Parks and Recreation fans are no doubt still reeling from the news that both Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones will be leaving the NBC comedy this season (we shame-ate an entire waffle tower yesterday), but rest assured, there departure will be treated with the respect that the beautiful Ann Perkins and the perfect specimen Chris Traeger deserve.
Showrunner and creator Mike Schur told reporters today while promoting his new Fox show Brooklyn Nine-Nine that the Parks and Rec writers are preparing to sendoff Chris and Ann by episode 13, and the setup will start in episode two.
"It's a murder-suicide [Laughs.] I will say that the entire arc—and I've talked to Rob and Rashida about this whole thing and sort of kept them in the loop—and the decision that they make that will see them transition off the show is made very early, so it's a long, fun kind of celebratory send-off," Schur says of the characters' exits from the series. "It happens in, not the premiere, but the first episode off the premiere the seeds start being planted. So it's going to be like a long crescendo where Leslie (Amy Poehler) will go through a series of complicated highs and lows about what's happening and for obvious reasons it's the main arc that plays out through the year."
And rest assured, Parks and Rec fans, Schur has "no plans" to replace Chris and Ann. "I mean, we have a bunch of guest stars in the first kind of chunk of episodes, but no, the decision wasn't like we're swapping out those two characters for two other characters at all," he explains. "It was just a sort of natural like, they were trying to have a baby and then we felt like they should do that this year and it was just sort of like they've been going in that direction."
As for how Ann's BFF Leslie will handle her exit, Schur previews, "She's been handed a lot of challenges before in her life and she's always come through the other side, so, I mean, that's not the only challenge she's going to be facing this year."
Plus, Schur says there is "absolutely" the possibility for Jones and Lowe to return to Parks and Recreation in the future, that is if season six isn't its final season, something Schur isn't thinking too much about at the moment. "I've said this before, but we leave it all on the field," he explains. "We don't think ahead, we don't try to parch things out too slowly, because at this point it's in the DNA of the show. That we just go full board all the time."
As for how Jones and Lowe's departure came to be, Schur reveals the idea originated from the writing team, saying, "We had the idea that creatively we wanted to move in that direction and it kind of dove-tailed in align with what the two actors envisioned in themselves. And so it's a big happy mutual hugfest celebration, like everyone is happy."
While Lowe has a "holding deal" with NBC, his next series with the network will not be a Chris Traeger-centric spinoff, Schur says. He also reveals that Jones is working on her own series.
"Rashida has a producing gig at Warner Bros. and she just like sold a TV show yesterday, I think. I hope I'm not breaking that new for her," Schur spills. "And she's really focusing more on writing, which as a writer I fully support, and she's getting really into that. And so when I sort of talked to her about what we had planned for her and Rob, she was like, 'Look, I have so many things,' she was totally on board. The real headline is that everyone is happy, there's no controversy."