(Warning: This article is one big ol' massive spoil-o-rama for Season 7 of Parks and Rec. So if you are a fan of having great surprises ruined for you, read away! If not, go away!)
On Tuesday's episode of the seventh season of NBC's brilliant sitcom Parks and Recreation, the sparingly referenced and enigmatic Mayor of Pawnee, Walter Gunderson, finally made his grand appearance on the show... in a coffin.
But get this, Parks and Rec managed to bag another incredible cameo this time in the form of Bill Murray, who came aboard at the last minute to play the ubiquitous Mayor! But it wasn't easy work getting him on board...
A Bit of Murray Magic
Michael Schur and the rest of Rec's production team were stumped as to how they were going to portray Mayor Gunderson - they may never have shown his face or obscured him from our vision in some fashion.
“You know when someone gets pregnant in a TV show and her belly is cleverly blocked by potted plants or grocery bags?” said Schur in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, “We were going to have posters all over the place that said, ‘We remember Mayor Gunderson,’ and there would always be something blocking his face.”
And as brilliant as pulling off that visual gag would have been, the team still thought it better to find someone perfect to fill the role. Someone as perfect as the ex-Govenor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But unfortunately, Rob Lowe's (Chris Traeger) ol' pal the Governator wasn't available to appear as far back as Season 3 due to his political duties:
He was very nice about it, and he really wanted to do it, but it just couldn’t work. So at that point we were like, ‘Just forget it. It’s cooler to mention the mayor but never see him.'
That's when Bill Murray's name began to slip out of lips around the campfire.
The producers and the cast delved into a relentless campaign to try and lure Murray into the show. In 2011, Amy Poehler joked on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon that she would pay Murray $250 if he took the role, and even Aubrey Plaza and Rashida Jones got in on the action:
Aubrey fell into his circle in the film world and started working really hard at hooking him. Then Amy chimed in and Rashida [Jones] chimed in and at that point, I think honestly what happened is he started watching the show.
Then one day, Poehler received a voicemail from Murray that said, "Hey, this is Bill Murray. I hear you might have some dead work for me.”
He was just the most delightful person. Not only was he incredibly complimentary of the show, he went around to every one of the actors and told them how great they were and cited specific episodes and moments. He hung out on the set for three hours, watching us shoot the show.
The actual memorial service scene had already been filmed but the producers had made arrangements to reshoot certain parts of it, allowing Murray to step in, lie down and do his magical Murray thing.
And that, my friends, is how in the eleventh episode of the seventh and final season of Parks and Recreation, Bill Murray ends up in a coffin in Pawnee.
Damn I love that show!