During a recent telephone interview with television producer and writer Mike Schur, we had some time to discuss Parks and Recreation, most notably the many changes that have organically taken place as the seasons have progressed. The series recently filmed its 100th episode and on the day of the interview they had just wrapped Rob Lowe's last scene. Even faced with the departure of two characters as integral to the storytelling as Chris Traeger (Lowe) and Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones), Schur said there are no plans to replace them.
"There is only one Rob Lowe and it's just crazy for that reason and it's crazy to think about replacing Rashida — because her character was Leslie's (Amy Poehler) best friend and that friendship was slowly forged over 103 episodes."
It would likely be just as difficult for Leslie to have a new best friend as it would be for viewers to accept the replacement of Rashida.
Schur also acknowledged how incredibly lucky they are to have such a talented bench of characters available for a story at any time. "We have this gigantic reservoir of people float in and out of the world," he noted, "all the sort of people we've met throughout the years in the town, so it didn't seem to need or require anybody else on the cast."
If you're a regular viewer of Parks and Recreation, you've probably noticed some of the episodes specifically designed to focus on characters that previously were more secondary to the story. Schur explained, "You know, Donna (Retta) has always been great and funny and wonderful, but we did an episode where she was sort of the focal point of the episode — with the Twitter episode."
Schur remarked you can expect to see come more stories about other characters, such as Larry/Jerry (Jim O'Heir) and that although Rashida and Rob will surely be missed, their absence won't cause the story to miss a beat structurally.
That isn't to say that Lowe's character, in particular, didn't have a special brilliance about him that could make the most ordinary scene funny. He could make biting into a cherry tomato and discovering it was a gum ball a laugh-out-loud moment.
Schur credits that to Rob's total commitment to the character. "It's who he is as an actor," Schur shared. "There is not a single take of a single scene that guy was ever in that he wasn't completely focused and in the moment and just full speed ahead and full bore all the time."
The show has changed dramatically since its first airing, and Schur discussed the pleasure of working on a show for a long time. "You get to move people to different phases of their lives," he said. Schur likes that nobody ever sits still on Parks and Recreation and believes the pairing of characters also reflects the natural course of life.
It also makes the show more enjoyable for Schur personally. "So the show changes as the characters change, and as the characters change they go through stuff that makes their lives richer and more interesting, which makes it more fun to write," he said.
Image courtesy of Chris Haston/NBC