Posted by: James Rhodes | September 23, 2014

Parks & Recreation in Chicago

Parks & Recreation in Chicago

4th September 2014

So, at the weekend I returned from a six week adventure across America. It was an absolute blast, and I’m going to never forget some of the memories I brought back with me to London. From the places I went to the people I met along the way, the whole trip was absolutely amazing. However, I think this day may have just been one of the highlights.

When I left London I had no intentions of meeting anyone famous whilst away. But, I had spent more time than I probably should looking up to see if any of the Parks & Recreation cast would be doing any appearances in the places I’d be whilst I was there. Afterall it’s my favourite American show and I very rarely get the chance to meet the cast over here. Alas, it wasn’t to be – Nick Offerman had a signing in New York the day before I got there, Aubrey Plaza a premiere at TIFF the day before I arrived in Canada, and the cast were filming series 7 (the final series, sob) in Los Angeles. I even started to regret not visiting LA as I kept seeing tweets about location filming.

BUT….. on the 3rd September I arrived in Chicago after a 55 hour train ride from San Francisco (it was awesome by the way). I’m sitting in my hotel room and decide to search for “Chicago” on twitter to see what’s going on in my home for the next four days. What do I see? The following: “In case you missed it, Parks & Recreation in filming in Chicago tomorrow“. I think I may have screamed with excitement. I knew no details, but I had already decided – the next day would be spent trying to find the Parks department.

So, the next morning, I’m armed with a tourist map and a list of potential filming locations thanks to twitter. 90 minutes in to my running around with no sign of anything anywhere, in the rain, I start to feel like this isn’t going to be my day. Then, what should I see?

Pawnee!!!! Of all the days, of all the cities, of all the TV shows, I couldn’t believe what was happening. Sure enough, Aziz Ansari and Chris Pratt are getting ready to start filming. Tom and Andy!!! I’m standing watching two of my favourite characters filming in the middle of a city I’ve been in for 14 hours. I could not have been happier.

As far as I was concerned, this was the best thing I’d ever seen! Once they’d finished filming at this location, a few of the people watching went up to Chris – he’s being awesome with them, but saying he can’t pose for photos in costume. I however go up to Aziz and ask him for an autograph, and tell him how big a Parks fan I am on holiday, and he seems really happy for me and signs a card for me. I told him he should bring his stand up show to London, and he said he’d look into it. (and guess what was announced this weekend? A show in London! Thanks Aziz!!).

I then go up to Chris, and thank him for being so nice at the Guardians premiere in July, and show him my picture with him on my phone. He loves it, and says he’s back in London soon to film the second Guardians film. I told him how happy I am to get the chance to see them film, and he gave me a big man hug. A hug from Andy, best moment!

They cross the street, and start to film again. Loads more people are watching now. I’m loving it!

They then move to another location not too far away (I’ve not got photos from there), before heading out a little bit to the beach. Natalie Morales (Lucy) is here too now. Happy James! I’m sitting on the beach in a now sunny Chicago watching my favourite show film. Unreal.

Once they’re done filming I went to their trailer to see if I could get an autograph from Natalie, and she happily signed one for me. The next day she even tweeted me to wish me a good rest of vacation! Chris said hi again and asked if I was having fun. Super guy!!

Then it was off to what seems like the final filming location of the day. Luckily I’d met a couple of girls who were also fans that had come to watch filming after school, and they were able to show me the way to the location, otherwise I’d have been hopelessly lost! So started the last filming of the day; by now the number of people watching had ballooned (there must’ve been about 60 people), but there was a great atmosphere.

Filming wrapped, and that was the end of the day. Chris, Aziz and Natalie went off, and I realised just how lucky I’d actually been. I got to have my own day experiencing Pawnee, something I never thought would happen in a million years. For a show that’s based 2500 miles away to choose the one time I was in Chicago to film there is just unreal. There may have been no Ron or Leslie, but it was still amazing. This photo I took of Chris is a similar look to how I looked when I first saw that tweet. Happiest person in all of Chicago.

Tourist sightseeing with Andy Dwyer and Tom Haverford. Ha!


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