Leslie Knope, if you’ll forgive the pun (and even if you won’t), would appear to be Amy Poehler’s polar opposite.

The character Poehler plays on her new sitcom, Parks and Recreation — debuting Thursday night on NBC and Citytv — is an intensely ambitious, very serious-minded, mid-level civil servant in the local government of small-town Pawnee, Ind.

Or, as Poehler joked: “I (play) a spy. And I can time travel. And I’m wearing someone else’s face.”

The show, co-created by The Office adapters Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, has been shrouded in mystery. The comedy was initially intended to be a spin-off of the NBC hit. “(But) at the time that was being described,” admits Daniels, “we didn’t have any ideas.

“There’s another idea for a true spin-off that involves some Office characters, but once Amy became available to this project, we wanted to go in a direction to maximize what she could do.”

“At the beginning of this process,” continues Schur, “We said we would try to think of ideas that were spin-offs, and if we came up with something that we liked better, we thought would be a better show, that we would do that. And this was the idea that we really got excited about.”

So did its designated star, Poehler, making a somewhat reluctant transition from sketch to sitcom after a successful seven years on Saturday Night Live cast.

It is a career path already well trodden by Poehler’s former Weekend Update co-anchor and Baby Mama co-star Tina Fey. Is there any residual resentment there?
“Yeah,” Poehler deadpans. “And then I turn around and I wake her up, and we have breakfast together.”

As with Fey and 30 Rock, Poehler has embraced the comedic consistency that comes with the challenge of the unfamiliar new format.

“I was excited about the idea of being able to turn the volume down a little bit and sit with a character for a while,” she says. “SNL is an amazing place to work, but the ideas and scenes and characters were very transient, and I was very excited about the idea of working with these guys.

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