Will Leslie choose her career or love? Has Tom left City Hall for good? Will Ron's eyebrows ever grow back? Last season's finale of Parks and Recreation was packed with more cliff-hangers than a whole season of The Killing!
Executive producer Mike Schur says the good news is that for the past month, he and the show's writing staff have been coming up with answers — and he was only too willing to share! The bad news is that the current plan comes with a bit of a caveat, which is "all of this stuff is subject to change once the scripts come in and we realize we totally screwed up."
Until then, Schur tells us about the dawn of Tammy 1, the future of Jean Ralphio and the potential dilemma for Chris in the upcoming season of Parks and Recreation (one of TVGuide.com's Emmy picks for best comedy series):
The first thing we need to talk about is Ron's (Nick Offerman) lack of facial hair. Will he have recovered all of it when the show returns this fall?
Mike Schur: I can tell you this: The current plan is for Ron's facial hair to go through a lot of changes in the first few episodes. He'll have several different looks in the first few episodes if things stay the way they're planned. Honestly, it wasn't our goal — to send Ron's facial hair through its own arc — but we pitched these stories for him involving Tammy 1 and all these other things and we found ourselves in this funny situation where a lot of the ways that we wanted to tell the story of what was happening to him involved his facial hair — as it should, probably, when you have someone with facial hair as distinctive as Nick's.
Will dyeing be involved?
Schur: I don't want to do any mustache spoiler alerts! It's not going to be anything subtle, though. That I can say.
When will we meet Tammy 1? What can you say about the kind of person she is, especially in relation to Tammy 2 (Megan Mullally)?
Schur: You'll see her very early in the season. Probably not in the first episode, but mostly likely in the second. We're working on casting her as we speak. The details of Tammy 1 that we know from the finale are: She's Ron's first ex-wife, she scares Ron a lot and she scares Tammy 2 a lot. We talked about pretty much every possible iteration of who she is and what her backstory is and all we knew is that we didn't want to do the same thing we did with Tammy 2. Tammy 1 is her own specific brand of demon. I think we came up with backstory for her that's both funny and illuminating and also answers all of the questions that you would have when seeing people's reactions to her presence in the finale.
Now that Leslie (Amy Poehler) has been approached to run for office, how is she going to juggle that with her super-secret love life?
Schur: The two things — this possible career path for her and her relationship with Ben — are completely at odds with each other. That's the biggest question in the premiere, and it will get answered in the premiere. What is Leslie going to do, and how is she going to do it? It's tricky because she really likes Ben but she's also a very ambitious person. She says in the finale, "I've waited for this moment all my life."
So, the goal was a decision for her and a story line that was very true to who she is. This has to be what Leslie Knope would really do. We really did some soul-searching about the character, who is both a romantic at heart and very ambitious. She makes a decision in the premiere and basically the story of the year is that she keeps making decisions, that things keep popping up and she keeps having to reevaluate where she stands. She has to keep figuring out what's important to her.
So she'll make a decision — and it won't be to try and juggle both?
Schur: I think it's more than fair to say that she — like the writers trying to write this story — considers every option. She puts a lot of thought and a lot of care into making the decision that she makes. The decision she makes is up for review pretty much every week. Whatever she decides is going to cause trouble for her: if she decides to run for office that means she's giving up on this relationship, if she decides to keep the relationship it means she has passed over one of her dreams, if she decided to juggle both of them she's constantly at risk of being caught. Part of the story of the premiere is that she's trying to put off making the decision for as long as she can. It's a very painful decision.
Will Ben (Adam Scott) have his own thing going on apart from Leslie's dilemma? And will his past as a young mayor come back up because of this opportunity she has?
Schur: Yes, Ben will have his own stuff going on. But the fact that he is the only person that Leslie is very close to who has ever run for office and won is a very big deal. It would probably be better for her if the same guy who had won an election wasn't also the guy she was very much in love with, because again those two things are at odds with each other. But the fact that he does have this past will definitely come into play.
Tom (Aziz Ansari) left the department at the end of last season to run his own entertainment company. When we pick back up, will he still be doing that?
Schur: We're going to be filling in the blanks what happened over the summer. You're going to get to watch and hear about the arc of his new company. The tag of the finale was Tom showing everyone around his crazy new offices, so you're going to have that spirit present as well, and then you'll see what happens to that company over the first several episodes.
So he won't immediately be back?
Schur: No, when the season starts, he is 100 percent immersed in Entertainment 720.
What about Jean Ralphio? Will he be back? Ben Schwartz is now a regular on Showtime's House of Lies.
Schur: We're working very hard to try and get him at least in a couple of episodes, and Showtime is being very generous with us in trying to work something out. It's just tricky because he has a very big role in that show. He really wants to come back and do some stuff, and we really want him to come back. We're just hoping.
Chris (Rob Lowe) cracked down on office romances last season. Is he going to be as strict this season given the Leslie and Ben of it all?
Schur: I guess you could say he's strict, but the way we think of him is that he is a man of enormous personal integrity. He has certain codes and rules that he lives by and he doesn't compromise on them. He just believes there is a right and a wrong way to do everything. Hopefully we have managed to make him into an obstacle for Leslie and Ben without making him a villain because he doesn't know about them. He doesn't know that they're happening, he just has this rule — a real rule present in essentially every local government in the country — that you are just not allowed to date someone who is under your supervision in the government. It's very verboten. We tried to establish that this was a code of his long before Leslie ever met Ben and he's just a guy who has a lot of integrity about the way he lives his life. That is his purpose and that will continue to be his purpose in terms of the Leslie and Ben love story. At some point down the line, obviously these things are going to come into conflict and cause a problem for somebody.
But for the time being, and part of the reason we like the character in general, is because it just gives everyone a boss. Everyone needs a boss, and Ron was a boss but didn't care what anybody did. So, it was kind of important to us to have someone at the top of the food chain who just made rules for everybody.
What about his relationship with Ann (Rashida Jones)? In the finale, she appeared to have moved on from their past relationship — but now she's working at City Hall.
Schur: She kind of had a self-exploration phase in the second half of last season after Chris dumped her. She learned how to loosen up a little and be more casual about her romantic life. I think where we were pointing in the finale is the idea that she is now a more self-assured, confident person, and that that kind of person is actually more appealing to Chris than she was when she was a bit too wide-eyed and under his spell. The interesting thing is now she works for him and he's got this very hard-and-fast rule about dating people you work with.
How is marriage going for Andy (Chris Pratt) and April (Aubrey Plaza)? What's coming up for them?
Schur: The big thing for them is that in the finale Andy asked April to be his manager. It seems like maybe the direction we're going is maybe she's not just his band manager but becomes his life manager a little bit. He needs her to give him guidance in his life. The story for him this year is that maybe he wants to be more than a shoeshine guy, and maybe April will help him figure out how to do that.
Do you regret killing off Li'l Sebastian? You probably should.
Schur: You know, I have to say, I've been a writer for a very long time now and I've never been hammered as hard for anything as I have been for deciding to kill Li'l Sebastian. Everyone I talk to is like, "You son of a b----!" I think that the sadness that people feel is a testament to how many lives he touched in his brief time on a fictional Earth...
The Season 4 premiere of Parks and Recreation airs on Thursday, Sept. 22 at 8:30/7:30c on NBC.