8:00am PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Parks and Recreation' Boss on the Show's Lasting Legacy, Hillary Clinton Hopes
It's time to say farewell to Pawnee.
NBC will close the book on its charming and cult favorite comedy Parks and Recreation with an hourlong series finale Tuesday that will both honor its beloved characters and offer a glimpse at what will become of everyone beyond its futuristic setting in 2017.
Here, showrunner Mike Schur talks with The Hollywood Reporter about how the flash-forward altered his dream ending, the legacy that the star-studded comedy will leave behind and more.
What kind of legacy do you hope Parks has?
I think that's probably an impossible question to answer. Ultimately the legacy of the show will be the cast because people in America are going to be consuming movies, TV shows, plays and music by this cast for 50 years. Every time Aziz Ansari sells out a crazy tour, or Chris Pratt opens a movie or Nick Offerman wins a Tony or whatever happens, somebody is going to go, "That guy was on Parks and Rec."The real legacy — and I said this in season two — is in 10, 20 or 30 years, it's going to blow people's minds that this group of people were on a show together.
You and Amy Poehler co-wrote the series finale and I imagine she had a say in how Leslie's story ended. But did you speak with the other actors about how their journeys ended?
I definitely pitched out the final arcs to most of the actors. I definitely talked to Nick Offerman about Ron; I talked to Adam Scott about Ben; and I talked with Amy constantly about Leslie; I talked to Aubrey Plaza. Aubrey's arc that began in the second episode — where she questioned if she even liked her job — was something that she and I talked about in season three or four. At the time, we had this idea that as her character was changing and morphing it seemed like she was going to become Leslie. She was going to start as this very disaffected teen that didn't care about anything and then Aubrey was like, "I could at that point imagine a scenario where Leslie moves on from Pawnee and April becomes Leslie." That has a nice symbolic meaning to it and said that wasn't right. She felt like the important thing about her relationship as Leslie was that Leslie was altering her and showing her a different way to look at the world — not specifically that Leslie was showing her that being a local government parks director is the way to go. I thought that made a lot of sense and from that moment, we decided that the series is not going to end with April sitting down at Leslie's desk saying, "Next."
If you had to pick something to spin off Parks what would you like to see?
Depends on if you're interested in an actual idea or one that sounds the most fun! The idea that sounds the most fun is the Saperstein family with Henry Winkler as the dad and Jenny Slate and Ben Schwartz as the two worst kids ever born to the earth. I couldn't possibly answer the other version of the question simply because every single one of the the characters on the show is the kind of person and kind of actor that can be at the center of a TV show. We got super lucky that Aubrey just showed up on our radar and joined the show — I think she's going to win an Oscar some day and that's not a joke. If you were a writer in in Hollywood and someone said you can create a TV show staring Aubrey Plaza, Nick Offerman, Adam Scott, Amy Poehler and Chris Pratt, Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones with Paul Rudd, Mo Collins and Jon Glaser — that's the real lightening in the bottle aspect of this whole thing has been just that crazy murderer's row.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine feels very similar in that it's also serving as a launch pad for the cast the same way Parks did.
I think it's a great cast and after it's on the air for a little while longer, I think the knowledge of them will grow. The common denominator here is Allison Jones, who cast both shows. She and Nancy Perkins cast Parks and Brooklyn. She cast Arrested Development and Freaks and Geeks and The Office and, at this point, she should be given a Kennedy Center Honor much less an Emmy so I hope the same is true for the Brooklyn cast.
Beyond doing season three of Brooklyn, what do you want to do next?
I like network television and I like the challenge of it I like the pace of it, I like the puzzle of it. I haven't written anything myself and was able to claim emotional exhaustion with the people who employ me and hold them off until about now actually (laughs), so I will have to set my mind to writing something new soon. But I don't know, I need to clear the decks of Parks before I can really think about that, I don't know but I hope that I can get Allison Jones to cast it.
See more On the Set of 'Parks and Recreation'
When we spoke for the 100th episode of Parks, you said your ultimate dream ending was having Leslie pass Hillary Clinton in the halls and having that moment like it's not a big deal because it happened so frequently. Is that something you guys discussed? Did you go out to Hilary?
No. It's a little tricky with anyone because we have some senators who came back on the show this year and if they are running for office it seems like you are endorsing them and you have to give equal time to their opponents. To get Hillary Clinton on the show at this moment in time I think would be very difficult. Not to mention the fact that the show is taking place as a time when you would have to refer to her as Madame President or something else, which I'm sure she wouldn't like us to predict either way. So that was a dream back in the day and then the reality of it is kind of a minefield. That's not the way the show ends but the important thing about that was what that feeling was about Leslie and how far she has come. If you look back at season one, Leslie was a very idealistic and smart person with no ability to navigate the world she was in. The story of the show has been her learning how to navigate without losing that sense of optimism — and without turning into a dark, twisted, cynical person. What that was meant to show was that it would be cool to see her continue to move up the ladder. To now be working alongside those people like peers instead of geeking out so hard, if I were to redo that quote, she would pass Hillary and have a polite interaction with her and then quietly, by herself, give a little scream into a pillow out of sheer joy and then continue walking because I never wanted her to lose that sense of how much she loves these people and these are people she worships and idolizes — even if she is working alongside of them, she shouldn't forgot how important they are to her, which I think is in her character.
The Parks and Recreation series finale airs Tuesday on NBC. Stay tuned to THR's The Live Feed after the finale for more with Schur.