As Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert’s NBA season reaches its midway point, his favorite TV comedy is beginning its last. The seven-footer has been a massive fan (in every sense of the term) of NBC’s Parks and Recreation since the beginning, and over the years, he’s made several cameos on the show.
And with Parks and Rec set to go the way of Li’l Sebastian – its seventh and final season begins tonight at 8 p.m. ET on NBC – Hibbert took time out of his busy NBA schedule to chat about the funny folks from Pawnee, his secret song-and-dance plans for the finale and having dinner with Jean-Ralphio Saperstein.
Were you a fan of Parks and Recreation before appearing on it?
Well, I had always been a fan of The Office and thought the mockumentary style of the show was hilarious. So with Parks taking the same approach, it drew me in right away. The characters are just so funny and I’ve certainly been a fan of Amy Poehler since her days on Saturday Night Live.
So how did your first cameo on the show happen?
My agent, David Falk, always said to let him know if there’s anything I want to do outside of basketball, so he got the ball rolling. I remember I had heard Derrick Rose was supposed to be on The Good Wife – which I also love – but he missed his flight and he didn’t get to be on it. So, Parks is a set in a fictional town in Indiana and I just started thinking that could work. Plus, Detlef Schrempf had been on the show so I thought I might as well try and wet my beak too!
When it was time to film were you nervous?
I only had three lines but I was so nervous. I did not want to mess anything up. The nervousness set in when they emailed me the script, and then I got on set and saw how those actors work. They would do a scene for two-to-three hours! Half the time was doing it by the script then the other half was them just going off the top of their heads. I was just trying to focus on getting my lines right so none of the real actors would get mad at me!
Who is your favorite character on the show?
Everyone is so funny. I will say that I’ve gotten close to Ben Schwartz, who plays Jean-Ralphio on the show. Whenever I’m in L.A. we go to dinner. He comes to my Lakers and Clippers games. We just hung out after my Clippers game a couple of weeks ago. He was in The Interview and we had dinner the night it was announced they were going to cancel the release of the movie. He was so bummed the whole night. But, Ben and I have a real nice friendship there.
Did you spark up a friendship with anyone else?
I’m a huge fan of Michael Schur [creator of Parks and Brooklyn Nine-Nine] and we talk from time to time. I also became really good friends with Chelsea Peretti while she was a writer on the show. She’s blowing up right now!
What’s your favorite episode of the show?
Man, I’m just a fan of the whole show. I will say, there was an episode that Chris Bosh was in and it was a really funny one. Chris did a real good job when he popped up there.
Would you say your turn was funnier than Bosh’s?
Um, I don’t know [laughs]. I’m not going to say. I just know I had an amazing time when I got to film my parts.
Do you have any plans to do more work in comedy?
Not right now. I’m kind of focusing on the whole basketball thing, you know. I actually reached out to my agent about appearing on The Good Wife. The main character of the show went to Georgetown and that’s where I played my college ball so there’s a small connection. I mean, I don’t want to jump on Derrick Rose’s thing, but when I see a connection like that I like to try and create a relationship. Sadly they film in the spring and that’s when I’m in-season so it’s not going to happen.
But you definitely want to do more acting?
Somewhat. I think I’m going to be taking some voice lessons because I’d like to do a voice in a video game. Something like Call of Duty. I’d really like to do something along those lines. I don’t think so much voiceovers on television, but doing a voice on a cartoon would be a lot of fun.
Will you be returning to Pawnee at all during this last season?
I was supposed to film an episode this summer but we couldn’t work it out with my practice schedule and their filming schedule. It sucks that I won’t be on the last season but they’ve had an amazing run. I would have loved to have done a last-episode musical or something. I could come in singing a few lines then sink into the background and come back out at the end and just be clapping along.
Wait, you’re a singer too? Are you dropping an album this year?
Oh I don’t think so. They’d definitely have to get some Auto-Tune on me.
Back to Parks, do you feel the show is ending at a good time or do you think they had a few more seasons left in the tank?
I would love for it to go a few more seasons but I don’t know about ratings and those things that go into a decision like this. A lot of the characters have moved on in the show so it seems like the right time for it to end. I’m definitely sad to see it go.
When you had dinner with Jean-Ralphio, did he give you any spoilers about the final season?
No, no, no. I’m a fan of the show so I don’t want to know what’s going to happen. I’d rather just watch it all unfold.