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The Parks & Rec Character Arnold Schwarzenegger Almost Played

Parks & Recreation had various memorable celebrity cameos, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was almost one of them, but ultimately, he couldn’t pay a visit to Pawnee. After a difficult first season that feels very different from the rest of the series, Parks & Recreation ended up becoming one of the best TV shows of the decade, and its popularity was such during its run that Pawnee welcomed various celebrity guests, from actors and athletes to politicians, with some of them staying for a couple of episodes and others only appearing in one, sometimes with little to no dialogue at all.

Parks & Recreation took the audience to the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana, where Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and her friends and coworkers from the Parks Department did their best to make their town better every day, but that was much easier said than done. Leslie and company went through many ups and downs, always infused with a lot of humor, and over the course of seven seasons, they met some interesting characters and real-life celebrities and politicians, and they almost met the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, but his cameo appearance couldn’t happen due to his role in politics at the time.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger Almost Played Mayor Gunderson in Parks & Rec
Parks Rec Bill Murray Mayor Gunderson
Speaking to EW in 2015, Parks & Recreation co-creator Michael Schur revealed that their first option for the role of Mayor Gunderson was none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. Mayor Gunderson was a very peculiar character, as he was mentioned various times throughout Parks & Recreation but wasn’t seen until the series’ penultimate episode… during his funeral. Mayor Gunderson appeared as a corpse, as the people of Pawnee paid their respects (and Ethel Beavers revealed they had been lovers for over 40 years), and he also appeared in a video message he left to be played at his memorial service.

According to EW, Schur and company planned to never show Gunderson’s face unless they could find someone truly special for the role, and at some point in season 3, they considered Arnold Schwarzenegger for it. Rob Lowe was friends with Schwarzenegger and reached out to him to get him to guest star, with Schur adding that they planned on never explaining why Mayor Gunderson had an Austrian accent. However, Schwarzenegger was unable to take the role while still in office, as at the time he was the Governor of California, so the role went to Bill Murray, and that’s a story on its own.

Parks Rec Paul Rudd Bobby Newport
Bill Murray’s appearance as Mayor Gunderson in Parks & Recreation became one of the show’s most memorable moments, but Pawnee welcomed many other big names in its previous seasons. Among Parks & Recreation’s most memorable celebrity guest stars and cameos are Kristen Bell as Eagleton’s councilwoman Ingrid de Forest, Jon Hamm as an employee even more incompetent than Jerry, J.K Simmons as Minnesota’s Mayor Stice, Andy Samberg as a very loud park ranger, Paul Rudd as Bobby Newport, and Patricia Clarkson as the evil Tammy One, Ron Swanson’s first ex-wife. Parks & Recreation also had various politicians playing themselves, most notably Michelle Obama and Joe Biden, the latter Leslie’s biggest crush. Having Arnold Schwarzenegger playing Mayor Gunderson would have been the cherry on top in Parks & Recreation’s final season, but Bill Murray’s appearance was also very special and funny.


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