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The Reason Paul Schneider Left Parks And Rec After Season 2

We all remember Parks and Recreation season 2: Leslie was trying to fix the pit. Andy and April began their triumphant weirdo love story. Chris Traeger and Ben Wyatt joined the merry band of civil servants. Do you remember Mark Brendanawicz, though? 

Paul Schneider played Mark, the Pawnee, Indiana city planner who was a relatively central character on Parks and Recreation's first season and who had a scrapped romance subplot with Amy Poehler's Leslie Knope. On the series' second season, Mark's purpose began to flounder despite a second (and also ultimately crumbled) romance with Rashida Jones' Ann Perkins. During the Parks and Rec season 2 finale, Mark announced he was leaving city government for a job with a private-sector  construction company — which earned him a new nickname from Leslie, "Mark Brendanaquits" — and is never heard of again. Chris and Ben's entrance into Parks and Recreation as guest characters on season 2 proved to be the perfect gift in disguise to slip Mark's departure past all of us with few questions asked. 

Looking back, there are many mysteries left unsolved. Why have Mark leave at all, and why did Paul Schneider exit Parks and Recreation and never return?

Paul Schneider's Parks and Rec exit was down to lost purpose and the facts of television math

In short, Paul Schneider left Parks and Recreation because he felt sidelined. Several years after the fact, the actor opened up about his Parks departure in an interview with ScreenCrush, revealing that he felt he'd been at a creative crossroads with the series' writers after Mark's characterization was altered from previews of the first season. The original episodes of Parks and Rec are rougher and feature more tension and disdain between the characters — just like its semi-parental predecessor, The Office. Mark Brendanawicz's character is a relic of that previous style — he was reportedly a less likable character in earlier drafts of Parks and Recreation. A shift in emotional perspective came about as the series continued on, and while it worked out well for many principal characters, it didn't for Mark. 

"That experience was very strange for me," Schneider said of leaving Parks and Rec. "You know, I signed up for a specific character that was changed in mid-season. And it became a character with a lot less to do. And, all of a sudden, I was kind of confused and kind of having a lot less to do." That's the worst place to be for any actor. 

At the time news of Schneider's Parks and Recreation exit went public, series co-creator Mike Schur teased that the actor would be back for future episodes. He said in March 2010, "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."

Of course, that didn't end up happening. Schneider revealed in April 2014 that he had "never been contacted" about returning, and he was "not interesting in going back." At the time, Schneider was also sympathetic toward the fact that Parks and Recreation didn't exactly know what it was doing at the outset and was "very happy for the experience to be involved," but didn't feel any desire to return to a world that he didn't "know anything about" once the series actually did find its footing. 

You may recall that the initial season of Parks and Recreation opened to so-so critical response, and while the second season was received better critically, that wasn't reflected in Nielsen numbers. It was a long ago, yes, but once upon a time, Parks and Recreation was more akin to The Little Sitcom That Could than the beloved TV culture icon it is today. If we were Paul Schneider circa 2009 during season 2's production, we might actually anticipate that Parks and Recreation itself — not just Mark Brendanawicz the character – wouldn't have much staying power. Might as well get out while you can, right? Many shows that get to a second season despite being on the cancellation bubble don't ever see a third season, and there's a chance that Schneider felt Parks and Rec wouldn't last much longer. 

Waiting it out probably would have been the wiser bet in the long run, but Schnieder has enjoyed plenty of work in the years since leaving Parks and Recreation — though none of it has achieved the same fame and cultural status as the now-beloved sitcom. And it seems he's perfectly happy with that.