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'Parks and Recreation': Mike Schur tells us why Paul Schneider is leaving the show, plus more details on Adam Scott and Rob Lowe

March 12, 2010 |  4:29 pm

Paul1 It's true, "Parks and Recreation" fans -- Mark Brendanawicz is not long for Pawnee.

A report earlier today hinted that Paul Schneider, who plays Pawnee city planner Mark, would be leaving the NBC comedy, recently renewed for a third season.

"Parks" co-creator and executive producer Mike Schur confirmed the news exclusively for Show Tracker, explained what will happen to Mark's character (on the positive side: Schneider may not be gone for good), and revealed more details about the incoming stories for Adam Scott and Rob Lowe.

We're upset. What happened?

Mike Schur: Well, the fact that you are upset is in part at least why this is happening. Let me start from the beginning. The God's honest absolute truth is this character, Mark, is at least partially based on a real guy that [co-creator and executive producer Greg Daniels] and I met while we were doing research. His career had a very interesting trajectory, which is he worked for the government for a long time as a city planner and he got so fed up with the lifestyle and the red tape and the bureaucracy, that he ... moved into the private sector. Then he got so fed up and tired of how gross corporations are that he moved back to the government. He oscillated back and forth multiple times.

When we first cast Paul, we told him that the idea would be Mark would leave and then ideally he would come back in a different capacity working for a different company. And then he would leave again and come back, and so on... It's not something you usually do on TV shows but we thought it was a good way to illustrate both the positive and negative aspects of working for a government. It was one of the first things we talked about with him.

What happened was in the wake of "Bright Star" [a film in which Schneider co-starred] and winning a lot of awards, Paul now has this film career that is just taking off in a big way. [Show Tracker notes Schneider's major credits include "Lars and the Real Girl" and "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford."] And the movie opportunities he's getting are incredibly cool interesting movies, not the summer blockbuster movies that can be scheduled around TV actors when they need to be.

So, in the end, it was a combination of us always knowing that the character would always leave some day, the timing of this movie, and then sort of feeling like, well, the way the character's gone...we were all on the same page here and we decided to write the character out.

But the goal and the aim is to have him come back as soon as his schedule permits and as soon as the arcs we're writing call for it. We very much want him back and he has told us he very much wants to come back in the future. It really is one of those mutually beneficial situations. And we're hoping we can have him back in Season 3.

What will happen to Mark between now and the end of the season?

He's going to remain in the world of the show in a way that not only allows but hopefully demands that he'll reenter it. He's not going to be killed in some weird accident.

Paul2 Maybe an obvious question, but where does that leave Ann and Mark's relationship? Post-Valentine's Day, things seem to be up in the air between them...

Mark's relationship with Ann comes to a crossroads toward the end of the year. It's something we're building toward. Most of the beats in that story haven't aired yet, ironically, because we let Rashida Jones (Ann) out of two episodes because she was shooting a David Fincher movie. Two episodes from now begins that arc.

When the Adam Scott news broke, some begun speculating that he might be a replacement for Paul -- true?

He's really not. The story that Adam Scott and Rob Lowe are coming in for ... they're not new city planners sitting across the hall. It's not like the government is firing Mark and replacing him with Adam's character. Adam is from a different world. It's not the same thing.

Variety said Adam would be a love interest for Leslie...

It's not wrong. But it's funny to say he's a love interest for Amy's character when he hasn't shot a scene yet. It's kind of silly. It's not right or wrong, if that makes any sense?

Adam's character is entering the world, he's about Amy's age, he's a man and he's single? I think that's where that came from? Look, no one ever conceived April and Andy would be romantically involved until we shot this one episode and said, "Hey, they have chemistry!" So we taste it, that's more the way we do things here. We like to get actors we think are good and just throw them into a big stew and mix it up and see what happens.

Can you tease anything else about Rob Lowe? We heard he's in for two episodes this season, and six more -- at least -- next season. He's been tweeting his excitement all day.

That's correct. He was super funny in the table read. He and Adam both were fantastic. It was very exciting. He and Adam come in as part of a team sent in from a distant land to try to help the town of Pawnee through a rough patch. There are all these stories in the news now like Kansas City is closing half of their public schools now, and, I don't know if this actually happened, but the entire state of Idaho was threatening to shut down the Parks department...and Idaho is essentially just one large park. Most cities and towns in the country right now are going through these rough patches involving plummeting tax revenue and layoffs. So we're doing a torn-from-the-headlines thing about Pawnee and Adam and Rob's characters come in to help them fix their budget problems.

OK, sounds good. We're still kind of bummed about Paul leaving though...

We really like him as an actor and as a human being, so we're hoping that it all works out and he can come back. We hope that he won't just do award-winning movie after award-winning movie...

-- Denise Martin

Photo: Paul Schneider (Christina House / For The Times); Amy Poehler and Paul Schneider (Gina Ferazzi / For the Times)

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