‘Parks and Recreation’s Mike Schur Reveals How ‘Happy’ Reunion Came Together

Parks and Recreation Cast
Colleen Hayes/NBC

“It sort of made me want to cry a bit” Parks and Recreation creator and writer Mike Schur shared in a conference call with reporters Tuesday, April 28, about learning the cast would reunite for one more episode. “I sent out the email and the responses were so quick and so instant… It just made me so happy. It was very much in keeping with the tone of the show when we were making it.”

NBC announced that it would air a timely social distancing-themed installment of the comedy on Thursday, April 30 — the show’s first original scripted episode in more than five years. Taking questions from reporters, Schur revealed some exciting info about the reunion, titled A Parks and Recreation Special, which includes original cast members Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, Jim O’Heir and Retta.

For those curious about the promised guest stars, Schur said, “The first face you see on camera will not be one of the 10 main cast members. And that sort of sets the tone for the show in general… it wouldn’t have been a Parks and Rec special if there hadn’t been some of the super fun and enjoyable side characters who used to pop up on the show being involved.” In terms of count? Schur says to expect “probably half a dozen,” but wouldn’t divulge who those six would be.

As previously revealed, the episode will focus on Poehler’s do-gooder Leslie Knope as she tries to stay in touch with the ones she loves most. The process of putting the special together was quicker than you’d think, as Schur told reporters it took “three weeks total” to get everything together after NBC pitched the idea of a table read to him, before it was decided they’d create a new episode. After sending the cast their own tripods and iPhones for filming, Schur along with other crew members directed the cast by watching them film over Zoom.

Parks and Recreation NBC

(Credit: NBC)

But don’t expect the special to look like your daily morning meetings. “We brought our graphics and effects team over from The Good Place and they did a ton of graphics and a ton of visual effects to make it not look like everyone was just sitting alone in their houses staring at a computer.”

The process was grueling though, as Schur noted, “This is not the way TV is supposed to be made. It required an incredible amount of goodwill volunteer work.”

Though Schur was overjoyed to get the team back together for one episode, he dashed hopes for a full revival anytime soon. “I mean, I would never say never because why bother saying never, but this felt like a moment in time and a cause that we could all rally behind that made sense,” he admitted.

“It really felt like we wanted this entire thing to just be about what was happening in their lives at this moment,” Schur revealed of the special’s storyline. “So there’s no sort of future Easter egg.”

The special is supporting Feeding America, and viewers can head over to www.feedingamerica.org/parksandrec to donate. Keeping with the show’s sunny tone, don’t expect any coronavirus mentions. “Nobody has had or is currently suffering from a COVID-19,” Schur shared of the characters. “That seems pretty unfunny. But the whole special is about it.”

“There are a few jokes which I won’t spoil about various aspects of the world that we’re in right now,” Schur promised.”You know, Chris Traeger (Lowe), the world’s healthiest person, does make reference to some of that stuff. And… Ann (Jones) is a nurse and who’s on active duty even if she’s not right in the thick of it [as she partakes in outpatient care].”

Parks and Recreation

(Credit: Chris Haston/NBC)

As diehard fans of the NBC comedy will recall, the final season included quite a few flash-forwards which have many wondering whether those life changes are still applicable now. “Any fan who cares about canon should consider this canon,” Schur stated, adding, “We had to sort of go back and retrofit everything and make sure it made sense.”

As presumed, Ron Swanson (Offerman) is thriving in the age of social distancing, and Schur noted that the character has had an affinity for the concept from a young age. Meanwhile, he did say they’ll explain the distance between the show’s married spouses Leslie and Ben (Scott), April (Plaza) and Andy (Pratt), and Ann and Chris. “We have workarounds for those,” he said. “We do explain why the people who ought to be in the same room are not in the same room.”

Parks and Rec fans have a lot to look forward to on Thursday night as NBC airs an hour-long block of content for viewers beginning with The Paley Center Salutes Parks and Recreation at 8/7c followed by the brand-new scripted episode, A Parks and Recreation Special, at 8:30/730c.

“I’m very hopeful that we can raise a million dollars pretty quickly,” Schur stated, hinting at the promise made by NBCUniversal, along with the Parks and Rec writers, producers, and cast, to match donations of up to $500,000 along with State Farm and Subaru, each pitching in $150,000.”The spirit of this event was very much about reflecting the world that we’re in and using it as a way to raise money through people who need some help.”

The Paley Center Salutes Parks and Recreation, Thursday, April 30, 8/7c, NBC

A Parks and Recreation Special, Thursday, April 30, 8:30/7:30c, NBC