“Perd Hapley is the lynchpin of an unlikely TV multiverse” is the name of the article you’re reading. And it will begin … right now.
NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation features the deepest bench of hilarious supporting characters you’ll ever see outside of The Simpsons‘ Springfield. But even among a murderer’s row of comedic talent like Joan Callamezzo (Mo Collins), Jean-Ralphio Saperstein (Ben Schwartz), and Tammy II Swanson (Megan Mullally), there’s one resident of Pawnee who stands head and shoulders above the rest.
Local news broadcaster Perd Hapley (Jay Jackson) is quite simply a TV icon. Blessed with a very distinct vocal style (that the Parks and Rec fandom Wiki accurately categorizes as “semantically redundant”), Perd often turns up on Parks and Recreation to help describe what’s happening … literally.
As the host of venerated south central Indiana TV institutions like Ya Heard? With Perd!, The Final Word With Perd, Lights, Camera, Perd, and The Perdples Court, Perd is always a bright spot in any episode he appears in. And he appeared in a lot – 31 out of 126 – making him the most prolific guest actor on the show.
The origins of Perd Hapley and Jay Jackson, the actor who plays him, are fairly well-covered at this point. In a comprehensive 2015 interview with NPR‘s “All Things Considered,” Jackson describes how he broke into acting. After getting his start as an actual news reporter for KCAL9 News in Los Angeles, Jackson started a reporters school to help local broadcast journalists put together demo reels. When one of his students booked an acting job based on a reel, their manager was impressed enough to reach out to Jackson as well.
“The manager who saw the tape thought I was great,” Jackson told NPR. “She was getting a lot of casting calls for reporters and anchors … My big break came when I made that demo reel for the student. That’s the only way it would’ve happened.”
That first acting job was as an unnamed newscaster in a 2007 episode of Dexter. It wasn’t until two years and 10 similar acting jobs later that Jackson booked his most iconic performance on Parks and Rec.
And that brings us to the subject at hand. While Jackson started out playing a newscaster in Dexter and then as Perd Hapley, he didn’t just stop after Parks and Recreation signed off in 2015. All in all, Jackson boasts 50 credits on his IMDb page – the vast majority of which are for playing Hapley-esque newscasters. Indeed you may recall seeing him pop up in something and excitedly texting your friends “I just saw Perd Hapley in Battleship/Scandal/Revenge. In fact, you can find some nice screenshots of many of his eerily similar appearances in this 2017 Daily Mail article.
All of this has us wondering … what if every time Jay Jackson plays a newscaster he’s actually playing Perd Hapley? What if Pawnee’s own Perd Hapley (or “Turd Crapley” as Ben Wyatt calls him) is secretly a Loki-esque cornerstone to a vast multiverse of TV realities?
Unfortunately for the purposes of this theory, Jackson is definitely not playing Perd Hapley every single time. Not (only) because our theory is profoundly stupid but because many of his characters actually have credited names. In projects like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Rick Schneil), Criminal Minds (Cybercrimes Unit Chief Gary Omri), The Morning Show (Vernon Worrell), and 15 others, Jackson’s characters have a name other than “Perd Hapley” on their birth certificate.
That does, however, leave 32 lingering Jackson titles in which his character is know only as “Male Newscaster,” “News Anchor,” “Reporter,” or something similar. Those titles are:
- LA Reporter #1
- Fast Five
- The Mentalist
- Body of Proof
- Fred: The Show
- Pretty Little Liars
- Blunt Talk
- The Catch
- The Orville
- The Neighborhood (Older Guest)
- Silicon Valley
- The L Word: Generation Q
- Black Monday (Barber)
- Without Remorse (Political Analyst)
- 9-1-1: Lone Star
- Liza on Demand
- American Crime Story
- Inventing Anna
- Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story
And that, my friends is the Perd Hapley-verse. Beginning in the late ’70s to cover the Jeffrey Dahmer case, continuing into the present to report on first responder crises in Austin, Texas, and extending into the distant future in the time of the starship Orville, the Perd Hapley-verse is a vast and unwieldy thing. It also even incorporates the DC canon thanks to Supergirl.
Canonically this would make Perd Hapley one of the most ancient and powerful figures in human history. And doesn’t that just feel right?
All seven seasons of Parks and Recreation are available to stream on Peacock in the U.S. and Freevee and ITVX in the U.K.