During its seven seasons on the air, there’s been a casting rule in place on Parks And Recreation nicknamed “The Poehler Doctrine” according to co-creator Michael Schur. Essentially, the rule of the show, which airs its series finale tonight, has been to cast the funniest person possible for a role; not necessarily the most popular performer or even an actor who might match the casting breakdown. While SNL alum Amy Poehler herself, Rob Lowe and Adam Scott were well known before coming to Parks And Rec, the NBC show, much like its sister series The Office before it, is responsible for launching a slew of fresh faces into the upper echelons of TV and film. Let’s take a look at some face and names you will be seeing elsewhere for a while:
Chris Pratt (Andy Dwyer). The biggest breakout star of the gang with one blockbuster under his belt, an upcoming monster-sized tentpole (Jurassic World) and a franchise reboot (Indiana Jones) in the offering. On Parks And Recreation, Pratt’s Andy was the goofball, the guy too dim for his too bright g.f. Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones). They broke up, but Andy found love in the absurdist April Ludgate. During his Parks And Rec tenure, Pratt’s feature career warmed up with turns in The Five Year Engagement and Zero Dark Thirty. However, last summer’s Guardians Of The Galaxy ($774M global B.O.), proved the ideal showcase for his sarcastic swagger, turning him into box office star overnight. Of those alums from the show, Pratt is in the prime pole position to reap the spoils of Parks And Rec.
Rashida Jones (Ann Perkins) Her Ann was the straight-woman to Leslie Knope’s (Poehler) loopyness; their friendship sparked during parks and rec meetings. Ann hooked up with Leslie’s old flame Mark (Paul Schneider), but eventually had a baby with Chris (Rob Lowe) and left Pawnee in season 6. Outside of the show, Jones has proved to be more than an actress as a screenwriter (Celeste & Jesse Forever, Toy Story 4) and producer; her latest documentary Hot Girls Wanted, about the amateur porn industry, was acquired by Netflix out of Sundance. Jones is also headlining the new TBS cop comedy Angie Tribeca.
Aubrey Plaza (April Ludgate) A former Saturday Night Live intern and Upright Citizens Brigade alum, Plaza was quickly coveted by indie and comedy directors for her dry-witted, alluring personality; taking the crown from ’90s front lady Parker Posey as the new indie darling. Her April is the laziest, most jaded person at the Pawnee town hall, but she failed upward from intern to Ron Swanson’s assistant to Leslie’s right-hand gal. Notable films: Safety Not Guaranteed, The To Do List and the upcoming Hal Hartley film Ned Rifle. Bigger parts are in store with the Robert De Niro-Zac Efron comedy Dirty Grandpa and Emilo Estevez’s The Public.
Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson) played Leslie’s superior and mentor in the Parks and Rec department. Like many of those listed here, Offerman is in demand for his quirky personality, specifically, his apathetic, fuddy duddy demeanor. He was already landing character parts prior to the NBC series in film and TV with Sin City, Miss Congeniality 2 , Will & Grace and NYPD Blue, but thanks to Parks And Rec his stock shot up with studio comedies (21 and 22 Jump Street; We’re The Millers) and arthouse fare (All Good Things). He’s not stopping: next films include the Robert Redford-Nick Nolte film A Walk InThe Woods, Terrence Malick’s Knight Of Cups and Me Earl And The Dying Girl which bowed at Sundance. He’s even in the first episode of Fargo‘s second season.
Aziz Ansari (Tom Haverford) Ansari had a cult following prior to the show as one of the creators/actors on MTV’s sketch series Human Giant. On Parks he played Leslie’s sarcastic subordinate, ultimately leaving her office to go into business for himself. Since starring on the show, his stand-up star has risen with hosting duties on the MTV Movie Awards host as well as Netflix stand-up specials Buried Alive and Live At Madison Square Garden. Feature credits include Get Him To The Greek, 30 Minutes Or Less and This Is The End.
Paul Schneider (Mark Brendawicz, Seasons 1 & 2) He played the level-headed Pawnee City planner and apparently slept with Leslie once. She never forgot about it. He left the show after season 2 when his relationship with Ann soured and there was a Pawnee government shutdown. Prior to the show, Schneider made his mark in auteur fare like Cameron Crowe’s Elizabethtown, the Brad Pitt western The Assassination Of Jesse James and Jane Campion’s Bright Star. Since his departure, he starred in the WE series The Divide and Zhang Yimou’s Flowers Of War. Upcoming : the Geoffrey Rush-Sam Neill drama The Daughter.
Ben Schwartz (Jean-Ralphio) Jean-Ralphio was a cocky kid who interviewed to be Ron’s assistant, attempted to invest in Tom’s ventures and had the hots for April. Prior to Parks And Rec, the UCB alum won an Emmy for writing the music/lyrics to Hugh Jackman’s musical number at the 81st annual Oscars. Parks And Rec is but one of several feathers: Schwartz stars on Showtime’s House Of Lies, wrote features for Imagine, Universal and made the 2011 Blacklist for his re-make of Soapdish. Post Parks And Rec his film credits include: Runner Runner, This Is Where I Leave You, The Interview and upcoming, Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk.
Retta (Donna Meagle) Donna is the office manager in the parks department who doesn’t tolerate boring people. She is known for sending out nasty messages about Leslie on the parks’ Twitter account. Even before her 120 episodes on Parks And Rec, Retta had already established herself as a marquee stand-up comedian. Since Parks, she has appeared on Comedy Central’s Drunk History, Key And Peele and Kroll Show.
Jim O’Heir (Jerry Gergich) As Jerry, he’s the guy who is the lovable butt of everyone’s jokes, particularly Tom’s. But Jerry had the last laugh when everyone met his drop-dead gorgeous wife (Christine Brinkley). At one point this season, he became the interim Mayor of Pawnee after the death of Mayor Gunderson. O’Heir’s film credits while working on the show include the Steve Carell film Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World, the Aubrey Plaza comedy-horror Life After Beth and the Adam Carolla co-directed comedy Road Hard. Jim currently has a Kickstarter campaign for the indie film Middle Man where he stars as a hapless comic who gets tangled in a killing spree on a road trip to Vegas.
Jon Glaser (Councilman Jeremy Jamm) Before arriving to Parks And Rec, Glaser served as a comedy writer on The Dana Carvey Show, The Keenan Ivory Wayans Show and Late Night With Conan O’Brien where he earned five Emmy noms. As orthodontist-councilman Jeremy Jamm he’s known for blocking Leslie’s proposals with the catchphrase, “You just got jammed!” Since Parks And Rec, he played Laird on HBO’s Girls, appeared on Inside Amy Schumer, stars in Scot Armstrong’s film Search Party and can be seen in Trainwreck which was written and stars Schumer.
Billy Eichner (Craig Middlebrooks) Eichner made a name for himself as the raging man-on-the-street in Funny or Die’s Billy On The Street. His list of 17 episodes as Craig Middlebrooks, the volatile government employee who takes over Ron Swanson’s exec position at the parks department, only raises Eichner’s profile more after guest spots on New Girl and The Millers.
Dominic Patten contributed to this report