'I'm Perd Hapley, And I Just Realized I'm Played By An Actual Newscaster' Jay Jackson plays the hilariously odd newscaster on NBC's Parks and Recreation. But before he was a fake anchor, Jackson spent 22 years as a real TV reporter — and he became an actor by accident.

'I'm Perd Hapley, And I Just Realized I'm Played By An Actual Newscaster'

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Time now for the latest installment of our series My Big Break about career triumphs big and small. If you're a fan of the show "Parks And Recreation," you know actor Jay Jackson as Pawnee's ridiculous newscaster, Perd Hapley.


JAY JACKSON: (As Perd Hapley) Is Bobby Newport's campaign for city council in trouble?

SARAH GABOURY: (As Lisa Multaro) Every time the guy speaks, he puts his foot in his mouth.

JACKSON: (As Perd Hapley) (Laughter) That's a hilarious image - a foot in a mouth.

GABOURY: (As Lisa Multaro) It's a common expression.

JACKSON: (As Perd Hapley) OK.

MCEVERS: He's also in shows like "Scandal" and movies like "Fast Five." In everything he's in, he always plays the news reporter.

JACKSON: People will say typecast - well, it's not typecast. it's all I know how to do.

MCEVERS: That's because Jay Jackson used to be a reporter.

JACKSON: Oh yeah. I mean, I was a reporter for 22 years between San Diego and Los Angeles. For some reason, I was pretty good on the death and destruction beat. Like, if somebody was murdered or, you know, died in a fire, for some reason, like, the loved one of the victims always wanted to talk to me.


JACKSON: Lena (ph) it was nearly three years ago to the day this neighborhood in Ventura was a murder scene, a gruesome stabbing happening...

So I was able to get lead stories most of the time, and that's always what you're shooting for as a TV news reporter, so it worked out.


JACKSON: We're live in Ventura, Jay Jackson, KCAL9 News.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: All right, Jay, thanks. Well, tonight a big break...

JACKSON: Acting just was a pure accident. It totally was an accident. Do you want to hear this long story? OK (laughter). Well, I run this school - it's called the Los Angeles Reporter's Clinic. I help people become reporters by making their demo reels. And I take them out to various places around Los Angeles. We make it look like it's a live report where I'm the anchor and the student is out in the field reporting. And I say, you know, let's go to the scene now where so-and-so is out there reporting.

And one client came in and she needed to make a demo reel because she wanted to give it to her agent to pitch her for this show that was going to come on Fox. And she actually got on the show, but the manager who saw the tape thought I was great. And she was getting a lot of casting calls for reporters and anchors, and she asked if I would be willing to come in and do some auditions. And so the first time I went out, it ended up being "Dexter." And I got a role on "Dexter."


JACKSON: (As Reporter) Police are seeking any leads that can help them identify the 18 faceless victims of the Bay Harbor Butcher.

That's the big break, yeah. My big break came when I made that demo reel for the student. That's the only way it would've happened.


JACKSON: I'm not a Hollywood actor, but I do know how to be a reporter. And so, you know, that was my little thing - on "Dexter," on "The Mentalist," on "Body Of Proof," on a couple of movies - "Fast Five," "Battleship." But when Perd Hapley kind of took off, it was like OK, this is pretty cool. So, you know, you become this character, and people are actually fascinated in the character Perd Hapley.


JACKSON: (As Perd Hapley) Welcome to "Ya Heard? With Perd." I'm Perd Hapley.

He's not dumb, you know? He's different. Perd speaks in a way that is his own world. It makes sense to him, but it's like the kind of sense that well, he could've done that a different way, and it's all the time.


JACKSON: (As Perd Hapley) There you have it, a shockingly unshocking press conference in which a recently unemployed woman said nothing of importance. I'm Perd Hapley, and I just realized I'm not holding my microphone.

(Laughter) That's stupid, that's crazy, it's funny and it's ingenious. I give it all to the writers. I always say that - 100 percent of it is the writing.


JACKSON: (As Perd Hapley) Leslie, what exactly does censure mean?

AMY POEHLER: (As Leslie Knope) It means that I have been formally disciplined for breaking the law.

JACKSON: (As Perd Hapley) Well, you know what they say - you break it, you buy it.

POEHLER: (As Leslie Knope) That doesn't really apply here.

JACKSON: (As Perd Hapley) Tell that to the folks at Pier 1, an establishment I'm no longer allowed inside.


JACKSON: Oh man, those Perd lines (laughter). I'm still a struggling actor. I'm not like some, you know, rich guy. I'm still broke (laughter) but it's cool though. I like it. You know, I enjoy it because my training is from "Parks And Recreation" and the actors on that set. I will say that Amy Poehler one day it's because of you. You didn't know it, but you were teaching me all of these ways of how to respond and how to act on set and how to be an actor. And I learned from you and I'll thank her for that. So one day when I'm accepting my Oscar, I do want to say - you know, and I also want to thank Amy Poehler for, you know, all of that. I'm planning that out. I have it written out. I'm going to say it - you know, I want to see her smiling and the whole nine yards (laughter).


MCEVERS: Actor Jay Jackson. You don't need to be an actual reporter turned fake reporter to have a big break. Send us your story - mybigbreak@npr.org.

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