Jean-Ralphio would be 'the perfect fuel' for Howard's addiction, the Parks & Rec alum tells EW.
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Ben Schwartz knows it would be way too dangerous if Jean-Ralphio Saperstein, his Parks and Recreation character with hair like a Chia Pet and a knack for burning cash, met Howard Ratner from Uncut Gems, the new Adam Sandler movie about a jeweler who salivates at the thought of winning big money. After all, Jean-Ralphio has a trust fund. He invested in Entertainment 720. Would be it be that unrealistic if he went to New York at some point and invested in Howard?

“Jean-Ralphio would be the perfect fuel for [Howard’s] addiction,” Schwartz tells EW during an interview for his upcoming movie Standing Up, Falling Down. “Sandler’s character would keep borrowing money and using it to gamble.”

Ben Schwartz / Uncut Gems
Credit: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images; A24

The idea that Jean-Ralphio could even meet Howard comes to mind when we ask about a photo Schwartz posted on Twitter last month. The actor and comedian has actually met Sandler several times, most recently courtside at a Los Angeles Clippers game. Who were the other people in the picture? Just Kevin Garnett, the legendary Boston Celtics forward who plays himself in Uncut Gems, and Schwartz’s Standing Up, Falling Down costar Billy Crystal.

“Sandler I’ve met once or twice playing basketball,” Schwartz reveals. “Just like pickup games. A friend sent me that picture like, ‘What is happening, what is going on?’ And it was just like, you know, my dad and my the whole family are laughing that the picture even exists.”

Both Uncut Gems and Parks & Rec take place in the early 2010s. We first met Jean-Ralphio on the NBC hit sitcom in 2010, trying to get a job as Ron Swanson’s (Nick Offerman) assistant. We would later learn that he has trust fund money to burn from his grandparents (not his obstetrician father, played by Henry Winkler) and can’t wait to invest in whatever get-rich-quick scheme is going to give him a good time.

That would put Jean-Ralphio’s introduction two years before the events of Uncut Gems, which is set against the backdrop the 2012 NBA playoff series between the Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers. In the film, Garnett walks into Howard’s store on or around May 16; we see Jean-Ralphio a week before then on Parks & Rec, in season 4, episode 22, “Win, Lose, Or Draw.” In the episode, he’s once again seeking a job, this time from Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe), and once again he’s denied. After that day, we don’t see Jean-Ralphio again until season 5, episode 6, in November 2012, when he and Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) start ptiching ideas for their next big idea, Rent-A-Swag.

While we don’t want to spoil Uncut Gems for you, Jean-Ralphio likely had a window of about one week to encounter Howard (unless they met pre-2010) and get sucked into his world. And oh boy, would he have.

“The way I always played Jean-Ralphio was as a puppy dog, in the sense that he always thought he was nailing it,” Schwartz says. “He never thought he was doing something bad. He always thought he was hitting it out of the park.”

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