Leslie Barbara Knope (// NOHP) is a fictional character and the main protagonist of the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation. She is portrayed by Amy Poehler. For most of the show's run, she serves as Deputy Director of the Parks and Recreation Department of the fictional city of Pawnee, Indiana. An over-achiever, Knope believes the government should serve the people.
|Parks and Recreation character|
|Last appearance||"One Last Ride"|
|Portrayed by||Amy Poehler|
|Occupation||President of the United States (Implied)
Governor of Indiana
Deputy Director of Operations at United States Department of Interior
Regional Director of National Park Service Midwest Region
Deputy Director of the Pawnee City Department of Parks and Recreation
|Family||Marlene Griggs-Knope (mother)
Robert Knope (father, deceased)
|Significant other(s)||Justin Anderson (ex-boyfriend)
Dave Sanderson (ex-boyfriend)
|Children||Westley Knope-Wyatt (son)
Stephen Knope-Wyatt (son)
Sonia Knope-Wyatt (daughter)
The character has evolved greatly over the seasons, initially portrayed by Poehler as an exaggerated scatterbrain before gradually shifting to a more subtle performance. Poehler's performance as Knope has been nominated for several awards, winning a 2014 Golden Globe.
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Knope was born on January 18, 1975 (S4: E3) in Eagleton, Indiana due to a raccoon infestation in Pawnee, and has lived in Pawnee, Indiana since infancy. According to the show's timeline, her father died in 1985 (S5: E14). She was inspired to pursue a life of public service by the community programs she enjoyed as a child. While attending Pawnee North High School she served as Co-Vice President of the student body and participated in several student organizations including the Model United Nations, Debate Club, Mock Trial, Young Republicans, Young Democrats and Young Independents, which she founded. She graduated in the top five percent of her high school class and summa cum laude from Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA).
In the first three seasons, Leslie is the Deputy in Pawnee's Parks and Recreation Department, a mid-level bureaucratic position; in season 4, she successfully campaigns to become a member of the city council. In her role as Deputy Director she serves on several committees, including the Equal Opportunity Committee, the Fun in the Sun Committee, the Clean Restroom Task Force, the Handicapped Restroom Task Force, and the Task Force to Reduce the Number of Public Restrooms. She hopes to improve her town and to advance her career (possibly aiming to become the City Manager). She has also stated her ultimate goal of becoming the first female President of the United States. Knope proudly displays in her office images of Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, Dianne Feinstein, Janet Reno, Nancy Pelosi, and Larry Bird. Leslie also has a love for sweets, especially waffles (which she frequently orders in large quantities at J.J.'s Diner) and whipped cream, which she puts on coffee, waffles, etc.
Leslie Knope is the only character to appear in every episode.
Leslie Knope is extremely cheerful, ambitious, hard-working and optimistic. She is firmly committed to the belief that government should provide a service for its people, and regularly goes above and beyond for the benefits of Pawnee's residents — a belief that regularly clashes with her superior Ron Swanson, a staunch libertarian who feels all government should be dissolved and privatized.
Although somewhat naive at times, she is intelligent, well-read, and has good intentions, but is not always successful in executing her goals. She repeatedly tries to put a positive spin on failure, even to the point that she will occasionally distort the truth in her own view. For example, she does not get discouraged by angry residents who complain or yell during her public forums, but instead prefers to think of them as "people caring loudly at me". Many of her co-workers do not share her enthusiasm, but Leslie commands their respect nonetheless. Her ambition occasionally annoys her colleagues and leads to ribbing against her, especially from her subordinate Tom Haverford. She has an outsized love for the waffles at a local diner and her best friend, Ann Perkins, as well as an untempered hatred for public libraries, salads, and the wealthy neighboring town of Eagleton—which Leslie found out, to her sheer horror, was actually her birthplace instead of Pawnee.
Leslie views herself as a budding political star in the style of Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Condoleezza Rice. She has been widely lauded as a positive figure for advancing gender equality and feminism because she represents a strong woman who encourages others to empower themselves and support the women around them. Although she is shown to be running for the city council as an independent, she joins the Democratic Party at some point, as she is approached by "Janet from the DNC" about a potential gubernatorial bid in the final season.
Initially she is shown to carry romantic feelings for her co-worker Mark, likely stemming from a romantic liaison with him several years before. She is also desperate to impress her mother, Marlene Griggs-Knope, a well-known politician in the Pawnee government. At a public forum, she meets Ann Perkins, who informs her about a gaping hole near her house that her boyfriend, Andy Dwyer, fell into. Leslie takes on the project and quickly becomes friends with Ann. She is sometimes pushed around by her mom, a tough and tactless woman who has had a long and successful career in local government and who doesn't think much of her daughter's professional or personal choices.
Leslie seems to move on from her romantic interest in Mark and begins dating police officer Dave Sanderson (Louis C.K.). She also begins taking charge and gains a lot of confidence. Also, more of her relationships with her coworkers are shown. Towards the end of the season, Dave, who was enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve, was called into active duty in San Diego, where he did custodial work. Dave asked Leslie to move with him to San Diego, and although she was considering it, she ultimately declined because she loved her work and Pawnee too much to leave, and they parted ways amicably. She then dated an old lawyer friend of Ann's named Justin. Although Justin seemed to be a perfect guy and had many interesting stories, Leslie soon realized that stories were all Justin cared about. After he reunited Leslie's mother with an old flame despite Leslie's constant protests, she broke up with him, as Justin cared more about the reunion story that he could potentially tell than Leslie. At the end of the season, Leslie and the rest of the department gets a visit from two state auditors, Ben Wyatt and Chris Traeger, the former of whom later becomes a love interest for Leslie. Ben and Chris shut down the government due to Pawnee's crippling financial status.
In this season, Leslie works on the Harvest Festival in hopes of bringing money to Pawnee. She and Ben are no longer at odds and develop a friendly working relationship. After hearing a flu-ridden Leslie give an amazing speech, Ben begins to develop a crush on Leslie and as the season progresses, they grow to genuinely enjoy each other's company. However, their budding relationship is threatened by Chris's interoffice dating rules, and they attempt to keep their romance under wraps, despite telling Ann, Ron, Leslie's mother, and a maintenance worker at the Lil' Sebastian memorial service. In the season finale, Leslie is approached by a group of people who look for talent in government with the potential for political careers. They tell Leslie that they believe she has the potential to become a member of city council, or even the mayor. They ask Leslie if there is any potential for scandal in her background to which Leslie replies (having decided to continue her secret romance with Ben while not at work) "Nope."
Leslie comes to realize that while she is running for city council, her relationship with Ben cannot continue, and they regretfully break up. Leslie then announces her city council candidacy. Leslie writes a book called Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America. She also finds out that she was actually born in Eagleton because her mother said "the Pawnee hospital had been overrun by raccoons." Leslie and Ben struggle with being broken up; Leslie wants to remain friends with Ben, but he tells her it's just too hard for him. Leslie finally decides she wants to be with Ben, no matter the consequences, and they get back together. Ben resigns from his position in order to save Leslie from getting fired. Her campaign managers inform her that they can no longer run her campaign because her approval ratings are dismally low after the news of her relationship with Ben was revealed. The rest of the Parks employees (and Ann), on a mission to return the love Leslie's shown in giving the perfect gifts she has gotten them all year after year, tell Leslie that they will run her campaign for her, allowing her to continue going after her dream. After several tumultuous months, it is announced that Bobby Newport, son of Sweetums founder Nick Newport, has won by 21 votes. Ben later approaches officials and notifies them that it is the law that they re-count, since it was so close. Ann then reveals to Leslie that really she beat Bobby by 21 votes.
In the beginning of the season, she and Ben get engaged and move into a house together. She and Ben get married in the middle of the season, months earlier than the couple had originally planned. They initially arrange to marry at a black tie event they planned and executed to raise money for the future park at Pawnee Commons. However, Councilman Jamm disrupts the ceremony by setting off stink bombs and 'booing' Leslie, leading to Ron Swanson punching him in the face and getting both Jamm and Ron arrested. However, the Parks and Recreation Department plans a secret wedding that same night in the office area, and Ron walks her down the aisle. A main plot point of the season is the campaign to recall Leslie from her position of the city council; it is revealed that the campaign is successful, and Leslie will be removed from her position.
Leslie is a key member in the absorbing of Eagleton into Pawnee because of a debt problem in Eagleton. After a heroic filibuster which wins the citizens of former Eagleton voting rights, Leslie is recalled and replaced with her Eagletonian counterpart, Ingrid de Forest (Kristen Bell). Leslie gets the lot and park for the Pawnee Commons after a heated debate between her and Councilman Jamm, in return for five worthless IOU's from Chris (who was soon leaving his post as City Manager). In Flu Season 2, Leslie discovers that she is pregnant. In One in 8,000 after a visit to a doctor, Ben and Leslie find out that they are going to have triplets. Soon after, the Unity Concert is nearing, and Leslie is offered a position in the National Park Service, in Chicago. After stalling on her decision for most of the season Leslie is eventually convinced by Ben to accept the job, but then after finding out that Andy and April had her declared as one of the new founders of the new town of Pawnee, she convinces her new boss to relocate their office from Chicago to the Third Floor of Pawnee City Hall. Three years from the end of season six, Leslie and Ben have three children, and Leslie is the head of the Midwest Parks Service in the bustling third floor of Pawnee City Hall.
Leslie is head of the Midwest branch of the National Park Service and is currently working to build a National Park in Pawnee. Ron is her enemy in this effort, as he wants to build a new Gryzzl campus, and the Morning Star incident. As the season progresses, however, Ron and Leslie eventually reconcile, and she gives Pawnee its National Park. Soon afterwards, she and Ben decide to move to Washington with April and Andy after she is offered a promotion to work at the Department of the Interior and Ben decides to run for Congress. In flash forwards, it is shown that by the year 2025, Leslie will run a successful campaign for Governor of Indiana, and will serve two terms in that office. It is implied that either she or Ben has been elected President of the United States by 2048. In the present, the gang gets together for a picture, as they are unsure when the next time they see each other will be. Ben asks Leslie if she's ready, to which she responds, "Yes. I'm ready."
The concept for Parks and Recreation did not start to form until series creators Greg Daniels and Michael Schur learned Poehler would be available to play the lead character. Once that casting was determined, the general concept for both the series and the Leslie Knope character was established. After the first season, changes were made to Leslie's character to make her appear more intelligent. Schur said this was in response to critical feedback that Leslie came across as "ditzy" during the show's first run of episodes, which Schur said was never their intention. Schur said that the show considered a backstory element for Leslie where she had been elected mayor while a teenager; this story was later used for the Ben Wyatt character.
Amy Poehler said by the third season, after the Parks Department has been shut down for three months due to a budget crisis, Leslie has started to face reality more clearly and realize the department is a low priority.
Poehler has garnered six Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, three Golden Globe Award nominations, and three Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series for her role. In 2013, while hosting the ceremony, Poehler won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy for her portrayal of Leslie Knope.
Despite mixed reviews of the first season, one fairly consistent source of praise went to Amy Poehler for her performance as Leslie Knope. Tom Shales of the Washington Post writes that "Poehler's show unfortunately isn't worthy of her". Daniel Carlson of The Hollywood Reporter also had praise for Poehler claiming that she "has the comic intelligence to carry a series like this one" and delivers a performance that is "awkward but not alienating" and "eager without being repelling". However, several commentators said the naive and well-meaning Leslie Knope character too closely resembled The Office protagonist Michael Scott, a well-intentioned but dimwitted protagonist manager of a paper company sales office.
James Poniewozik of Time magazine praised the development of the characters. He thought that the show "really has a handle now" on the main character Leslie Knope, and does an "excellent job of finding things for its supporting characters to do". He also opined that the series is "living up to its potential now". Commentators said the supporting cast was now working with better material and that Amy Poehler's character had improved and become less over-the-top and more human than in the first season.
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