Retta Doesn't Want To Play "Sassy" Black Women Characters

The Parks and Recreation and Good Girls star opened up about fighting typecasting.

It's been more than four years since audiences said goodbye to Parks and Recreation, but it seems some overzealous fans of the NBC sitcom want to let the stars know they haven't forgotten it.

In an interview set to air this Sunday on Profile, BuzzFeed News' Facebook Watch show, Retta, who played office manager Donna in the Pawnee Parks and Recreation Department, says she still gets people coming up to her and screaming her catchphrase, "Treat yo' self!"

"It has slowed down so it's not as tiresome," Retta said.

As all Parks and Recreation viewers know, the catchphrase first appears in the Season 4 episode "Pawnee Rangers" (2011), when Donna and Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) celebrate an annual day in which they treat themselves to luxury goods and services.

GIFs of Retta shouting the phrase at Ansari are still prolific on social media.

Retta told Profile she doesn't mind when fans want to share the catchphrase with her — but she hopes they just pick the right moment.

"You know, you go to dinner, and at the end of the night the waiter says, 'I just wanna say, "Treat yo' self!"' I don't mind that," Retta said. "It's just when someone comes out of nowhere and is in my face and you're like, 'Hi, I'm a human being. Could you not put your breath in my eye?'

"It's really those people that just pop out of nowhere," she continued, "and then I'm like, 'Yeah, I'm trying to pee.'"

Despite the sometimes invasive fans, Retta said she would be "100%" on board if the powers-that-be wanted to reboot Parks and Rec.


Retta is currently starring as Ruby in the NBC show Good Girls, in which she and Christina Hendricks and Mae Whitman star as three suburban moms who turn to a life of crime.

The actor said she hopes that in the show's third season, audiences get to see a tougher side to her good-natured character.

"I want Ruby to kind of get a little more badass," she said. "I feel like I've spent two seasons crying. So I want her to come into her own. If she's gonna be in this business, this business of crime, I want her to be a little more self-assured and not so scared.

"Although," she added, "I mean, I do love seeing the humanity in her and I love seeing her suffer."

Retta, who has previously complained of being typecast, also opened up to Profile about why the word "sassy" can be so loaded for black women actors.


"One of my least favorite adjectives, descriptors used for parts that I have to go in for, is 'sassy,'" she said. "I don't know what it is. I have this aversion to it. When I see it, I assume something, I assume what I think they want, and I don't wanna be a part of it."

She recalled doing a voiceover for the Netflix animated show Big Mouth when she asked if she could tweak the script to make her character sound “real ‘get.’”

“So I got into that mode because I felt it was appropriate for this particular scene and this particular character, but I just don’t like it being shoved down my throat,” she said.

The full interview with Retta is set to air Sunday on Profile on Facebook Watch.

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