By Eliana Dockterman
January 13, 2015

The final season of Parks and Recreation, which premieres on NBC on Jan. 13, will pick up three years after the previous season, wrapping up the stories of Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt) and all our favorite government employees from Pawnee, Indiana.

TIME caught up with Retta, who plays Donna, about what we can expect from the show’s finale, her three favorite episodes from the show’s seven seasons and how she hopes to take on Alisha on The Good Wife next.

TIME: What was your reaction when you first found out there was going to be a three-year time jump before this final season of Parks and Recreation?

Retta: Surprised. I don’t know that I realized it was a time jump in the script. I remember watching the finale last season being like, “Oh, sh–, we jumped time,” and didn’t know we were going to stay. For some reason I thought we’d go back?

Will we get to see any crazy inventions that are coming in the next three years?

It’s surprisingly technologically advanced for three years into the future. But it’s fun because they get to do a lot of CGI stuff this season, which probably made this season much more expensive than they expected. They kind of took things that were already in the news that we know are coming and just put them in the show.

So what has happened to Donna since we last saw her?

Well, she started dating an ex-fling [played by Keegan-Michael Key]. So you get to see how that plays out. Does she stay monogamous? Or is that too hard for her?

What was it like getting to work with Keegan-Michael Key this season?

I love Keegan. I met Keegan years ago through a friend. I went to an improv show that he did at the ACME Comedy Theatre. Afterwards everyone went and had dinner, and we went to his house and played this card game called euchre, which I had never played before. And I won, and he could not have been angrier. So now he always brings that up when he sees me, which I’m, like, “Why are you causing yourself so much pain?”

But Keegan is the best. He’s very sweet. Like a lot of our guests on the show — Nick Kroll is like this too — they make you feel completely comfortable because they’re really good at characters and improv.

So how much improv goes on on the show?

We do a thing called “the fun run,” which is usually the last take that I do, where it’s balls out. You do whatever. You have to get across whatever you need to in that scene, but the route you take is your choice. Sometimes we get a page called “the candy bag,” which is different jokes to try. And once we’ve tried all the jokes that the writers want, we’re allowed to try our own jokes.

Both you and Donna are big live tweeters. Was that aspect of her character inspired by you?

Yes. Mike Schur did it for me. When that episode was coming up, he was like, “I have a surprise for you in the next episode.” He knows I live for Twitter.

Donna says her favorite show to live-tweet is Scandal. Do you have a favorite show to tweet about right now?

My favorite shows are Scandal, The Good Wife. I really like Vampire Diaries.

The last couple of episodes of The Good Wife have blown my mind.

Yeah, it’s been stressing me out lately. But it’s really well-done. I’m dying to do an episode of that show.

Who would you want to play?

Everybody keeps saying I should be a judge, but I would love to be a lawyer sparring Alicia. I mean, of course she would probably kick my ass. But I would love that. The guest stars on that show get such great parts.

If you could guest on Scandal what would you do?

I would love to spar with Olivia Pope as well. All those women are the sh–, and I want to share screen time with them. Or I would be Jake’s new love interest. Either one works. [Laughs]

It’s been years since “treat yo self” first came up on the show, and I still see it on Twitter all the time. Why do you think it’s still so popular?

I know. It’s insane. Sometimes that’s all people know to say to me because they can’t remember my character’s name and don’t know my real name.

It’s really funny. My friend was on set that day when we were filming, and I remember we did the scene. And my friend said after we shot it, “That’s going to be huge.” And I was like, “Really?” And she was like, “That was hilarious. It’s going to be huge.” And I didn’t think anything of it until the episode aired, and I looked at my Twitter account, and it was f—ing bananas. I’ve never had so many @-mentions in my life.

Will you ever get sick of it?

Oh, I’m already sick of it. [laughs] I’m not sick of it, I just think it’s hilarious that people think they’re being original when they say it to me. I’m like, “Do you realize how many times people say that to me all day every day?” People are like, “I have to do it.” It’s my “Dy-no-mite.” It’ll be on my headstone.

Any plans for watching the final episode?

There was talk of us all watching it together. So I’m sure we’ll find out in the next couple of weeks, since it’s going to be over in, like, six weeks. Another night to cry.

Did it get super emotional filming the last season?

No. It didn’t until the end. Then the last two days, you start to get a little bit of an ache. And then when we started to do series wraps on everyone when they finished their last scenes, it was a little teary. And it was worse for me in the wrap party.

Was there something that triggered it?

Alcohol. [laughs] Wine is crying juice. And vodka’s worse.

Do you have favorite episodes from the show?

Well, my favorite episode of all time is “Halloween Surprise” for three reasons. That’s where I got to live tweet, so I got to do a lot of ad libbing to the footage that was showing during the scene. Jerry [Jim O’Heir] had his fart attack, and that was one of the funniest things I’ve seen. Aziz [Ansari] in that scene had me dying. My favorite line of his was, “Jesus, Jerry. Did you have farts for lunch?” And then that was the proposal, which made me cry. And I read the script beforehand. I don’t know why I was so surprised and so affected. But it was my favorite thing ever.

Another one of my favorites is the possum episode. When Chris Pratt goes to tackle that possum on that golf course, and it jumps on him, and he’s just going, “He’s on my neck! He’s on my neck!” I saved that episode on my Tivo for the longest time because it made me laugh so hard.

Another favorite is when Leslie is on the hunting trip. Two things: One, I used to be so intimidated by Greg Daniels, and he was directing that episode. When we started to do the scene where I start crying because my car was shot, he was dying laughing during the rehearsal — it made me so much more comfortable around him. That was also the episode when Leslie got to talk to that ranger, and pretend that women don’t know how to be in the woods. That whole run of lines she has, like, “It’s so hard to think when you have to wear a bra,” or something. It’s just the greatest.

Write to Eliana Dockterman at


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