As it nears the end of its run, NBC’s “Parks & Recreation” makes a final trek to Washington on its February 10 episode, marking one of its more ambitious uses of real-life political figures for cameos to date.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) will all appear on the episode.
The show already has featured cameos from McCain and Boxer, as well as Vice President Joe Biden, but executive producers Morgan Sackett and Mike Schur tell Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM that shooting at the Capitol posed a logistical challenge. But when it came to knowing their lines, that was a breeze for the senators.
“They all knew their lines cold, better than the professional Hollywood actor,” Schur quips.
The episode finds Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) visiting D.C. as part of her job as Midwest director for the National Park Service. One scene features Booker and Hatch, who had a “really lovely rapport with each other,” Schur says. The senators shared common ground when it came to National Parks funding, defying notions of hyper-partisanship in D.C.
The show tried to equally balance cameos between Republicans and Democrats, and they would have done so on the upcoming episode, but Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a potential presidential candidate, backed out at the last minute. His scene would have included “favorable comparisons” to Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), as the two share libertarian sensibilities, Schur notes.
Paul “had to back out at the last second — I am not 100% sure why,” Schur says, adding that perhaps “he got a little spooked or something.”
Sackett says that it’s hard to discern whether political cameos give the show a bump in the ratings, but they have proven to spur Internet chatter, giving “Parks and Recreation” notice in the political world.
Dan Futterman and E. Max Frye, the Oscar-nominated screenwriters of “Foxcatcher,” say that although the movie took dramatic license, the portrayal of John du Pont as a figure obsessed with patriotism and American exceptionalism was accurate. Although some see the movie as a commentary on American capitalism, the screenwriters say that was not on their minds when working on the project.
Futterman and Frye talk about Mark Schultz’s varied reactions to the movie, as well as what du Pont’s motivations may have been in hiring Schultz and his brother to bring together an Olympic wrestling team.
Even though du Pont was convicted in the murder of Dave Schultz, the screenwriters also discuss whether justice was served.
On The Mix, Amie Parnes of the Hill and political strategist Matthew Littman talk about reports that Martin Scorsese has put a planned documentary about Bill Clinton on hold due to disputes over levels of control that the former president would have over the project. With the potential candidacy of Hillary Clinton, Littman says that such Hollywood-led projects may prove to be distractions for a campaign.
PopPolitics, hosted by Variety’s Ted Johnson, airs Thursdays at 11 a.m. PT on SiriusXM’s political channel POTUS 124.