“Parks and Recreation” EP Michael Schur did an interview with Entertainment Weekly where he discusses how the show and Amy Poehler deserve an Emmy this year.
In EW.com’s annual Season Finale Awards, readers voted Parks and Recreation‘s season 4 ender the episode most likely to earn someone an Emmy — that person being Amy Poehler. Parks and Recreation exec producer Michael Schur, who thinks there are about a dozen episodes from last season that could do that for Poehler, would obviously love that. “It’s very important to me that people know she’s never won an Emmy before,” Schur says. “I watched this happen with Steve Carell. I think if you ask the average person on the street how many Emmys Steve Carell won for playing Michael Scott, they would probably say, ‘I don’t know. Nine?’ The answer is zero, and it bummed me out deeply. Everyone who worked on that show with Steve feels this way. And now Amy is kinda in this weird similar position where she’s been nominated a bunch of times, and she’s been so good at what she’s done for so long, that I think everybody just assumes she’s been properly rewarded for that and she hasn’t. I hope this is the year that changes.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why is “The Debate” an episode voters should revisit?
MICHAEL SCHUR: The main reason obviously is that it was a true Amy Poehler joint. She wrote it, directed it, and obviously starred in it. We put a tremendous amount of pressure on the episode. [Laughs] We knew we had Paul Rudd in the middle and then we were gonna get him for a couple at the end, so in order to increase the anticipation of his return, Leslie said to his campaign manager, played by Kathryn Hahn, “We’re gonna have a debate soon, and when we do, I’m gonna kick your opponent’s ass.” A huge setup, generally speaking, isn’t really a good idea because it means you really have to deliver something special if you call out how big a deal the episode is gonna be. But we did that. And it was her directorial debut. It was the biggest production we did all year. There were 400 extras, six cameras, crane shots, night shoots, and stunts — Ron Swanson climbed a telephone pole. It was a massive production and like everything she does, she pulled it off effortlessly. She prepped super hard. She watched that documentary The War Room about the Clinton campaign. We broke the story as a group, as we always do. In the outline, it was like, “So the debate is going well, and then this thing happens and this thing happens, and at the end, Leslie makes a big speech and it really moves everybody to tears emotionally and she saves the day.” Okay, go! [Laughs] There wasn’t a single pitch about what the content of that speech should be. That speech that Leslie gives at the end of the debate in that incredibly high-pressure moment is exactly Amy’s first draft. We did not change a single word of it from the moment she wrote it to the moment it aired, which is extremely rare in TV. You rewrite everything.
And Paul Rudd’s reaction to her speech is priceless.
That’s another reason why I would love people to watch it again. Paul gives such an amazing performance. There’s no scene of him behind-the-scenes. He’s only able to convey what’s going on in his character’s weird little brain in the context of the debate. He does such a great job of conveying a guy who is out of his depth, but is kinda trying hard, and has been drilled really hard by his people but he doesn’t fully understand what he’s saying. [Laughs] At the very end, it made us laugh so hard that he comes up and celebrates with Leslie as if this is something they accomplished together. And then he runs off the stage awkwardly in a way that indicates that he’s not even smart enough to understand how exits work.
I’ve watched Amy’s director’s cut on Hulu, and there is footage of Bobby (Rudd) behind-the-scenes. Leslie and Ben go to find him and get in his head and he’s on the floor in the fetal position.
We shot that, for exactly that reason, to be able to show that this guy’s in big trouble. But the episode had so much good stuff in it, we had to cut like nine minutes or something, and that was one of the casualties. One of the biggest reasons I think it’s maybe our best episode of the season is it gives everyone in the cast a chance to shine. Everyone has a big moment. Andy reenacts the movies for people. Nick Offerman sings “Wichita Lineman” at the top of a telephone pole. Aziz Ansari, Rob Lowe, and Rashida Jones have their story line where Tom makes a huge play for Ann. I think that’s when our show is best, when everyone in our large cast gets a chance to stand out.