PG Interview: Retta of Parks and Recreation

April 12, 2012 1 Comment »

For a woman who claims that she is not into vampires, Retta is quick to discuss her very intense opinions on The Vampire Diaries, Angel and of course, Twilight. And often, those very intense and hilarious opinions on those series and other favorites are broadcast weekly from her Twitter account (@unfoRETTAble). Now, if we could only get a daily update from Donna Meagle, her alter-ego on Parks and Recreation, our lives would be complete.

Retta talks to us about her love for TV, how dirty her Parks co-stars can get, why we all need to see a Donna/Jean-Ralphio hook-up and, of course, vampires.

We first need to talk about how amazing your live tweeting is. What made you decide to start putting all of your TV reactions on Twitter?

I always said that people follow you because they like the show, clearly, but because they are interested in you.

Obviously I have no secrets to give away about Parks and Recreation, and the only things I can talk about are things I like — and I love TV! I’ll try just about anything — The Good Wife, Breaking Bad — I tweeted a whole Breaking Bad season way after the season was over because I was watching it in my trailer on DVD so I would only be able to watch like 10 minutes at a time.

You know, I watch [shows after they air]. I actually have to pause [the DVR] so I can get my head together about how I am going to make a statement so I don’t offend, but I get my point across.

So each time you go in there, I’m going to be calm and nice about it, and then within twenty minutes you are like, “Screw it?”

Yeah, then I’m just cussing my head off.

Speaking of cussing — I had given up on The Walking Dead in the second season, but after reading your tweets this season, I think I need to go back.

Good! You can’t give up on it!

When I was tweeting about the “Pretty Much Dead Already” episode, [my Twitter followers said] “Oh my god, wait ’til you get to the last one — You are gonna die! You are gonna die!” [And then she was] limping out of that barn… I started screaming, “Sophia! I knew it! I knew it!”

I just want you to have your own TV show where it’s basically people sitting around watching television with you.

Hopefully people won’t steal my idea — I am into college basketball and I used to want to have a channel that would show college sports events but the commentators are all girls who really don’t know any stats, or much background information. All they do is either gossip about the guys, or talk about random shit. They see somebody in the audience in the crowd and say, “Oh my god, that looks like my aunt — we didn’t realize she was pregnant and she just had a baby and she was in the bathroom.”

That’s brilliant. Doesn’t NBC have their own sports channel – NBC Sports Network? You should get in on that.

Maybe I’ll pitch that idea, see if we can go in and watch the game all day and talk about it and just talk shit.

What are you currently working on?

I am supposed to be working on my new hour of comedy so I can try to get a special to shoot. I’ve been getting stage time to work on this new show.

I honestly think that you should offer out your services to television series because I’ve actually seen people say that they are only watching Smash just to be able to understand all of your tweets.

I think I should get a little bump in pay from NBC then! (laughs)

I like Smash because I felt like all the singing made sense. It was always in an event — I’m even ok if someone’s singing to themselves while washing dishes or whatever. But the musical numbers that bust out in a bowling alley? Come on.

I have yet to get into Smash, so I will say that pretty much everything I know is seeing your tweets reposted on Tumblr and Twitter.

That’s funny (laughs). I need to check out Tumblr. I have a Google alert on my name so I see some things from Tumblr, because every once in a while it’ll pop up on there. When we did Paley Fest 2012, I had come home to a Google alert and pictures were already all over the internet. It cracked me up.

I remember the streaming [of the panel] – Paley stopped it before the gag reel.


Because our gag reel is really dirty. We’re so blue. In fact, they only show [the full one] at our wrap party. They have to edit it down for the DVD. Everybody is so obnoxious and so rude, it’s hilarious.

What are some of your favorite gag moments?

I am always caught off guard when Nick [Offerman, who plays Ron Swanson] farts on set. He does it all the time. On last season’s DVD, he says “Let Loose!” And I was like, “Dear Christ!”

There’s always a lot of pseudo-masturbation, or just a lot of cussing. I cuss a lot. I mean I cuss a lot in my life, so when we are allowed to improv, you say whatever you want because you know it’s not going to make it on. It will make it to the gag reel but not the show. So there is a lot of cussing on the set.

Who would you say are the worst cussers?

Me, Jim O’Heir [Jerry Gergich] and Amy Poehler [Leslie Knope]. Especially when Jim blows a line.

That’s great — do you have any improvised moments that made it to the final cut?

One that made it on was in the water fight episode (“Campaign Shake-Up”) where Rashida [Jones, who plays Ann Perkins] is trying to get ideas for how to fix the water fountain so people don’t put their mouth on it.

She says “Donna?” And I say, “Do I look like I drink water?”

I didn’t even realize I ad-libbed it. The writer told me at Paley Fest that I added it. We didn’t have a blow for that scene and we were like, there’s our blow. I was like, “Oh, look at me!”

That is a fantastic line.

[laughs] Why thanks.

You really get so many fantastic lines. I often find myself saying to people, “Are you Nell? From the movie Nell.”


How did you keep a straight face through your “I think Ben’s already filling the Leslie void” line in “Campaign Shake-Up”?

I didn’t have to keep a straight face. Donna’s gotta enjoy that line — she’s saying it because she enjoys the idea of it. So I was allowed to enjoy the line even though Donna was saying the line.

What have been some of your favorite lines if you recall?

One of my favorites is “Treat Yo’ Self.” Because it was fun, it was funny, and people say it to me so much.

I knew it when I was shooting it but it won’t leave me — whenever people start saying it, they say “Clothes, Fragrances, Massages, Mimosas, Fine Leather Goods.” I can’t not say it, and say it the same way I said it in the show.

When you got the script for “Pawnee Rangers,” did you expect it to take off the way that it did in the public and with fans?

No, but at one of the table reads the following week, Amy [Poehler] and Mike [Schur, Executive Producer] said that’s going to be a hot episode. There’s no way “Treat Yo’ Self” is not going to stick.Treat Yo' Self, Illustration by Andrea Pimentel

Amy wasn’t there for the [filming] — she wasn’t in any of our scenes, she never saw it except in rough cuts. I remember her saying that and I was like, “Oh cool!”

The moment when Ben (Adam Scott) comes out in the Batman costume — you and Aziz Ansari (Tom Haverford) have the most fantastic reactions. Was that the first time you saw him in the costume?

No, as soon as we got into the mall, he had to have that costume on. The first few we shot was with us talking in the middle of the mall when they have the aerial shot of us. And he’s telling us that he was seeing this woman and we just ended it.

So we had been seeing him all day in it. But the first time I saw him in it I was like, “Wow, and good luck.” Because it looked so tight on his face.

It looked really tight on his face — he had to be in it all day?

Yeah. We were in that mall all day, we were there in the morning – I’m pretty sure call time that morning was 6 am – and we didn’t move to the massage parlor until about 4 pm. He was in it all day.

Wow, and that looked like a pretty intense costume.

It was pretty snug.

Entertainment Weekly named you one of the best scene stealers of 2011. How did you find out about that? What was your reaction?

Aisha Tyler from The Talk had actually gotten an early copy of the Entertainment Weekly. She took a picture of the page and sent it to me on Twitter. I thought, that’s pretty fucking cool.

Did you bring it into work and just be like, I just want everyone to see this?

I did not – I did tell Jim O’Heir that he couldn’t look me in the eye anymore.

You know — a lot of people are really interested in seeing a Donna/Jean-Ralphio (Ben Schwartz) hookup.

I am too! I want that to happen. I love him.

It needs to! It’s just kind of a natural progression of your characters.

It needs to happen. It would be hilarious if she had some DL-love relationship with him where she didn’t let him talk about it or talk to her in public. She’s like, “You are a jackass and I don’t need people to know that I am feeling you so if you want to do this keep your mouth shut!”

What do you think it is about Jean-Ralphio that Donna would totally dig?

He’s such an asshole, such a jackass. There’s always that guy you fucking can’t stand but there’s something when he’s quiet and you look at him and you are like, “Oh my god, he might fucking be good in bed. Goddamnit.” It’s just like: don’t say a word, just do what you do.

That’s a perfect phrase. Don’t say a word, just do what you do.


What have been your favorite scenes to shoot?

My favorite scene to shoot by far was the water fight in “Campaign Shake-Up.” Between Rashida and Aubrey [Plaza, who plays April], they kept trying to throw water balloons at me when they were chasing each other through the office. It gave me so much pleasure to soak Jim with that hose — I was dousing him way before they yelled action.

I was the only one who didn’t get wet.

How did you manage that?

Because I was outside with the hose! And Jim was up against the glass and they were inside throwing water balloons at each other. At first I was one water balloon exploded right by my foot and I thought, “It lookMaking fun of Jerry, Illustration by Andrea Pimentels like Aubrey is trying to get me!” So every time she came by I would move, and then sometimes I would squirt the water hose inside the room. [laughs]

I avoided the water while fully participating.

You are the evil mastermind of the whole water fight.

You mention Jim a lot, are you guys good friends?

Yeah! I call Jim my set husband. Whenever there’s lunch and I’m too lazy to go, he’s like, “What do you need, what do you want, do you want a DC?” He drinks so much Diet Coke.

He’s accepted the name, he now signs his emails “Set Husband.”

You’ve said the Parks and Rec folks tend to send around email chains, like when you guys were nominated for an Emmy. Do you have any memorable emails?

One of the funnier ones was when we did the Glee parody on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. It kind of happened because of Questlove, [Fallon's bandleader], because he really liked Parks and Recreation and he had done this kind of essay on how the Parks characters are like WuTang Clan. He had done this [piece on] with RZA [from WuTang] auditioning to play Leslie Knope. Quest was in a smoking jacket to introduce it.

Quest was obsessed, he was fully into the show. Jimmy knows Amy and they sent us emails saying if you guys are willing to do the skit, we’d love to have you. Sure, we’ll go to New York! Upon returning, Mike Shoemaker, Jimmy’s producer, sent an email to everyone saying it turned out great, can’t wait to air it. And Quest replied all and said something to the effect of: “I can’t believe how cool this is. I just love the show and I got to work with everybody.” And then Bashir Salahuddin, who’s a writer for Jimmy was like, “Really dude? Really? You are gonna wax philosophical on this bullshit?”

Then it just blew up. Because our show loves to give people shit. So it was just back and forth, back and forth. At one point while we were shooting, between takes, we had a competition between the teams of show tunes and TV show theme songs. There was a fight over the emails about who actually won. It was really funny, it was non-stop!

That’s hilarious. Do you remember any of the theme songs that you guys battled on?

The Jeffersons, All in the Family — all the old ones. Anything they could think of, it was fucking genius. While one team was singing, everyone [on the other team] would gather and try to come up with a better one. It was hilarious.

One thing I do not get is your love of the Twilight series.

One of my friends is obsessed with Vampires, that’s why. She reads every vampire book, she read Twilight. She’s like, “Come to my house, get these books. Fucking read them and cuss me out when it’s done. They are easy reads.” So I read the first one — I was still going on the road at the time. It was easy.

It was relatively interesting – the first one was pretty decent. The second one, I was like, “Bitch, this shit is fucking boring the shit out of me.” She said the beginning is really slow, but just get to the end, get to the end. And then the fucking end was crazy and I was like, “Oh shit!” I was back into it. The third one was when they get married and the crazy rip-your-skin sex and I was like, “What the fuck! This is supposed to be some sort of teenybopper shit!”

The fourth — I was gasping the entire book. The fourth made it worth the whole series. Oh my god, the fourth has so much, the mythology, there’s a lot of characters that you have to try to keep up with. It’s so good. It totally made it worth reading the first one which is okay, the second one which made me want to fucking kill somebody, it was totally worth it.

Speaking of Vampires, were you a Buffy fan?

No! See that’s the thing! I’ve never been into vampires. I did watch Angel in syndication. I used to watch Angel in the morning before I actually got out of bed. I liked it because it was funny, it used to make me laugh so much.

I didn’t like any of the Connor stuff. When Darla got pregnant, I didn’t understand how vampires have a kid? No. I am not buying this. And then the kid was so damn annoying I’m not sticking around for this business. But I came back…

I hated Connor! Did you see when he put Angel in the coffin and dropped him in the ocean?


I was beside myself. And I was watching in syndication so I didn’t have to wait for the new season to start. I just watched the new season the next morning when it started and every time Connor’s on the screen I was like, “Somebody kill this kid, somebody kill the kid!” Hated him so much I couldn’t even see straight! Ugh! He was the worst.

He was the worst!

[laughs] He was such a dick. Just the worst.

You also tweet about The Vampire Diaries. I LOVE that show.

The writers on that show are genius because there’s never been an end of an episode where I haven’t been like [gasp] “Oh shit! What!” It’s always my reaction at the end of an episode.

They have really great mythology and they are really good at suspense and throwing some new shit in. They don’t go the most obvious route [but recently,] I was like, “You vampires. So unloyal and distrustful!”

I really love the idea of Caroline and Klaus together.

It is kind of hot. At first, I hated Caroline. She was so high school! I was like, “Relax, there are vampires in town. Nobody cares about this dance!” Now, I love her.

As soon as they vamped her she became more and more interesting character.

I was like, “Holy shit!” When they vamped her. [gasp!] Nobody’s safe! [laughs]

I don’t like the friend, the witch. Ugh! Bonnie! She’s always moping and she’s so put upon.

I feel like they just can’t figure out what to do with Bonnie – but then they have a really interesting love triangle with Damon, Stefan and Elena. They could have a happy threesome and I would be more than happy to watch.

Well you saw that dream sequence where she had a threesome with them. How weird is that! With your real boyfriend, and your TV boyfriend, and your TV wannabe lover.

Nina Dobrev, getting it.

For someone who doesn’t like Vampires, how did you get involved in the Vampire Mob web series?

My friend Joe Wilson wrote it. He sent me an email after he had finished the first season and was said, I’m doing this thing and I have an idea for a part for you. It’s called Vampire Mob and I was like, really? Sci-fi is really hard to do on a shoestring budget.

The Facebook page had so many fans. He told me that the fans are the reason why we have a Season 2. They donated money so we could do it. I was like shut the fuck up. A lot of people really like it so, sure I’ll do it.

I’m not really into vampires and all that…

You know, for someone who is all “I’m not really into Vampires. But I really like Twilight, and I love The Vampire Diaries, and…”

Stop outing me!

I’m totally outing you!

If it’s a good story, I am down.


Parks and Recreation returns from hiatus Thursday, April 19th at 9:30/8:30c on NBC.

All illustrations by Andrea Pimentel.

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One Comment

  1. Rachel April 12, 2012 at 12:57 pm - Reply

    This is so amazing.

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