Everything we know about the Parks and Recreation reunion episode
Five years after its last episode aired, and certainly in the most unexpected of circumstances, Parks and Recreation is coming back for a brand-new episode.
As announced last week, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and her beloved band of Pawnee, Ind., parks department alumni will all be meeting up over video chat "to stay connected… in a time of social distancing," with the episode raising money for Feeding America's COVID-19 Response Fund.
In a conference call Tuesday, Parks and Rec creator Mike Schur gave a sneak peek of what to expect from the reunion episode. Here's everything we know so far about what’s in store.
Which stars will show up?
As originally announced, the special will feature the entire main cast: Poehler, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, Jim O’Heir, and Retta. And Schur revealed that the special will have about a half-dozen guest stars mixed in. "The first face you see on camera will not be one of the 10 main cast members," he said, "and that sort of sets the tone for the show in general."
Where are the characters now?
The final season of Parks and Rec filmed in 2014, was set in the year 2017, and flashed forward all the way to 2065, which created challenges for an episode set in our present day. "Ordinarily you can just make everything up and start from scratch, but we had already said what had happened to everyone in years past, and so we had to go back and retrofit everything and make sure it made sense," Schur said. While he assured that the episode is canon, he said it wouldn't involve any winks to the future the finale laid out for the characters.
Per the show's conclusion, the year 2020 would find Leslie, Ben Wyatt (Scott), April Ludgate (Plaza), and Andy Dwyer (Pratt) in Washington, D.C., with Leslie working at the National Parks Service within the Department of the Interior and Ben serving as a congressman. Chris Traeger (Lowe) and Ann Perkins (Jones) are together in Michigan, with Chris working at the University of Michigan and Ann having returned to nursing. Donna (Retta) is in Seattle treating herself, and the only main character left in Pawnee is Mayor
Jerry Garry Gergich (O'Heir).
Speaking of where everyone is now, see what the Parks and Recreation cast has done since the show.
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Is everyone safe?
Schur made one thing crystal-clear about the characters of the Parks and Rec reunion special: "Nobody has had or is currently suffering from COVID-19." He added that "the whole special is not about the disease, honestly. It's about people coping with it and sort of trying to navigate in their daily lives." While Ann is a working nurse, the special gives her a moment to explain how she does mostly outpatient work, meaning she's not on the front line of treating coronavirus cases.
How did the episode come together?
Running through the conception of the special, Schur said it started on a call with Universal Television President Pearlena Igbokwe about charity ideas. Afterward Schur reached out to see if the cast members would be available for something, and they all responded within 45 minutes. After taking a walk with his wife, Single Parents co-creator J.J. Philbin, Schur realized that if he was going to reunite everyone, it should be for something new rather than a rehash of an old episode.
With a special reunion episode in mind, Schur got fellow executive producer Morgan Sackett to direct and called in six of the show's former writers (including Joe Mande and Megan Amram) to work on it with him. They wrote the script in two and a half days, the scripts were shipped out to the cast along with iPhones and special camera rigs for everyone to record themselves, and the episode was shot over four days, with workarounds explaining why the show's married characters happen to not be in the same room.
For postproduction, Schur brought in the visual effects team from his other show The Good Place to work with editors "to make it look like not everyone was just sitting alone in their houses staring at their computers." All in all, from his chat with Igbokwe to the episode airing Thursday, the reunion special was a quick but arduous three-week process.
Will the special lead to a reboot?
"I would never say never, because why bother to say never," Schur replied to the question of a Parks and Rec reboot. He went on to say he never had any previous plans to bring the show back until the pandemic came along and he wanted to rally even more behind Feeding America. He felt the show already got to say everything it needed to during its initial run. "We made our point, so I don't anticipate any long-term reboot or anything like that," he said.
How can you watch the reunion?
The new episode of Parks and Rec will air Thursday, April 30, at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC, following a televised version of the cast's reunion at the Paley Center last year.