|Parks and Recreation character|
|Last appearance||"Ben's Parents"|
|Portrayed by||Pamela Reed|
|Occupation||Pawnee school system official|
|Spouse||Robert Knope (deceased)|
|Children||Leslie Knope (daughter)|
Marlene Griggs-Knope (born March 5, 1953) is a fictional character played by Pamela Reed in the American comedy television series Parks and Recreation. She is the mother of the show's protagonist, Leslie Knope, and an important political figure in the school system at the fictional Indiana town of Pawnee, where Leslie also works as a government official. In contrast to Leslie's sweet and optimistic personality, Marlene is a tough and shrewd politician who is willing to resort to unethical tactics to get her way. Nevertheless, Marlene serves as a source of inspiration for Leslie and, although Marlene is sometimes critical of her, she is ultimately supportive of her daughter.
Background and personality
Marlene Griggs-Knope (Pamela Reed) is the mother of Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and a major political figure in Pawnee's school system. She is a shrewd and cunning politician who is willing to resort to unethical tactics to get her way. Although Leslie has very different standards, she nevertheless sees Marlene as a source of inspiration, and Leslie is extremely eager to impress her mother, although Marlene has low expectations for her daughter's ability to succeed. In one episode, Leslie Knope briefly describes her mother as, "withholding." She is also known as "The Iron Cock-Shredder of Pawnee," a nickname started by Ron Swanson.
Marlene is first introduced in the second episode, "Canvassing", where Leslie encourages her to attend a public forum she organized about a new park proposal. Marlene initially claims she is too busy to go, but she ultimately attends and provides moral support to Leslie, despite privately predicting the forum was "going to be a train wreck". Marlene appears again in "The Banquet", where she receives a Tellenson Award for Public Service, which has previously gone to public officials secretly known for their unethical behavior and political scheming. During the dinner banquet for the award, Marlene encourages Leslie to use scandalous information to blackmail Pawnee zoning official Janine Restrepo into supporting Leslie's park project. Leslie starts to do so, but finds she is uncomfortable with this seedy side of politics and abandons the attempt. In the episode "Galentine's Day", Leslie surprises her mother by reintroducing her to Frank Beckerson (John Larroquette), a long-lost unrequited love from Marlene's teenage years. The encounter proves disastrous, however, when Marlene realizes Frank has accomplished nothing with his life and has an extremely odd personality. In the third season episode "The Bubble", Marlene meets Leslie's secret new boyfriend Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott). When she dismisses him as weak, Leslie secretly coaches Ben on ways to impress her during a second meeting. This plan backfires, however, when Ben comes across as so confident that Marlene becomes attracted to him and makes a pass at him. Ben ultimately admits he is dating Leslie, causing Marlene to laugh off the situation and assure Leslie she approves of Ben. Marlene made a cameo appearance in Operation Ann, where she announced that she is dating a man she met over the internet.
Pamela Reed improvised a great deal during her audition for the part of Marlene, and many aspects of Reed's improvisation were used to form Marlene's character. For example, in the episode "Canvassing", Marlene says, "I want my daughter to be successful, which is why I always tell her, there's nothing wrong with being a wife and mother." Reed made up that line during her audition, and the writers were so impressed with it that they incorporated it into the episode. Parks and Recreation co-creator Michael Schur said the producers sought to establish Leslie's mother early in the series, and he felt her relationship to Leslie was the center of the entire "Canvassing" episode. Schur said of Leslie's attempts to impress her mom at her public forum, "We imagined it in the writer's room that she is eight years old and doing a piano recital, and she's nervous because her mom's there.
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