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The Real Reason Jim O'Heir Was Worried About The Parks And Recreation Reunion

Possibly the only good thing to come out of the global pandemic crisis (aside from all that banana bread) is the much-clamored-for Parks and Recreation reunion. On April 30, 2020, the cast of the beloved NBC sitcom, which ended in 2015, reunited virtually to treat us to a 25-minute special (reminding many of us that we need a refresher on the ending of Parks and Recreation).

The episode showed how the veterans of the Pawnee Parks Department are coping with the pandemic. Some are doing better than others: Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) is hunkered in his cabin, Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) is volunteering as a nurse, and Andy (Chris Pratt) has accidentally locked himself in a shed. Meanwhile, Lesley (Amy Poehler) has forced the gang to form a phone tree to make sure everyone is coping in these mad times. But while we're all wondering whatever happened to Jerry from Parks and Recreation, the characters all avoid calling him.

It turns out that Jerry, a.k.a. Garry, a.k.a. Mayor Gergich, is cheerfully managing the crisis in Pawnee. When Donna (Retta) and Lesley finally check in, Jerry confirms that the annual Pawnee Popsicle Lick 'n' Pass was canceled, but other than that, the city is doing okay.

O'Heir wasn't concerned about his character being bullied: he's assured fans that the cast are all close friends in real life. But he did have other concerns about playing his part again. This is the real reason Jim O'Heir was worried about the Parks and Recreation reunion.

O'Heir's technical skills match Jerry's

Going from the set of a fully functioning network TV production to filming yourself in your own house means taking on a lot of extra jobs you've never been trained to do. O'Heir told the New York Post that the cast held a Zoom table read of a script by series creator Mike Schur and six other veteran Parks and Rec writers, followed by rewrites 12 hours later. After that they were told, "You have to do this on your own. You're going to be lighting director, cameraman, makeup person, hair, etc."

Although O'Heir filmed in the morning, he had to make it look like it was nighttime. So he covered the windows of his house with dog beds to block the light. The other big challenge was the technical stuff: if you've worried about setting up the camera for your Zoom call with your boss, imagine knowing it was going to be watched by millions of people.

If there's one way Jim O'Heir is really like Jerry from Parks and Rec in real life, it's in their shared struggle with technology. But the show's producers had figured that side out too. O'Heir said that the crew "dropped off cameras in a big plastic box that contained a tripod, a light and instructions. Thankfully 90 percent of it was assembled since I'm so technically pathetic." He read his lines to Schur on a video call, with direction from Schur and executive producer Morgan Sackett. After they finished a couple of hours later, a driver picked up the tape, curbside-style. "They had it all down," O'Heir said.

O'Heir was initially apprehensive about playing Jerry again

Returning to a beloved character is a mixed blessing, and O'Heir felt a certain amount of pressure when he heard about the project. He and the rest of the cast were all excited to jump back in the moment Mike Schur emailed them with the idea — but he admitted he was nervous. "I thought, 'Oh God, I gotta do Jerry. This isn't just a table read,'" O'Heir remembered. Luckily, his nerves were quickly calmed by the skills of the seven writers who crafted the special episode. "The writers know the characters so well," he said, which "made it easy."

Other Parks and Rec actors felt a similar familiarity returning to the show. Nick Offerman told Variety that playing self-sufficient outdoorsman Ron Swanson was "kind of like pulling your old baseball jersey or your comfy old college sweater out of a drawer to find that it still fits very comfortably." Retta found inspiration in co-star Aziz Ansari. "Aziz is very Tom, so I immediately went into Donna mode as a result," she said. "It didn't take too much!"

Since the cast is happy to be back together (virtually, anyway) and we're happy to see them, could this mean more reunions down the road? Speaking about the episode, Schur reiterated that this only came about because he felt the extraordinary circumstances created a story worth telling. "I felt like we'd made [the point we wanted to make] and we ended the show and it just didn't seem like there was a compelling reason. But this is a compelling reason. This is as compelling a reason as there is," he told Variety. We hope it won't take another global crisis to get Lesley and the gang back together — but it was fun to catch up.