Even though Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) could soon lose her job as a Pawnee City Councilwoman, she'll go gallivanting off to London in the Parks and Recreation premiere this fall — but for good reason!
Thanks to Chris Pratt — and his rock-hard abs — the NBC comedy will cross the pond to film their season premiere later this month, taking a bulk of the Parks Department with them. To find out why, TVGuide.com turned to executive producer Mike Schur, who dishes on all things Season 6, including its 100th episode, Leslie's new challenges, Ron's (Nick Offerman) baby and more!
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What brings the show to London in the premiere?
Mike Schur: The real answer of what brings us to London is Chris Pratt shooting a movie in London. [Laughs] That's how we got the idea. The Guardians of the Galaxy movie is being shot there. We were talking about how Pratt is going to be away and going to miss a couple episodes and then we were like, "What if we use that almost as an excuse for the premiere and shoot in London?" That was the genesis of it. It's very exciting. It's happening fairly soon. We're heading there in like two weeks to shoot the premiere. It's going to be really fun. We have an insanely aggressive schedule because if you go to London, you don't want to just shoot a couple scenes, you want it to be a huge part of the episode.
What's the storyline that brings them to London?
Schur: There are a couple different things going on. The main thing that's happening is that Leslie is obviously being recalled from office. She is in the middle of this fight for her life. She's broken her recall defense into 40 different phases. One of the phases is called "Think Outside the Box." During this phase, April (Aubrey Plaza) nominated her for an award for the International Woman in Leadership group. She's won the award and there's a number of women from all over the world who have won this award. The ceremony is in London, so for that reason, Leslie heads to London. Other people tag along for various reasons. Andy and Ben (Adam Scott) are working on putting together an international version of one of their charity projects. April is there because Andy is going. There's a couple different things that happen when they're actually there.
How will Leslie be handling the recall?
Schur: Obviously, it's a huge bummer. That's part of what this story is in the first chunk of episodes. She works so hard and she's such a dedicated person to her job. The fact that they're trying to boot her out of office is really vexing to her. It's going to be a slog. She's attacking it with her usual brand of enthusiasm and nose to the grindstone kind of attitude, but it does begin to bum her out a little bit that people have this "get out of here" attitude towards her.
The recall enabled you guys to bring back a lot of familiar faces. Will that continue next season?
Schur: I hope it always does. I love that aspect of this show; that there's this massive number of people who have been established in the world. Going forward, we're always thinking, "Let's add new people and let's keep bringing back the old people." We're going to try to expand the world even further and have more and more people who are filling out the town of Pawnee and beyond, like Kristen Bell guest-starring in the second episode as the City Councilor from Eagleton. She's Leslie's Eagletonian counterpart. We're always looking for ways to bring back the Jean-Ralphios (Ben Schwartz) and Mona-Lisas (Jenny Slate) of the world. We're now in Season 6, which is so crazy, and it's really fun to track them over many seasons.
Will Kristen Bell and Ben Schwartz, who are both on House of Lies, appear in the same episode?
Schur: A House of Lies reunion! [Laughs] I don't think that Jean-Ralphio is scheduled to be in that episode. We're trying to get Ben back and the earlier the better because House of Lies goes back into production in late August or something. I love that whole House of Lies cast. [Don] Cheadle, Ben, Kristen and Josh [Lawson] are all great, so maybe we'll slowly add the entire cast into our show and they can all be in the same episode someday.
How will Ben be helping Leslie deal with the recall?
Schur: Everything Leslie does is always a team effort. Obviously he's the most important person in her life, so he's right beside her the whole time. She is very lucky in that she has a lot of people in her life that give her advice. She can lean on a lot of shoulders and she does that in the premiere and in the first chunk of episodes. You'll see her looking to different people as she's always done for guidance and support. Ann (Rashida Jones) and Chris (Rob Lowe) play a role in that.
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Like the Harvest Festival and the election, will the culmination of the recall be your mile-marker of the season?
Schur: Yes. That's currently slated as Episode 7, I believe. That will end the arc of the first chunk of episodes. The actual day of the recall is a milepost. There's other things as well. We're going to make our 100th episode this year, which is mind-blowing to me. We're treating that episode as a milestone in a fun way. We're still breaking it now, so we don't fully know what we're going to do yet, but the idea is to quietly celebrate the fact that the show is reaching this milestone by having some significant things happen in the actual episode without getting too meta. It's not like the plot is going to be Ron eats 100 steaks or something. [Laughs]
Now that Diane is pregnant, will we be seeing much more of Lucy Lawless?
Schur: It's a little bit like Ben, only more so because she lives in New Zealand. It's not always up to us whether we can have her. She's definitely going to be on the show in some capacity because of that storyline. We kept that super top secret and we actually got all the way to her showing up on the set without her knowing what she was doing. She showed up like, "OK, what's the scene." "You're pregnant, here's the scene. You have two lines and you're pregnant." That's going to be definitely a huge part of the year for Ron.
How will Ron be dealing with being a father?
Schur: There is a classic TV storyline that people have seen before where it's like, "I'm so terrified of being a dad!" That's not Ron really. It's not going to suddenly be like, "I don't know what I'm doing!" He's a pretty self-confident guy and a pretty stalwart gentleman. It's not going to suddenly make him flail around and make him a big goofball. But it is something that's very important to him and means a lot to him. There are a lot of storylines that are related to it without being [something] direct [like] "I have to take a baby class." Ron is a guy who goes a lot on gut and intuition. He has a lot of ability and acumen in a lot of areas and he's not the type to suddenly get shaken up to his core by this life change. A lot of ideas we're talking about are about his life shifting. He's a guy who's been really solitary his whole life, except for brief flair-ups with various women named Tammy. Now, his life is much more going to be about his wife and stepchildren and his biological child. He's going to make a little adjustment about the way he spends his time.
Speaking of the Tammys (Megan Mullally and Patricia Clarkson), you guys always find a great way to bring them back into the fold. Have you already started discussing how they'll react to Ron being a father?
Schur: We'd always love to have one or both of them every year. It's a fun annual tradition that we have. And Paula Pell! At least for the very first part of the year, we want to focus on the happy parts of this for Ron and the positive aspects of it and not these psycho crazy ladies from his past. If we can come up with an idea that is worthy of their talents and appearance, we will certainly try to execute it.
How will Ann handle Diane being pregnant?
Schur: You sort of saw that reaction in the finale last year when she was like, "Someone else is pregnant? I'm trying to get pregnant!" I don't think she's a vindictive person, so there won't be any ill-will towards Ron. But it's definitely a focus of her's in the premiere and going forward. She still very much wants to get pregnant, so that's going to be a big story for her about whether or not that can happen, when and how soon, etc.
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You surprised viewers by having Ben and Leslie get married before the finale. So will we be waiting all season for Diane to give birth?
Schur: Part of that depends on how much we'll get Lucy. We're always trying to figure out ways to subvert expectation a little bit.
But she won't give birth in the premiere, right?
Schur: No, certainly not. [Laughs]
A mysterious person wants to open up a competing business to Tom's (Aziz Ansari) Rent-a-Swag. Is that person someone we know?
Schur: I don't want to give it away. When we decided to do that mysterious businessman story last year, we had an idea of who it would be and that is the idea we ended up going with. I don't want to say whether it's a recurring character or a new character, but what I like about the way we decided to go with it is that it makes perfect sense. When you find out who it is, it'll make sense to people. The explanation for who it is makes a lot of sense within the context of the show.
We've seen April and Andy deal with distance before, but what can you say of April being accepted into veterinary school?
Schur: We have this idea that she would get into veterinary school as a cliffhanger for the end of the year, but obviously we have this new thing to deal with — that Chris is doing this movie. Part of the shuffling around that we're doing at the very beginning of the season is explaining where Andy goes and also figuring out whether April goes to vet school and all that sort of stuff. They're young and they have a lot energy and they don't have kids. When April was in Washington, Andy was nothing but excited for her. Whether she's in vet school and he's in some other place or whatever, their attitude is that they're just very supportive of the other person.
Jerry technically retired, so what does that mean for Jim O'Heir's time on the show this season?
Schur: There will be plenty of Jim O'Heir, no one needs to worry about Jerry. I don't know if he's going to be in every episode, but we figured out a way very early on to bring him back on a permanent basis. Very quickly, Jerry will be dragged out of retirement and will be installed back in his rightful place in the Parks and Rec office.
What's coming up for Donna (Retta) this season?
Schur: We have some pretty good Donna stuff. She's so talented and funny. We haven't done that many episodes that really feature her as the main person in the episode and this year we actually set out with that as one of our goals. We're going to do some Donna episodes and we've come up with some really good storylines. There's an episode where an innocent mistake of Donna's leads to Leslie getting in a lot of trouble. Leslie gets in big trouble because of something she does, so the whole story is basically Leslie and Donna having to fight back against the ginned up controversy. I'm very excited about this season for Donna specifically.
Parks and Recreation returns for Season 6 on Thursday, Sept. 26. What are you most excited for on Parks and Recreation this season? Hit the comments!