TCA UPDATE: 12:15 p.m. PT/3:15 p.m. ET
After a panel for his latest show, Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, at the 2013 Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour on Thursday, Schur told a few journalists that writing Jones and Lowe out of the show was a joint decision, coming both from the writers room and from the stars themselves.
Schur explained. “At the end of last year, we had like a big, ‘What’s the future looking forward’ meeting. The first thing we talked about was Ann and Chris. Specifically … that she’s decided she wants to have a baby and he should be the father. The more that we talked about it, the more it felt like maybe this is the way they get moved off into the next phase of their lives.”
According to Schur, this decision “totally dovetailed in line what the two actors envisioned for themselves and their characters and their careers,” particularly in terms of Jones.
“When I talked to her about what we had planned for her and Rob, she was … totally on board,” he said. “Rashida has a producing gig at Warner Brothers and she just sold a TV show yesterday. She’s really focusing on writing, which, as a writer, I fully support.”
Schur didn’t have any news with regards to the rumours that NBC is prepping a Lowe sitcom, simply noting that he “believe[s] he has a holding deal” and that as of right now, there is no Chris Parks spinoff in the making.
“The real headline is that everyone is happy,” he said. “It’s a big, happy neutral, lovefest celebration.”
This is, literally, the worst news ever.
Parks and Recreation stars Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones, who portray seesaw couple Chris Traeger and Ann Perkins on the long-running NBC sitcom, are set to depart the series come the midpoint of its upcoming sixth season.
“The news about Rob and Rashida is true — they will be leaving the show after the 13th episode of the upcoming season six,” said executive producer Mike Schur in a statement. “We’ve been working on their storyline (on and off) for four seasons now, and heading into this year, with the two of them contemplating parenthood, it felt like a natural time to move them into the next phase.”
Following Schur’s confirmation, Lowe took to Twitter to personally thank his EP of three years and seasons, tweeting, “Thanks[,] @KenTremendous[.] It has literally been a world class pleasure. I’m sure Chris will take great care of … Ann Perkins!!”
Lowe has appeared in 62 episodes of the Amy Poehler-led sitcom to date — 75 by the time he’s done — while Jones has been a staple on the Peacock’s now-tentpole laffer since its inception in 2009. She’ll have a staggering 103 episodes under her belt by the time she bids Pawnee, Indiana, farewell forever.
Schur’s statement, however, hints the door to Pawnee’s parks department will forever remain open to Jones, should she ever decide to return: “Rashida was one of the very first people we knew we wanted in the cast, and as important as Ann is to Leslie (and vice-versa), she’ll certainly never be far from Pawnee.”
Jones and Lowe will have plenty to keep them busy post-Parks. She’s signed a deal to write and produce comedies and dramas for Warner Bros. TV, and he’s finalizing a deal with NBC to develop a new, yet-unnamed series.
Attempting to fill the gaping hole left by Jones and Lowe will be Xena Warrior Princess Lucy Lawless. She’ll reprise her role as Ron’s (Nick Offerman) girlfriend Diane for Season 6, and is expected to appear in more episodes now that she’s carrying his child.
The one-hour Season 6 premiere of Parks and Recreation — which bows Thursday, Sept. 26, at 8 p.m. ET on City/NBC — is currently filming in London, and will feature guest appearances from Happy Days alum Henry Winkler and supermodel Heidi Klum.
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With additional reporting from Emily Gagne live from the 2013 Television Critics Assocation Summer Press Tour in Beverly Hills, Calif.