With only two episodes left in the series, Parks and Recreation revealed a huge surprise last night that’s been a longtime dream of the cast and writers: Bill Murray appeared as the (until now) mysterious Mayor Gunderson. Entertainment Weekly has the backstory on how the show managed to score the elusive Murray cameo, and it’s about as far-fetched and unexpected as you might expect. Here’s what executive producer Mike Schur told us about his hopes to get Murray on the show back in 2013:
He’s sort of ascended above the atmosphere of the actual tangible comedy world. He doesn’t exist in reality to me anymore; he’s like an idea. You know, he pops up in weird places and plays celebrity golf tournaments and then he’ll like pop up at some guy’s karaoke party. It’s like he lives in the internet or something. He’s ascended to a higher plane of being. So I have no actual allusions that he’s going to decide to pop in and be on our show, but it would still be awesome if it happened.
Thankfully, Schur’s ultimate Parks and Rec fantasy came true last night thanks to some luck and persistence, particularly from Amy Poehler, Aubrey Plaza, and Rashida Jones. According to EW, all three have asked Murray to come on the show to play Gunderson, and the nagging paid off:
Meanwhile, Plaza and Poehler reached out to the elusive actor one final time. “Aubrey and Amy were like, ‘This is your last chance. The mayor’s dying. Do you want to come lie in a coffin? It would be really funny,’” recounts Schur. “And they [told me], ‘I think it might work.’ Soon after, Schur received a simple voice mail from Bill Murray that said: “Hey, this is Bill Murray. I hear you might have some dead work for me.”
According to Schur, Murray read about 30 options for Gunderson’s memorial video message and even improvised two versions by himself, and the version that made it into the final episode was a combination of both. “He was just the most delightful person,” Schur told EW. “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.”