Jim O'Heir Celebrates 'Parks and Recreation' on Treat Yo' Self Day
For fans of NBC's Parks and Recreation, "Treat Yo' Self" may as well be a daily motto, but the yearly event started by Pawnee's Donna (Retta) and Tom (Aziz Ansari) has its own official date — October 13.
In order to ring in Treat Yo' Self Day 2020, Peacock is honoring essential workers from around the United States in a special celebration. The streaming service has partnered with the National Recreation and Parks Association to recognize the real-life Leslie Knopes and Ron Swansons who embody the show's good-heartedness with help from star Jim O'Heir (otherwise known as Jerry/Larry/Terry/Garry/Barry Gergich).
The actor has interviewed the five honorees — Carlos Garcia, Erica Perez, Jody Becker, Kurt Wolf and Skot Latona — to learn more about their roles in the Parks system. Made available for fans to view on the platform, the interviews join Parks and Recreation on Peacock just in time for Treat Yo' Self Day 2020 (you can see the sweet video below).
Parks and Recreation, which debuted in 2009, followed the Parks department in the fictional Indiana town of Pawnee and ran for seven seasons. Most recently the cast reunited for a virtual episode in April 2020, five years after the series finale, to raise charity funds amid the ongoing pandemic. Below, O'Heir discusses the honorees, Parks and Rec's impact and what Jerry's Treat Yo' Self day might look like.
What was it like getting to help Peacock celebrate Treat Yo' Self Day 2020?
Jim O'Heir: It's exciting because they're going to the source, they're going to the Parks and Recreation people that are out there who do this job every day. I know when Parks and Rec was first coming into the idea stage, they interviewed a lot of different people from a lot of different places. These are the people that we're celebrating on Treat Yo' Self Day and they have some great stories.
They're just amazing people working so hard and with COVID they have had to totally turn everything upside down. They're still trying to make it work because our parks are so important and because it's actually a place people can still go to. We're celebrating the people that are still doing it every day.
How did you get involved with this celebration?
Well, the Parks and Rec fan base has been just unbelievable. We have become more popular than when we shot the show, which I always find to be really wild. Each character has their own special thing that people love about them, and Jerry speaks to a lot of people — he is the bumbling fumbling guy, but also just a wonderful dude. I think he's just one of the really good guys, and so they wanted to hear a little bit from me.
What's something that you think viewers will learn from these essential workers?
I'd say one thing I learned from all these different interviews is 100% of the time, these people would never take any credit. They would always say, "Well, it's the team, it's my group, it's the people I work with." I was blown away by that because we gave these people awards, and I'd be like, "Oh, you should be so proud because out of thousands of people we could have considered, you were chosen." Immediately, 100% of the people said, "I can't take the credit. This is a team effort."
That blew me away because I believe that in life everything is a team effort whether it's your family — certainly Parks and Recreation was a team effort when we worked there. How humble they were, it really affected me. I already knew they were decent, but that really just proved them [to be] good people.
What do you imagine Jerry's Treat Yo' Self Day would look like?
Oh gosh, so simple. First of all, it's with the family — it's with Gayle (Christie Brinkley) and his beautiful girls. It's a no brainer. My guess is they'd go to the sundae shop. Jerry would get his cone that most likely would fall. They would replace it. Probably sit down, read a good book. And of course the ultimate Treat Yo' Self Day would be if it happened while they were in Muncie at the timeshare because nothing's better than that. And Lord Sheldon would be around. It would definitely be a family day. It would be about Jerry doing something with the people closest to him.
I imagined that Gayle and his girls would be involved.
That's his world, though I still don't understand why Ben [Wyatt] couldn't understand why they were together. I don't get it [Laughs].
Parks and Recreation is seen as comfort TV, particularly right now. What does it mean to be a part of something like that?
I have my comfort shows, when I can be in a crabby mood or whatever and even if they're just on in the background, they soothe me. And to think that I ended up on a show that has an effect for other people, it just blows my mind. I consider that to be a huge gift because it is that kind of show. Everyone has already seen all the episodes multiple times, but even if it's just on in the background, you know who these characters are and they bring you a sense of calm. I just love that I'm a part of that.
You reunited with your Parks and Recreation cast members for a virtual episode. What was that experience like?
Well, it was amazing, but we've never broken apart. We have this thing called the Parks family text and it has been going since we did the show. Any big events, we're always in each other's face. Our boy [Chris] Pratt just had a baby girl and Amy [Poehler] had a birthday recently. We're always in each other's lives because it was just too special of a place to just all of a sudden be gone.
But to be able to do the reunion special, which came out of nowhere, and then Mike Schur said to us, "I have an idea. Everyone, I'm going to put you all on hold for a day or two while I figure something out." Then he got back to us and within minutes we had all agreed because he said, "How about we do a new episode?" We were like, "Hell yes!" We made it happen. It was incredibly exciting and lots of laughs because there's a love there that will be there until the day we all die.
You mentioned fans earlier. Is there a particular reaction you receive the most from fans, like a line or quote that you can't go a day without hearing?
I get "dammit, Jerry," 100 times a day on social media, literally 100 times a day. In person, it's been odd because I never really grasped what was happening with the popularity of the show until one time we were shooting in Indianapolis and they had a big Winnebago for all of us to hang in between shots. And I got out of the Winnebago and there were a group of people there and they started chanting, "Jerry, Jerry." And I'm like, "What the hell is going on?" And it was lovely and shocking.
Parks and Recreation, Streaming now, Peacock