After his NBC comedy celebrated its milestone achievement on Thursday (Jan. 9), Zap2it spoke with the man who plays Jerry Gergich (or Larry or Lenny, depending on the day) who shared his thoughts on the success of the show, where the series is heading in the second half of Season 6 and whether his poor character will start to get any respect around Pawnee.
Zap2it: Congratulations on 100 episodes last night!
Jim O’Heir: I’ll tell you, if people don’t believe in miracles, then believe in 100 episodes. That is proof enough. We’re the little show that just keeps trudging along.
I was going to ask you — before you got the order for the 100th episode, was there ever a point that you thought the show would hit it, or was it sort of like “Oh, that’s so far out that we don’t know if that’ll ever happen for us”?
Every year, we’ve been on the bubble as far as renewals. It’s so weird because a lot of years ago, Mike Schur, one of our co-creators with Greg Daniels, he just basically said — because every year, we didn’t know what was happening. We just never knew. Our ratings were better than other shows, but not as good as some. You know, all that kind of stuff. So it was always a question mark. But his theory was if we just work every week and put out the best show we can put out, that’s all we have control over. There’s nothing else we can do. So we all just pretty much put ourselves in that frame of mind and he’s right.
All of a sudden, we are at, like, 90 at the end of last season and I thought, “Well, if they pick us up again, we are gonna hit 100 episodes.” You know, I’m a TV guy my whole life, as far as I’ve always watched television, and you always hear the magic number for television is 100. So when we got picked up last May at the upfront, even not knowing how many we got, I figured, “Well, they’re at least giving us 10.” And I was like, “I’m gonna be on a show that hits 100 episodes.” So, no, it was far from a guarantee, but really, really cool.
The past couple of years, NBC has vocally said it wants to go broader with its comedies, which is sort of a dig at “Parks and Rec.” It seems like they’re saying this show isn’t broad enough, and then these “broad” shows continue to not do well, while “Parks” and “Community” continue to thrive. What’s it been like to watch that happen being on the show that they are positioning as what hasn’t been as broad enough for them?
You know, I think that basically happened last season when that set of comments were being made. And, you know, to be honest, it’s a little tough to hear because whether you think we’re broad enough or not — I say this because I’m not a writer on the show, so I can say this and it’s not a bragging thing, but we’re a smart show. It’s just a smart show with so much love in it and that to me is amazing. If every show had that going for it, you know, it’d be incredible. So, yeah, it wasn’t easy to hear because I really felt like, “Wow, we’re on the chopping block. They have their eyes on other things.”
And then at the end of the season, basically the only shows that survived were us and “Community.” So I don’t know — and that’s not cutting down other shows that didn’t make it, because as an actor, I’m never looking for shows to be canceled because I’ve been there, so I don’t wish that on anybody. I hope they’ve rethought some things. You know, even last night, for the 100th episode, “Community” and “Parks” were NBC’s No. 1 comedies for the week. Hopefully they broaden their view on that.
Looking back on the 100 episodes — and obviously this question is going to be a huge undertaking, so I apologize in advance — but what has been your favorite Jerry moment? Just your laugh-out-loud funniest thing you’ve done as Jerry so far.
Wow. When you say that, I go back to thinking how much fun I had shooting something, you know? Not so much just the final product. The heart attack-fart attack episode. It was lunacy. We couldn’t get through it. I’m falling to the ground, we’re trying to make fart noises. You know, somebody brought some fart effect thing. They knew they were gonna put them in later. That was crazy. You know, Aziz [Ansari], Tom Haverford coming up, going “Did you eat farts for lunch?” For me, it was one of my favorite afternoons I’ve ever had on “Parks and Rec.” I just love it and I think it came across well too.
You know, as I was writing that question, I thought, “Man, I hope he says the fart attack-heart attack scene.”
Yeah! It was so many takes because once the laughter starts, it can screw up everything — but in a good way. You can see on the DVD extras and stuff, we lose it constantly, but we’ve never been reprimanded for that. I think it’s all good energy when that happens. That was an awesome one.
What’s been something that you weren’t a part of, but a moment that you cherish from the show that didn’t involve your character?
I think, even as a viewer because I wasn’t there when they shot it, so just sitting at home watching it, when Ben unexpectedly was standing there, ready to propose to Leslie at the empty house. I’m not a TV crier by any stretch, I’m just not that person in general. I was like, “Oh my God,” and my eyes watered up. I just that was an amazing television moment overall. I think that came out of nowhere. Even now talking about it, I get chills. I just thought that was an incredible moment.
So you guys have hit 100. Looking to the future, where do you want Jerry to go? What would you love to see for him? A little more respect from his co-workers, or is that just never in the cards for this poor guy?
OK, I can’t say much because it would give a lot away, but there is a storyline that is shooting as we speak and you’ll — boy, how do I say it without getting in trouble? Let’s just say there is potential change in the office for Jerry as far as — oh boy, it’s hard to say. It’s so weird because I don’t want to give anything away. There’s actually a big moment we’re shooting in this week’s script, like a huge, revealing Jerry moment, and I have to be careful what I say. But do I want them to show him more respect? Absolutely. But also you’ll see in upcoming episodes, as much as Jerry messes up and does this kind of stuff, he also understands his place in the office, and I think Jerry understands more than he’s given credit for. And I think that will be seen coming up soon.
As a viewer, we’re obviously building up to the goodbye of Ann and Chris. Has that already been shot? Have you guys already said goodbye to Rashida and Rob?
It has and it sucked. It was tough. They both left on different days. Rob [Lowe] left on a Wednesday and Rashida [Jones] left on a Friday. By the end of that Friday, I’m like, “OK, I can’t. This is enough. It’s too much.” They’re both not just beloved on the show as Ann and Chris, but especially Rashida — we’ve been with Rashida since day one. She was one of the top six when the show started, so it was very tough. They did a whole big thing. For Rob’s, we were on location shooting and everyone from the office came out. Oh God, it was lovely. I think Rob Lowe, and not to put words in his mouth, but I think was an experience he hadn’t had before as far as just being on a show and having a great time. You know, just having a really great time. And for Rashida, we did a wh
ole production number for her, and there was roses and there was dancing and tears. Lots of tears. It was tough, but they’re gone. I think they have, on the air, three more episodes and then they’ll officially be gone.
Obviously without giving anything away, but with them leaving, how are viewers, in your opinion, going to walk away with the goodbye they get with the characters?
It’s not a “Goodbye, never see you again” kind of goodbye because they’re moving, but they’re not moving to Australia. They’re certainly within a drivable distance, so they’ll definitely be back. As a matter of fact, I know for a fact Rashida’s coming back. That’s already planned. So I think it’s perfect because you’ll be like, “Oh, we’re not gonna see them in a week” but it doesn’t make it permanent. You know when some people, like when Shelley Long left “Cheers,” you know, she’s just gone. But I don’t think you’ll get that feeling. I think people will be sad because they love the characters, but because of who Leslie is, she can’t be without her best friend Ann. So she’s gonna make sure there’s connections. And also in real life, Amy and Rashida are dear friends, so, you know, they want to be together.
Looking toward the second half of the season, Leslie’s finally out of office. In the 100th episode, she was sort of grappling with what to do next and she’s sort of still put that decision on hold. There was no resolution in the episode. I know you can’t give anything away, but in broad strokes, what can we look forward to with Leslie? With Kathryn Hahn’s character coming back, there seemed to be implications that Leslie might be thinking bigger than Pawnee. Is that something we should be expecting?
I think [so], yeah. That being said, I haven’t seen that, to be honest with you. The scripts following have not been so much focused on her career. There’s a Unity Concert coming up, there’s other stuff coming up, so we haven’t focused on that. Remember, she still works for the parks department. She’s still taking care of all of us crazy people. But my guess is — and this is literally my guess, I know nothing, this isn’t revealing anything because I don’t know anything. I would think if we stick around that we are gonna see go for bigger office because in the real world, someone like her, that is who should be in office. Someone who is doing it for the people. It’s not about special interest groups or all that BS that we deal with in politics everyday. Someone like Leslie would be doing it for the right reason. But I don’t know yet. We haven’t dealt with that yet.
“Parks and Recreation” airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC.