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Michael Schur of 'Parks and Recreation' on the Show's Return, Nick Offerman's Mustache, and Playing Mose Schrute

by Joel Keller, posted Nov 16th 2010 1:00PM
The Season 3 cast of 'Parks and Recreation'When I spoke to Michael Schur, executive producer of 'Parks and Recreation,' last week, he hadn't yet known where NBC was going to put his show back on the schedule, or what its timeslot would be.

The midseason pickup was a surprise for him and the staff of the show; when they got the news in May, they had been in the middle of shooting the first six episodes of the third season, in order to get ahead of the game before star Amy Poehler had her second child. The decision by NBC was "disappointing" to Schur, but he told the network that whenever they wanted to bring the show back, the crew was ready.

"'We have these 6 episodes for the beginning of season 3. We're ready,'" Schur told the executives. "'Just tell us where to go and we'll be there.' And they've continued to say that they have a plan and that they're supportive and everything."

It turned out that the Peacock net did have a plan; they're returning 'P&R' to Thursdays starting January 20, airing it at 9:30PM ET as part of a 3-hour comedy block that network TV hasn't seen in almost 20 years. So I followed up with Mike via e-mail in order to get his thoughts on the move.

That response and tidbits from the original interview are after the jump, including some spoilers about season 3, thoughts on Nick Offerman's mustache, how he's intimidated by Aubrey Plaza, and how he feels about playing Dwight Schrute's off-kilter cousin Mose.

On being slotted on Thursdays after 'The Office':
"It's what we had hoped for, and certainly, we had made the argument to NBC many times that our show made the most sense to follow 'The Office' (it was conceived of as a companion piece). It's definitely the best case scenario, short of NBC airing us during 'Sunday Night Football,' with some sort of split-screen.

"Without question, the wider audience that now leads in to our show gives us a better chance of being seen. As for its long-term success, that will depend on the quality of the show itself, which I personally and completely unbiased-ly think is very high.

On the three-hour comedy block and being the lead-in to '30 Rock:' "A large number of people DVR everything they watch, or watch it on Hulu, so maybe time slots matter less than they did a few years ago. I think '30 Rock' has a lot of die-hard fans -- myself among them -- who would watch that show no matter where it airs. Cable networks already air comedy in the 10:00 hour. So I see no reason this shouldn't work. Ultimately, fan loyalty depends on the quality of the shows, and there's a lot of quality packed into those three hours."

On the story arc at the beginning of Season 3: "Leslie and her team come back to work. (The town of Pawnee, Ind. has) pulled out of bankruptcy, but essentially the whole government has been stripped down to what amounts to just maintenance, basically, of existing things. And all of Leslie's dreams of big projects and building new parks and all that stuff has been badly damaged.

"In the premiere, she gets an idea for a large project and basically gambles the entire future of the department on this one project. And the story of the first half of the season is about the putting together of this giant project and then the actual project itself. So it's really about her doubling down... The first episode is called 'Go Big or Go Home,' and that's sort of the theme of the first half of the year. I'm not going to just sit around and accept my fate. I'm going to take a huge, giant risk and see if it works out."

On the return of Megan Mullally as Ron Swanson's ex-wife Tammy: "There's a second Ron and Tammy episode where Megan Mullally comes back as Ron's ex-wife, and things get out of control extremely quickly. It's by far, far more insane and raunchy than the first one, which is saying something."

On the budding relationships from the end of the second season: "There are definitely a lot of big developments on the relationship fronts, both with Leslie, Amy's character, with Adam Scott and also with Rashida Jones' character Ann with Rob Lowe. And there's a lot of pretty juicy relationship stories. And of course, Andy (Chris Pratt) and April (Aubrey Plaza)... April's return doesn't go as smoothly as Andy had hoped. One of the big arcs for the first half is also him pursuing her and trying to win her over after having driven her away at the end of last year."

On guest stars in season 3:
"In the first group of episodes, Megan Mullally comes back, Will Forte is a guest star in an Nick Offerman of 'Parks and Recreation'episode, and yeah, we just did one with Parker Posey. I think those are really the big ones. And there may be more. We have 4 episodes left to shoot, and we have some ideas for people to bring in, but we haven't made anything official yet."

On what happens when Nick Offerman shaves his mustache during the hiatus: "When he shaves it off, he's completely unrecognizable. It's insane. And you know, sometimes he has a full beard. So I think it varies.

"I mean, he is an extraordinarily manly person. And he can shave his entire beard off and have a full beard seemingly hours later. So I think he just has a good time like mixing it up. And he'll have a fu man chu for a while, and then he'll have a full beard, and then weird mutton chops. He can kind of do whatever he wants, because 3 days later, it can be entirely different."

Aubrey Plaza of 'Parks & Recreation'On if the Aubrey Plaza we saw doing a tour of the set on the Vulture blog was the real Aubrey: "Yeah, that's an extremely accurate representation of what it's like to hang out with Aubrey Plaza. (chuckling) She's really not super interested in what you have to offer her. (laughs) As a general rule.

"What's very funny about her is that the more you're around her, the more you find yourself kind of tap dancing to try to win her approval, for some reason. You know? Because she just sort of like stares at you with like those big, kind of spooky eyes, and doesn't really betray any kind of emotion in one direction or another. And I end up performing, and dancing around, and singing, trying to like just do anything. And I was like, 'Why do I care? Why am I doing this?'" (When I said "You're her boss!", Mike laughed and replied, "It sure doesn't feel that way.")

On the evolution of 'P&R' between its first and second seasons: "You know, '30 Rock' was a very different show in the 2nd half of its first season than it was in the first half. And both versions were funny, but they made changes because every show does.

"We get kind of charged with that idea that we like did this kind of massive overhaul, which I don't think we really did. We made a couple changes to the way that we presented Leslie. That was the biggest thing, in part because the way we intended her to be was not reading at all to the audience, and we were like 'Ooh, our mistake.' We got feedback and we're like, 'That's not what we meant.' So we just designed different stories and kind of altered the way that she presented herself in order to make people get the version of the character that we intended them to get. So to me, that was the biggest change that we did."

Michael Schur as Mose Schrute in 'The Office'On playing Mose Schrute on 'The Office:' "I don't know why (people love Mose so much), but I'm happy to keep doing it. I guess."

(I responded to Mike by saying, "Way to have the enthusiasm for it.") "Well, you know what? It's a huge pain in the butt, I have to say. Because I always have to put on wool clothes. It's always 179 degrees outside because it's August or something, and I have to put on a fake beard, which takes like an hour, and I have to put on wool clothes. And they're always making me run around, or bounce on a trampoline. It's always something insanely difficult."

On if he had any thoughts on who should replace Steve Carell on 'The Office:' "My deal with (showrunner) Paul (Lieberstein) was that I told him 'You guys are going to have enough problems in terms of people giving you advice and telling you what to do,' and so my pledge to him was that I would never ask him about what they were planning, and I would never pitch him any ideas. Because I figured he would have enough on his plate without guys who used to work there going, 'Hey, here's what you should do... you should have Kate Hudson replace Steve Carell.'"

(Note: The original purpose of my interview was to talk to Mike about Joe Morgan's dismissal from ESPN, since he contributed to the site FireJoeMorgan.com. But the news about 'P&R's' return trumped the Joe Morgan stuff. No worries, though... our talk about Morgan will see the light of day soon.)

(Follow @joelkeller on Twitter.)

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So far this show and "HOLLYWOOD TREASURE" (Syfy Wed nights) are two of my personal favorites...and one of the guys on "HOLLYWOOD TREASURE" (Jon Mankuta)used to be on SNL with Amy Pohler (between 2002-2005) he was a character actor and can be seen in various old SNL skits from that time period. Cool, huh?

November 17 2010 at 6:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to WYLDCHYLD's comment
Joel Keller

Something tells me you know Mr. Mankuta well.

November 17 2010 at 11:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Good interview. I'm excited for more Parks & Rec!

November 17 2010 at 2:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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