how much funny stuff he is forced to cut each week because of time constraints? “An endless amount. It’s a really big struggle and we almost have to cut the show in half in order to get it ready to air,” answered Holland. The moderator continued by asking the actors and creators how much of the show is improvised as apposed to scripted? “Usually what makes the show is what was written because the scripts are so well written,” said Poehler. “Frankly I think they are so well written that often it comes across like improvisation. We are given the gift of improvising a lot but some times it works and sometimes it doesn’t.” Meyers noted when speaking to Aziz Ansari that his character, Tom, has probably said some of the douchiest things ever said on TV. He asked the actor to explain some of the pre-disposed ideas that Ansari has about his character. “For Tom I do have a few random specifics about who this guy is and they slowly work them selves into the show,” he explained. “One thing I had in my head is that he buys all his clothes from Brooks Brothers Boys. I write something about Brooks Brothers Boys in every episode and it just finally made it into one. Another thing that I’ve always had in my head is that Jamie Foxx is his hero. I’ve said so many things about Jamie Foxx that hasn’t made it in. There was one episode where I saw it in a script and I was like, finally but then it got cut. It made it into the finale but I thought it was going to get cut then too. So I think those are the fillers that I keep in my head.”

Actor Nick Offerman who plays the stoic, bacon eating Ron Swanson on the show talked about his favorite aspect of the character. “The Bacon,” he stated. “No, my favorite part is when Chris Pratt and I are working on our character studies together breaking down our scripts,” he joked. “When Mike and I were first discussing the Swanson we decided that this was a guy who would have a kick-ass mustache,” Offerman explained.

Rashida Jones who plays Ann on the show, Leslie’s best friend, is also close friends with Poehler in real life and explained the differences between the characters relationship and their real life friendship. “The thing that I do feel like that translates from our relationship to the screen is the part of Anne and Leslie’s relationship where we just talk about our feelings, guys, the world, women and friendship,” explained Jones. “I feel like that intense unconditional intimacy and the council is something that has translated from our real life to the show. But I think Leslie is more blindly optimistic than Amy.” “Yeah she’s a bad listener,” said Poehler. “She’s a good friend but Amy is a better listener, replied Jones.

Poehler and Jones then began laughing and talking about a Youtube video that a fan made which cuts out every other character from the series and makes it look like the show is about a homosexual relationship between the two female leads, set to the music of the Counting Crows. “I made that,” joked Plaza. Meyers who seemed fascinated by Plaza and her character noted that in the first season it seemed like April didn’t want anything and now in season two that has changed so he asked the actress how that has affected her character. “Yeah it’s good to want something,” Plaza replied in her famous deadpan attitude. “That’s all you’re going to get out of her,” said Schur. “I just want to ask rapid-fire questions that she can be dismissive to,” said Meyers. “Are you having a good time tonight?” “No,” {PEIcBQIKjAsuML|+|Plaza answered.

Meyers noted that actor Jim O’Heir’s character of Jerry is often mistreated or abused by his fellow colleagues so he asked the actor why everybody hates Jerry? Jim O’Heir began by saying, “I think that they have proven that there is concern and every office needs a …” but before the actor could finish his statement, he was interrupted by Meyers in a very funny yet condescending way. “I don’t mean to interrupt you but here’s Rob Lowe.” Just then the former The West Wing actor, who had to come late do to shooting, leaped to the stage. Both Schur and Daniels admitted that Lowe’s Sam Seaborn character was actually an inspiration for the series, that their goal was to make a funny The West Wing and that the casting of Lowe was a nice way of honoring their inspiration. It was also explained that both Lowe and Adam Scott’s characters, who were introduced last week, will be regulars on the show through at least the first six episodes of the third season. In fact, they are shooting those episodes now and will take a break so that Amy Poehler can give birth to her second child.

Meyers asked Scott, who is no stranger to comedy being one of the stars of the hit cable series Party Down, how he is enjoying his time on the show? “Well this is nice and we’ve deserved none of this”, joked the actor about the sold out crowd in the theater. “I was a Parks and Recreation nerd to begin with so this has been exciting to come into this world and everyone has been really nice to us … except for Aubrey,” laughed Scott. “Yeah well that’s kind of her bread & butter,” said Meyers. The moderator then asked Lowe, “Rob, what’s it like for you to come on to a hit show like this? You’ve never done a show about politics before so that must be fun for you, right?”

“I only play public servants,” answered Lowe. “It’s great. I had always liked the world when I watched it. I would say to my wife, I would like to be on a show like that. The universe works in really weird ways and I learn that about every ten years in my career, so here I am and it feels really good,” Lowe stated.

Meyers then set his sights on actress Retta Sirleaf who plays office worker Donna on the show. He asked the actress to talk about some of the hidden secrets that she has created for her character. “She lives beyond her means,” said Sirleaf. “She’s got a lot of credit card debt and she’s a dirty freak.” Plaza added, “Also, Donna has a crush on Ralph Macchio. It was in an extended episode and there were a lot of Ralph Macchio references,” the actress explained.

Lowe, a friend and former co-star with Macchio from the Francis Ford Coppola classic The Outsiders had this to say on the subject. “Ralph Macchio is totally down with the whole thing. His Outsiders homey is checking in, it makes him very happy,” joked Lowe. “We have a Facebook only group for Outsiders alumnus’s.”

Meyers asked the cast if anyone has ever cracked up while filming a scene? “Well when Aziz is doing his own joke he does. Aziz ruins is own takes the most,” stated Poehler. “The hardest scene for me was when Jerry was making his presentation but I figured if anyone would start laughing at him it would be Tom so I just went for it. Nick Offerman never cracks so when he went I knew I’d be good,” defended Ansari.

Finally, still obsessed with Plaza and her sarcastic attitude, Meyers inquired about the recent perfect casting of April’s sister on the show. “She’s actually the daughter of someone in our art department and I guess they cast her because they thought she looked like me,” said Plaza. “The scene was that Ron says, Oh you must be April’s sister, it’s nice to meet you. Then he goes to shake her hand and she rolls her eyes and walks away,” explained Schur. “So the audition tapes were just girl after girl rolling her eyes and then walking out of frame. When we got to her, I didn’t know that she was related to anyone on the staff, I just knew that she shot the same horrifying chill up my spine that Aubrey does,” laughed Schur. “I have two sisters and one is named Natalie, which is probably how April’s sister got that name because I used my real sister’s name during an improv the first season,” explained Plaza. “So she kind of looks like my real sister … but my real sister is pissed that they didn’t cast her.”

From MovieWeb