Parks and Recreation became the hit it was mainly because of the actors and actresses portraying the characters. Aside from the writing being superb, with a mixture of political seriousness and comedy, you can’t go wrong with the likes of Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Adam Scott, Retta, Aubrey Plaza, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Rob Lowe, Chris Pratt, and Jim O’heir.
Like many hit shows, however, some producers have certain actors and actresses in mind for the characters they’re creating. But before they give those parts away, they decide to do auditions to make sure they have the absolute perfect person for the job. Or, on the other hand, sometimes a person reading the script may be better suited for another character instead of the one they’re reading. Nevertheless, before Parks and Recreation came to a close in 2015, we found nine actors and actress who almost played different roles in the Pawnee, Indiana-based show.
10 Matt Walsh As Ron Swanson
You may recognize Matt Walsh as Mike from Veep, but he also appeared in one episode of Parks and Recreation. He was in the 13th episode of the fifth season and played Leonard Tchulm. He’s the one running the emergency response for Pawnee, testing Leslie’s preparedness. And while Walsh did a fantastic job in this episode, he was supposed to have a much bigger role.
Although the good folks at Parks and Rec. knew they wanted Offerman for the role as Ron Swanson, they had a bunch of fantastic actors—like Matt Walsh—read the role anyway. In the end, no one did Ron quite like Offerman.
9 Octavia Spencer As Donna Meagle
I think it’s safe to say that Octavia Spencer didn’t need the role of Donna to be successful in her own right. However, the woman who ended up playing Donna—Retta—did say the two auditioned for the role at the same time. And although Retta absolutely nails the role of Donna, Octavia went on to award-winning films like The Help, Hidden Figures, and The Shack.
8 Ben Schwartz As Dave The Cop
Who could ever forget about Jean-Ralphio; Tom Haverford’s best friend and business partner. Jean-Ralphio was a spoiled, rich kid who would do anything for the ladies and a paycheck. However, everyone besides Tom couldn’t stand him.
In real life, Ben Schwartz actually auditioned as a love interest for Leslie Knope. The casting directors thought Schwartz was too young but really loved his energy on screen. In the end, the love interest job went to Louis C.K. and Schwartz ended up getting the job as Tom’s BFF.
7 Adam Scott Auditioned For Mark Brendanawicz
I’m sorry, but the connection between Adam Scott and Amy Poehler was undeniable. The two worked so well together and their timing was always on point. Parks and Rec fans can’t imagine anyone else taking Adam Scott’s (Ben Wyatt) shoes.
In the early steps of casting, however, Scott actually auditioned for the role of Mark Brendanawicz, the city planner. Brendanawicz would have gone on to sleeping with Poehler once and dating Ann for a few seasons. As many know, though, the role of Brendanawicz went to Paul Schneider, while Scott portrayed Ben Wyatt — a much larger role.
6 Ellie Kemper As Ann Or April
Ellie Kemper is best known for her roles in The Office and Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt series. She’s insanely talented and has an infectious laugh. However, before she got the role of Erin in The Office, she auditioned for either Ann Perkins or April Ludgate!
5 Tom Lennon As Ron Swanson
The name Tom (or Thomas) Lennon may not be recognizable to many people, but his face sure is. His comedic timing is always gold in shows and films like Reno 911, I Love You, Man, Archer, and The Odd Couple. There was a time, though, when Lennon once read for the role of Ron Swanson! (Yes, it appears every man in Hollywood wanted the role of Swanson.)
4 Nick Offerman As Mark Brendanawicz
Once you’ve watched Parks and Rec. a few times, you’ll quickly realize there’s no one better for the part of Ron Swanson than Nick Offerman. All the other men on this list may be talented, but anyone other than Nick Offerman would be criminal. The combination of his scowl with his mustache is already flawless enough.
Once upon a time, though, Offerman actually read for the role of *drum roll, please* Mark Brendanawicz! Offerman said “At the time I was reading for it, though, it was a slightly different character, and it seemed like it was going great,” but when it came time to see if there was chemistry between he and Rashida Jones — that’s where the ball dropped.
3 Kulap Vilaysack As Ann Or April
You may recognize Kulap Vilaysack from the episode “Ben’s Parents,” in season five. She played the role of Ulani — Ben’s dad’s girlfriend. In the episode, she was dry, she was miserable, and she was pregnant.
Her role was small, but she did pretty well as the irritable new woman in her man’s life. In real life, however, Vilaysack’s husband, Scott Aukerman, was a writer for Parks and Rec. and revealed his wife tried out for the roles of Ann or April but failed to get them as many talented young ladies went after the roles.
2 Mike O’Malley As Ron Swanson
Glee’s very own Mike O’Malley was very close to getting the part of Ron Swanson back in 2008, but as we all know, Nick Offerman was made for the part. O’Malley didn’t leave empty-handed though. He appeared in an episode called “Bus Tour” in the fourth season as the man who was renting vans out to Leslie and her team. Always looking for a good buck, he was totally rude and up-charging the gang for vans, although they already had a deal.
It appears even though these heavy-hitters failed at getting consistent roles, at least they had their hand in an episode or two.
1 Jim O’Heir As Ron Swanson
Actor Jim O’heir has been acting since the ’90s, but he was most known as playing Jerry on Parks and Recreation! Jerry was the clumsy worker who everyone made fun of. While Jerry seemed very bothered by the in-office bullying early on, he took it all in jest as time went on.
NEXT: 10 Leslie Knope Quotes That Make Us Miss Parks And Rec.
To be honest, we can’t imagine O’Heri starring as anyone other than Jerry, but he apparently read for the role of Ron Swanson!