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Here Are All the Major Characters on Parks and Recreation, From Seasons 1-7
Let's take a look back at the most important faces on one of NBC's most-beloved sitcoms.
Arriving in the wake of The Office, Parks and Recreation could have easily played like a clone of a more successful show, another workplace mockumentary full of wacky personalities. But the more we saw of Parks and Rec, the more we realized it had so much more to offer than more of the same, and a big reason why was its cast of endearing characters.
Over the course of seven seasons on NBC, the beloved sitcom about the Parks and Recreation department in Pawnee, Indiana won our hearts through its blend of the silly, the unexpected, and the outright heartwarming, thanks to an ensemble of characters who all had something different to offer the bigger picture. Over time, each of the show's major characters became beloved in their own way, and if you don't love them yet it might just be because you haven't finished the show.
So, if you're looking to dig into Parks and Rec on Peacock for the first time, or you're planning an epic rewatch, we're here to help with a handy guide to the show's major characters from throughout its run. Let's take a closer look.
Here are all the major characters on Parks and Recreation
Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler)
Enthusiastic, determined, and detail-oriented to a fault, Leslie Knope is the center of the entire Parks and Rec universe. When we meet her, she's essentially running the Parks department as a deputy because her boss, Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), isn't especially interested in getting things done. Because of her hard-working spirit and taste for public service, Leslie toughs out the Parks job through thick and thin, even when things don't go her way, and pushes hard to make things happen. She also, of course, has bigger political ambitions, including an eventual run for Pawnee City Council and, of course, a trip to the White House one day.
Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman)
The director of the Parks department, Ron Swanson's libertarian views mean that he doesn't want government to be effective, so his goal is essentially to keep things small, keep his employees complacent, and not really get much of anything done. This, of course, puts him at odds with Leslie's ambitions, but the two grow to respect and love one another thanks to their shared work ethic and genuine natures. Despite his distaste for government work, Ron often goes above and beyond to help Leslie achieve her goals. He also, over the course of the series, proves to be highly skilled at many different things, from woodworking to home repair to, of course, playing the saxophone under his alias, Duke Silver.
Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones)
A local nurse in Pawnee, Ann Perkins first meets the Parks department when she tries to get help with fixing a massive junk pit that's next to her home. Leslie, determined to help, throws herself into trying to make the pit into a park, and in the process becomes best friends with Ann. Because of her friendship with Leslie, Ann gets to know the rest of the department very well, and eventually becomes a key player in some of the most important Parks and Rec events over the course of the series. She also has romantic relationships with several other key characters over the course of the show, eventually getting serious with Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) and moving away from Pawnee in Season 6.
Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari)
Ambitious to a fault and a little clueless at times, Tom Haveford begins the series as one of Leslie's employees in the Parks department, but he's always got his eyes on something bigger. Whether he's trying to launch a new liquor brand at the local nightclub, perfecting his dating game, or just focusing on self-promotion, Tom is always building on his dream of running a local entertainment empire, something he eventually gets to try. Of course, Tom's reach often exceeds his grasp, and he has to fail a lot before he really figures out what's working and how to keep it that way. Despite his ambitions beyond the Parks department, he's also fiercely loyal to his friends there, particularly Leslie.
Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt)
Introduced early in the series as Ann's live-in boyfriend, when we first meet Andy Dwyer he's a layabout aspiring musician with a big heart and a brain that's... well, he's trying. In the early years of the show, he struggles financially and personally, working as a shoe-shine man at City Hall and trying to make hits with his band, Mouserat. Then he meets Parks and Rec intern April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) and they strike up an unconventional romance that helps them both come out of their shells. By the end of the series, Andy is a fixture of the Pawnee community, the host of a local children's show, and a beloved and dependable friend.
April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza)
Joining the staff of the Parks department as an intern, April Ludgate begins the show as a quiet, disinterested, often aloof young person who develops a closeness with Ron because of her willingness to do as little work as possible. Over the course of the series, she grows into a much more multi-faceted character thanks to the influence of Ron, Leslie, and of course Andy, her eventual husband and co-conspirator in a wide variety of weird events and schemes. Eventually, she comes to realize that her true passion is for animals, and she uses her work within Pawnee government to help with pet adoptions and other local events benefitting the town's furry friends. She also, over time, becomes both Ron and Leslie's protege.
Mark Brendanawicz (Paul Schneider)
A bit of an odd case when it comes to the Parks and Rec cast, Mark Brendanawicz is introduced in Season 1 as the Pawnee city planner who's grown frustrated with the slow grind of government in the town. Despite his much more cynical outlook on public service, he and Leslie are friends and on-again, off-again romantic partners when we meet them both. Though introduced as a key member of the show's ensemble, Mark eventually departs the show in the second season, when two more vital characters step up to replace him.
Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott)
Introduced late in Season 2 as a government official hired to help turn Pawnee around, Ben Wyatt is an all-around nerd who's trying to do well in public service because he ran for mayor of his hometown as a teenager and, after winning, became a laughingstock. His desire to do things right this time around puts him in close contact with Leslie, who admires his commitment and his undeniable intelligence, despite an often awkward demeanor. His connection with Leslie eventually develops into a romance, and he becomes not just a key part of her political ambitions, but a public servant with rising aspirations of his own. Together, Ben and Leslie become the show's power couple.
Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe)
Brought in with Ben to help revitalize Pawnee, Chris Traeger initially makes waves due to his exuberant attitude and his constant focus on fitness, something the residents of Pawnee aren't always happy to hear. Eventually, though, his positivity and ability to make just about anyone feel special allows him to win over his new coworkers, and he becomes an essential part of the main cast. Chris' attempts to stay healthy in the midst of the junk food-happy Pawnee crowd is often played for laughs, as are his romantic misadventures, which eventually come to an end when he settles down with Ann.
Donna Meagle (Retta)
A stalwart employee of the Parks department who helps out with Leslie's many adventures, Donna Meagle is also a bit of an enigma to most of her coworkers. Though she spends her days working a relatively low-paying city government job, Donna's lifestyle outside of work is often extravagant, mysterious, and full of as much pleasure as she can possibly fit into her day. This lifestyle makes her very close friends with Tom, and often makes her the focus of particularly surprising storylines in later seasons. Despite her exciting personal life, though, Donna is a loyal friend to her coworkers, and a key player in many of their exploits.
Jerry Gergich (Jim O'Heir)
A decades-long employee of the Pawnee city government and a devoted member of the Parks department, Jerry Gergich is often viewed as the weakest and most incompetent member of the team. When it counts, though, Jerry turns out to have some fascinating and very helpful qualities. Though he's often picked on for his perceived incompetence and constant optimism, Jerry's not bothered, because it turns out he leads the richest home life of any of the show's major characters. He's married to a beautiful woman, has beautiful kids, and is secure in every part of his existence. This makes him a good and loyal friend to everyone, even the people who pick on him, and he eventually grows to become one of the most beloved leaders in Pawnee history.
Jean-Ralphio Saperstein (Ben Schwartz)
Tom Haverford's best friend, closest confidante, and partner in crime, Jean-Ralphio Saperstein is largely a supporting character who steals so many scenes that it's impossible not to think of him as a major player. A party kid who comes from money and packs very little self-awareness, Jean-Ralphio helps Tom with his many entertainment ventures, though he lacks Tom's intelligence, drive, and general competence in most areas. Despite this, he's a loyal friend and a guy who genuinely does want to at least try to do something good, so he sticks around, and the Parks department puts up with him.
Perd Hapley (Jay Jackson)
The host of the local Pawnee news show Ya Heard With Perd, Perd Hapley spends much of his time on Parks and Rec on the other side of a TV screen, where he comments on local events with his unusually literal delivery style. He interacts with other characters occasionally, but even when he's just a TV personality he feels like an indispensable part of the show. Perd's particular vibe is a perfect fit for Pawnee and its residents, and it makes him a fixture at all of the town's major events.
Jeremy Jamm (Jon Glaser)
In later seasons, as Leslie's political ambitions grow, she runs up against opposition in the form of, among other enemies, Jeremy Jamm, a dentist by trade who sits on the Pawnee City Council and who makes it his mission to thwart her agenda at every turn. Though he's not a good Councilman himself, Jamm manages to get a lot of mileage out of making Leslie seem like the villain in just about every situation, and sets himself up as an obstacle to her progress. That makes him a perfect satirical stand-in for ineffectual elected officials, and a very funny Parks and Rec villain.
Craig Middlebrooks (Billy Eichner)
In later seasons, the Parks and Rec staff grows just a little, and that means characters like Craig come along. Played with trademark volume and enthusiasm by Billy Eichner, he emerges as the quirkiest member of the staff in later seasons, taking over April's role as the resident weirdo. He's best-known among fans for his particular delivery style, in which he says extremely flattering and kind things while somehow always sounding angry.
Diane Lewis (Lucy Lawless)
Ron Swanson has a lot of skills, but picking women doesn't seem to be one of them. The show tells us that his previous marriages were extremely dysfunctional, and his self-reliant nature closes him off to romance for many women. That is until he meets Diane, who shows up late in the show and brings her own brand of strength to counteract Ron's standoffish nature. Her strength, plus the presence of her adorable daughters, eventually wins Ron over, and we get to see a different side of the legendary Ron Swanson as the series winds down. That makes her a vital part of the show, even if she's not around for very long.
Stream all seven seasons of Parks and Recreation on Peacock now.