‘Community’ Stars Alison Brie and Danny Pudi Discuss Senior Year at Greendale
Alison Brie and Danny Pudi discuss what’s to come of season four, a post-Dan Harmon world, and Community’s ‘cult’ status.
Moses Port and David Guarascio have stepped in as showrunners replacing Dan Harmon. The show is still funny, but it’s clearly taking on a different tone. Have you noticed a change in these thirteen new episodes? Has there been a change in your characters?
Danny: [What I think] we setup for season four is [the idea of] embracing change. And I think specifically within the world of Abed you see that right away in the premiere (“History 101″). He’s going to his happy place every time anyone mentions that it’s our senior year, which [scares him].
The thing about senior year at Greendale is that whether or not we change much as individuals our circumstances change and our environments change. I think that’s something we have to address.
Alison: I always see Annie as being two steps forward and one step back in [the midst of] all of her growth. She started out so studious and just seemed very driven. [She's] still driven, but we’ve seen some detours. She gets hung up on guys, she gets hung up on the friend group and trying to keep the study group together because she’s never had friends like this before and she’s never had guys interested in her before. This year she’s sort of returning to her studious roots and she’s discovered a new major [forensics] that she’s interested in and feeling really passionate about, and so we see her driven [again] and being [a] voice of reason for the group.
Were you worried that the show would lose some of its ambitiousness without Dan [Harmon]?
Alison: I think we were a little nervous and didn’t know what to expect, but that’s not really a new feeling, having worked on our show for four years now. When we met the new guys, they really stressed a lot [about] how much they loved the show and wanted to keep it the same. Some of our writers were [also] the same. We [the cast] were certainly very vocal this season to sort of speak to what our characters would or wouldn’t do and the way things might go on the show and so we were all sort of working together to keep the show intact.
Danny: Community is a very specific [show], I guess, so I think there was a lot of fear that the show wasn’t going to, I guess, maintain its level and also, you know, will people get it? I think for us the one thing we wanted to make sure comes across this year is our genuine love for the show and I think you’ll see that with us this year. Still there is an extra level of responsibility we have to us as actors to really make sure that, you know, we’re still staying true to, you know, who these people are and the world around Greendale. But [you] definitely can’t replace Dan Harmon. He created something pretty amazing and I’m forever thankful for that.
Will Annie and Abed be spending more time together this season (such as in last season’s “Virtual Systems Analysis”)?
Alison: I loved shooting that episode.
Danny: Me too.
Alison: Obviously Danny and I love each other, and I think Annie and Abed have distinct differences in their characters. But [they] also have [a similarity] in their lack of being able to relate to other people. Annie has never really had a lot of friends, and I [don't] think Abed has ever had this many friends at one time. So in certain ways they’re similar sort of outcasts and it was fun to watch them get to know each other.
Danny: Yes I think it’s fun to see how they [both] have to face their neurosis in terms of how much they love control, and I think that’s something that you get to really explore in that Dreamatorium.
Alison: I don’t think [their friendship is] really a through line for the fourth season, but certainly when you see these characters relate with each other in the fourth season there’s a…
Danny: There’s an understanding.
Alison: …a closeness there. [But] I think there are things in episodes that reference that Annie and Abed are very close. Like in the Halloween episode Abed references that they’re watching Cougar Town together now and they do a little glass clink. They’re starting to have little idiosyncrasies like Troy and Abed.
Dreamatorium episode aside, what have been some of your favorite episodes from the past three seasons?
Alison: I love the episode from season two with Troy’s 21st birthday (“Mixology Certification”) where all of the characters go to a bar. It’s a really dark episode for the show at that point. It was like our darkest episode [then]. Of course, seasons two and three got a lot darker.
Danny: Great episode, yes.
Alison: There was a scene at the end of the episode with just me and Donald and these two characters, Annie and Troy, who were in high school together connecting in that sense of like, you know, I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know where I’m going which is a feeling everyone feels at different points in their life. [It] was such an amazing honest scene. That episode was so rich with character development.
Danny: The very first time I remember thinking, “wow, this show is going [to be] amazing” was the [first] Halloween episode in season one (“Introduction to Statistics”). That [episode was] creatively super exciting! Then [there was] the chicken fingers episode (“Contemporary American Poultry”).
Where do Jeff and Annie stand this year?
Alison: Annie will always have a crush on Jeff, [but] I don’t know that Jeff will ever be fully comfortable really getting together with Annie. Their relationship doesn’t really progress.
Do you feel as though Abed’s become more of a focal point as the series has progressed?
Danny: I think [he] has in certain ways. In Season 3 especially, [we] started to dive deeper into Abed’s mind, which in some ways has been great because it allows us to go to these really interesting worlds.
Do you think we’ll be looking back at this show years from now and think, ‘Wow, this was ahead of its time’? Sometimes it feels like we have another Arrested Development on our hands in that this is a cult show that might find greater success and wider appeal after its eventual cancellation.
Alison: I do think that its always been a very progressive show. Dan Harmon set this precedent of really pushing the boundaries of what could be on network television. And in that way I think that it will take people some time to catch up with it because it’s scary. It’s something you’re not used to seeing. It’s a little bit of a scary thing. I wonder though, on the other hand, about how the show will age just because so many of our references are current.
Later this season we have our Christmas episode, which is sort of homage to an Alfred Hitchcock movie, “Rope.” So it’s not like all of our references are completely current and in the moment. Some of the stuff it really spans genres and time periods and things like that. So I’m coming back around and I do agree, but I think – I’ve always felt that it’s a show that is better the second time you watch it because there’s so much going on that you catch it again later and that’s how I always felt about Arrested Development. I could watch it again and again. I was a person who caught up with it late. I also caught up with Freaks and Geeks late, so I hope that we can be a show like that. Certainly our fans are amazing right now, but there’s not that many of them. If we could reach more people later that would be even better.
Danny: That’s a huge compliment for us. And Arrested Development is – I mean it’s my favorite comedy of the last fifteen years. I also came around to it late, watched it on DVD actually, and I was blown away by it. And I think that is part of the reason why I was able to also buy into that show and its nature is because I was able to watch it in bunches. I was able to go in being like, “I’m going to give this show a full chance. I’m going to watch all three seasons right now.” And immediately I had a common language with a bunch of people who watched Arrested. I could say, “Annyong” and immediately everyone would laugh, you know, that kind of thing. And I think there is an amount of that within Community as well where people will start watching the show, I think, and I think saying, “Pop, Pop” to each other ten years from now and it will be a nice little secret language.
Alison: ‘Cool cool cool!’
Danny: Some of the jokes may not necessarily age well, but I think the story lines and the characters will be appreciated a few years from now.
Be sure to catch Alison and Danny on ‘Community’ every Thursday night at 8/7c on NBC.