'Parks and Recreation': Exec producer Michael Schur on the finale's shocking last scene, that surprise cameo, and the future

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We don’t see Ron (Nick Offerman) or Tom (Aziz Ansari) or Donna (Retta) in that scene. Is the full cast going to be back?
Yes, everybody’s back.

Did you shoot stuff with them that you didn’t use? Should we be reading anything into why certain people weren’t seen?
What you see is the entirety of what we shot, so it was a conscious decision on our part not to show the people we didn’t show and to show the people that we did.

How would you characterize the level of success of Tom’s Bistro in 2017?
When we were discussing who should be in that scene, Tom was pretty quickly ruled out, I’ll say that. For various reasons, we thought we should not see Tom in that scene.

What about Jon Hamm? That cameo — can we call it a Hammeo? — is a huge surprise. How did that come about? Was this an Adam Scott special?
When we conceived of this scene — this kind of crazy, chaotic 60-second coda to the year — I felt pretty strongly that one of the fun things would be to see someone really famous and to have them get fired immediately. I think Hamm may have actually improvised the line “It’s been a great three years.” He either improvised it or we worked it out on the floor. But it just made us laugh that you would say: “Oh my God, we just missed three years of Jon Hamm!” [Laughs] And he made the decision, which I thought was so funny, to play the entire thing with a smile on his face. It was not the way it was conceived at all, and it’s so much funnier that he’s just like, “Yup! Totally understand. Goodbye!” He and Amy are friends, he and Adam are friends, and I knew him a little bit from various things, so it was a series of furtive phone calls and emails and just like, “Can you be at the Radford lot for this hour of your day?” And it just all worked out.

What was his reaction to playing someone even more incompetent than Jerry, a.k.a. Larry, a.k.a. Terry?
What’s so great about him is that he just likes comedy. He loves comedy and he loves Amy and he loves Adam and he loves the cast. He was so happy just to show up and do a funny thing where he pops in for 25 seconds and gets three laughs and leaves, you know?… He’s such a great guy. We wanted him to do this little cameo thing and we wanted to keep it super secret. And he was like, “I’ll just show up and do it. Don’t even make me an offer. Don’t put it through the proper channels, I’ll just show up and deal with it later.” And it’s such a menschy thing to do. You might know this, but he’s a pretty in-demand actor these days, but we did talk about the possibilities of seeing how Ed was hired or something. Maybe if he’s free, he’ll drop by again and we can another tiny glimpse into the horrible three-year career of Ed, the National Parks Service worker.

So if you have your way, Jon Hamm will be back for one or two episodes next season?
If I have my way, every episode where you see events that take place before that moment — which, who knows how many that will be? — will include a shot of him doing something insanely incompetent. [Laughs]

Are any of the other people who were milling about in the office going to be new cast members?
No, that’s not the plan. I mean, some of them — who knows may end up being that.

In that scene, Leslie looked a little harder, more stressed, all business. Is this a different kind of Leslie we’re going to see next year? Is she not the same bright-eyed, bushy-tailed optimist?
I wouldn’t say that. I would say that now she’s running the Midwest branch of the National Parks Service, which has hundreds of administrative employees and thousands of local people working in parks. Her job is a lot bigger and grander and has far greater scope, so she’s barking out orders and her time is way more in demand than it was before. It was Poehler’s choice to give herself bangs for the future, which I thought was really funny. Of all the things that disorient you — and obviously that was the real goal of the scene, which was just to disorient people — I find her bangs one of the most disorienting aspects of it. It’s a very effective way to show that she’s different, that time has gone by and that she has a different look to her.

Any hints about why they are in a media lockdown? What can you say about that?
I can’t say anything about that yet. We have a few ideas of what the crisis is she’s dealing with, but that all will be decided next year.

And what was in South Dakota? Is Mount Rushmore okay???
I don’t know! You’ll have to tune in to find out!

Ben is in a tux, and we’re obviously wondering what his “big night” is. And he said “everybody down in my office,” so can we assume that he’s still working for the city?
I wouldn’t assume that, no. I think it suggests two things: One is that there was some kind of formal event he was supposed to attend. Leslie says, “This is your big night,” and he says, “This is more important.” And that he makes reference, like you said, to everybody down in his office. But the National Parks Service is also now housed in City Hall, and who knows what the future holds for other businesses and organizations being housed in City Hall.

Is this Cones of Dunshire gaming headquarters possibly there and his big night is related to that? Or is this is a black-tie political event?
I think the only assumption you can make — and again, this is subject to change — is that the event that’s causing the crisis with Leslie and the event for which he is dressed up for are different events.

Let’s talk about Andy (Chris Pratt) being in a sling. How did he get hurt?
Two years ago, Pratt sent me an email that simply said, “It’s time for Andy to get hurt again.” That was the entire text of the email. (Laughs)Because in the beginning, he had broken legs in the pilot. He fell into the pit again, he crashed his motorcycle, he was constantly injuring himself. He was a very accident-prone dude and it had just been awhile. So when we were jumping into the future, he brought it up again — I believe it was Pratt’s idea. It was like, you just make some little reference to the fact that he’s not immune to his old ways, that somehow or another he suffered some kind of additional injury.” But Pratt is so strong now — it’s great that his left arm is in a sling and he picks that little kid up with one hand very easily, if you noticed.

NEXT: What does the future hold for the cast?

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