Yesterday, news broke that Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe are leaving NBC’s Parks and Recreation halfway through the upcoming sixth season. While we don’t know if there are plans to introduce new characters into the main cast this year to take their places, the city of Pawnee is jam-packed with dozens of hilarious side characters who could stand to get more screentime. The Parks writers have done a great job of building Pawnee into a detailed, Springfield-esque world, introducing and re-introducing us to the town’s elected officials, media personalities, local businesspeople, and citizens; and one or two of these beloved recurring characters could possibly end up coming into the fold to fill the Chris and Ann vacancy.
Given that the Parks and Rec cast is massive to begin with (and full of heavy-hitters to boot), it might just be for the best to focus on the remaining eight characters (Leslie, Tom, Ron, April, Andy, Ben, Donna, and Jerry) post-Chris and Ann. But if the Parks producers opt to add a new cast member or two this season or next, here are eight side characters from the show who would make excellent choices:
Jean-Ralphio Saperstein (played by Ben Schwartz)
If the Parks and Rec producers do end up going with a promote-from-within strategy to add onto the cast, then Jean-Ralphio, arguably the show’s most popular recurring character, seems like a shoo-in. Unfortunately, Ben Schwartz is locked down to Showtime’s House of Lies, so he’d be unable to commit to Parks full-time. His House of Lies commitment has even kept him from making as many guest appearances on Parks as the creative team would like, so this one seems unlikely. To be fair, though, I’d argue that part of what makes Jean-Ralphio so funny every time he appears is that he’s used sparingly, so bringing him on as a regular might suck some of the wind out of the character’s sails.
Councilman Jeremy Jamm (played by Jon Glaser)
Introduced at the start of last season as a nemesis to Leslie Knope, city councilman/dentist Jeremy Jamm has already appeared in a whopping 10 episodes of the show. Glaser’s Adult Swim series, Delocated, recently ended its run, so that wouldn’t be getting in the way of him becoming a full-time Parks and Rec actor – though his character would probably have to be made into slightly less of a dick for audiences to want to see him every week.
Diane Lewis (played by Lucy Lawless)
With Ron Swanson’s love interest Diane becoming more and more a part of his life episode-to-episode, it makes sense to incorporate the character into the new season in a larger capacity; however, it doesn’t seem very likely at all given that Lucy Lawless lives in New Zealand. “It’s not always up to us whether we can have her,” Parks co-creator/showrunner Mike Schur said in an interview. “She’s definitely going to be on the show in some capacity because of that [pregnancy] storyline … That’s going to be definitely a huge part of the year for Ron.”
Jennifer Barkley (played by Kathryn Hahn)
With Rashida Jones’s Ann Perkins out, Parks could use another resident straight man character so that Ben Wyatt isn’t the lone voice of reason. Introduced as Bobby Newport’s (Paul Rudd) campaign manager, Jennifer Barkley later showed a more human side when she became Ben’s boss. Given Kathryn Hahn’s busy movie schedule and that she was just cast as the female lead in the Showtime comedy pilot Trending Down opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman, I wouldn’t count on this one happening though.
Dennis Feinstein (played by Jason Mantzoukas)
Scene stealer Jason Mantzoukas had made three appearances on Parks as famous Pawnee fragrance mogul Dennis Feinstein. Feinstein’s a nice foil for Tom Haverford and Ben Wyatt alike, and we’ve been waiting to see Mantzoukas, who recurs on The League and Enlightened, tear it up with a meaty series regular role.
Bobby Newport (played by Paul Rudd)
A movie star like Paul Rudd would taking a series regular job on Parks and Rec is the longest of long shots, but given that the last three movies he starred in (Wanderlust, This Is 40, Admission) all underperformed at the box office, this could be a great time for Rudd to do a one or two-season run on a critically-acclaimed sitcom full of his frequent costars and friends like Amy Poehler and Adam Scott.
Perd Hapley (played by Jay Jackson)
Parks and Recreation’s most frequently used recurring character is TV host Perd Hapley. Perd is also one of the goofiest and least intelligent people in Pawnee, but the idea of fleshing him out and letting us see more of his world is pretty promising. Jay Jackson is an Emmy-winning journalist in real life who was hired onto the show for just one episode originally, but he proved to be super funny in small doses and could work well in bigger ones – if there’s a way to organically amp up his presence in the main characters’ world.
Mona-Lisa Saperstein (played by Jenny Slate)
Since the actor who plays one Saperstein twin (Ben Schwartz) is unavailable, why not go with the other one? Jean-Ralphio’s sister Mona-Lisa was only introduced at the tail end of last season, but she’s already become a big part of Tom Haverford’s life, both romantically and professionally. ABC bafflingly passed on Pulling, the pilot Jenny Slate starred in with Kristen Schaal and June Diane last season, freeing Slate up for a gig like this.