Parks & Rec’s Jean Ralphio Actor Almost Played A Different Character
Ben Schwartz memorably portrayed Jean-Ralphio Saperstein on Parks and Recreation. The actor made his debut on the NBC sitcom during season 2 and served as a recurring character up until the series concluded with season 7 in 2015. In all, Schwartz appeared in 21 total episodes but there was almost a chance the actor played a completely different role in the series.
Jean-Ralphio wasn't the most liked person by fellow citizens of Pawnee but he was undoubtedly a fan-favorite among viewers. The character was introduced as one of Tom Haverford's closest friends but it was also a mystery why anyone put up with his presence. Jean-Ralphio was cocky and lived off of his family's wealth along with his equally as annoying, yet amusing, twin sister Mona-Lisa (Jenny Slate). At one point, Tom left his job at the Parks Department to join Jean-Ralphio in starting a multimedia company called Entertainment 720.
Schwartz's character popped up from time to time when it coincided with Tom's new business ventures. Jean-Ralphio and Mona-Lisa never hesitated in taking advantage of their father Dr. Saperstein (Henry Winkler) when it came to getting more money. In the Parks and Rec series finale, a flashforward scene revealed that Jean-Ralphio and his sister faked their deaths to get insurance money in the hope of building a casino in Tajikistan. The pair attended their own funerals before running away after being seen by others. Jean-Ralphio's name was then seen on a bottle of champagne later in the episode. The character also confessed his love for Leslie Knope all those years which was fitting considering the character that Schwartz initially auditioned for.
Before acquiring the role of Jean-Ralphio, Schwartz read for the part of Dave Sanderson, the cop that would go on to become Leslie's boyfriend for a short time. The producers felt that the actor might have been too young for the role so the part of Dave went to Louis C.K. which lasted six episodes. That didn't hurt Schwartz's chances since they still wanted him involved in the show somehow. The co-creator Michael Schur decided to create an entirely new role for the actor which was how Jean-Ralphio came to be. Tom's sleazy friend was supposed to just have a few lines but the reception of the character was so great, they expanded the part.
Schwartz's role as Jean-Ralphio ended up being much more prominent than the role of Dave. The actor portrayed the part over the course of six years and was always welcomed back with open arms. Schwartz had other gigs that limited his appearances but he still managed to give memorable performances. It's very difficult to imagine Schwartz as a super-serious cop when he embodied Jean-Ralphio perfectly. The actor will reteam with the Parks and Recreation co-creator, Greg Daniels, for the upcoming Netflix comedy, Space Force, alongside Steve Carell, John Malkovich, Diana Silvers, and Tawny Newsome.