As I mentioned in my Ed Helms interview, the NBC party for the Television Critics Association winter press tour had the densest population of A-list talent in the bar/lounge area of the Langham Hotel in Pasadena. That included the cast of “Community,” save for Chevy Chase who was sick and Joel McHale who was filming “The Soup.”
“Community” presented a press conference in the afternoon, so I followed up on the news of their Dungeons & Dragons episode later. I snagged Yvette Nicole Brown, Allison Brie, Donald Glover, Danny Pudi, Ken Jeong and series creator Dan Harmon.
Q: How long will you guys leave Chang hanging?
Ken Jeong: I hope for a long time because Dan was making a lot of Charlie Brown allusions in it. I always think of this as like Lucy taking the football away from Charlie Brown in these episodes where Chang wants to be part of the study group.
Q: What class of characters do you get to play in D&D?
Allison Brie: Oh, well, geez. My character’s named Hector the Well Endowed. I think that pretty much speaks for itself.
Q: She chose a male?
AB: Well, they sort of end up choosing at random. I think that Annie is not as into the Dungeons & Dragons as some people are. So she’s going along with it and being a good sport but she doesn’t really know that much about it.
Yvette Nicole Brown: Shirley does not pick. There’s a few of us that don’t pick. Our characters are given to us by Abed. So Shirley does not pick. I don’t want to say any more than that. They’re really cute characters.
Q: Did any of you play?
Donald Glover: No, but I like that Choose Your Own Adventure shit. I really liked Oregon Trail and the Choose Your Own Adventure books.
Q: I remember Oregon Trail. That was educational.
DG: Yeah, but I loved it. I loved all that stuff.
Dan Harmon: That’s how I learned to write, how to socialize or rather avoided socializing. Yeah, that was my first refuge from a cruel, cruel world. Thank God for stuff like that that gathers nerds in clusters so that you can stay safe.
Q: Were you a DM or player?
DH: I was a player for all the fun times and I tried to be a DM when there was nobody to play with and nobody to DM, I loved it so much I tried to DM and I sucked at it.
Danny Pudi: I play a little bit. It’s funny that it’s actually kind of happening. I never really got into it. I did play maybe once or twice when I was in high school with a couple buddies, but this past summer I did a movie, a live action role playing movie called Knights of Badassdom with Steve Zahn, Peter Dinklage and Ryan Kwanten. So I feel like it’s calling me. That genre is definitely calling me. Now I wish I played it more because it’s this whole role playing thing. You get to act and play all these people with wizards and mystical powers. I don’t know how I missed it.
YNB: I don’t think Shirley really fully gets the whole thing and I don’t fully get Dungeons & Dragons. I want to understand it but I flipped through one of the books, it was so intricate. I was like, you need a PhD to play Dungeons & Dragons or at least to play it well. So I don’t know if Shirley quite understand.
Q: What other cool stuff is coming up?
AB: We sort of touched on Annie living in a bad neighborhood and we walked down the hallway of her place and it’s kind of sketchy. I can just say that we’re going to go further in that direction and you do sort of learn about Annie’s struggles and things that she’s going through.
DG: Troy and Abed fight over the same girl, Malcolm Jamal Warner, Levar Burton. That’s all the stuff I can say without getting in trouble.
YNB: Aside from Malcolm Jamal Warner? I can’t think of anything else better than that. It’s hard to go wrong. His first episode airs the 20th and we got two more. He’s doing three. I just finished my second episode with him today.
Q: What does he play?
YNB: He’s Shirley’s ex-husband and they’re reconciling maybe. I don’t want to say too much.
Q: But he’s only in 3 so that doesn’t bode well.
YNB: He’s only in three episodes so far. That’s his minimum. It could go on for forever. Our show always brings people back. Even when you don’t have a deal to do three, you end up doing three.
Q: Shirley’s mentioned her ex before. Did you always imagine Malcolm Jamal Warner in that part?
YNB: I always dreamed that it was. From the first season, I told Dan Harmon that that was my dream. I told every writer that would come to set, if Shirley’s ex-husband is ever seen and they reconcile, because that was my point, if they reconcile, I would love for it to be Malcolm Jamal Warner. I always say Isaiah Mustafa for her love interest but Malcolm for her husband.
Q: Would Troy and Abed have a unique perspective on Malcolm Jamal Warner and Levar Burton because of the roles they’ve played on TV?
DG: I think unconsciously yes just because it’s a TV show about TV shows. So yes, but other than that, not really. I can’t really go into it but I think the only comment really on them is that it’s a TV show about TV shows.
Q: How does the new girl challenge the bromance of Troy and Abed?
DG: In a very cool way. I’m very happy with how that turned out. It’s really interesting but we really do realize we’re kind of a pair which is really beautiful. Bros before hos.
Q: It must be a special kind of woman who’d appeal to both of them.
DG: I think so.
Q: Is that a famous guest star playing the role?
DG: Can’t say.
Q: Does that episode happen to coincide with Valentine’s Day?
DH: We’re shooting one on Monday that I’m really excited about, if only because Richard Ayoade is directing. He’s Moss on “IT Crowd” and Dean Lerner on “Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place.” Big big fan of his work on camera and off. He’s directing next week’s episode. He’s shooting the episode we’re shooting next week. It’s exciting to be around him.
Q: Dan are you still hands on writing every episode?
DH: Yeah, I was more Howard Hughesy about first season, I think to the show’s detriment. I would not go into work. I would stay at home for two days and work in my pajamas and then come in. People wouldn’t have time to do what they’re doing. This season what’s making the show great is just what all TV writers do which is punch stuff up. Have different brains bringing in weird random stuff. They can be funny too, give us the ball.
Q: Ken, for Hangover 2, is there a good reason Mr. Chow is in Thailand?
KJ: Yes, yes. It’s much like here on “Community,” in their second season, I see a lot of parallels. When you’re doing Hangover 2 and you’re reunited with that old crew again, I think the script is better than the first one.
Q: Allison, how close together might you shoot a “Mad Men” and a “Community?”
AB: Oh, we’ve done it in the same day.
Q: That’s awesome. What are those days like?
AB: Amazing. I love them. Those are the days when I’m like, “I’m an actor! I’m working!” Also it makes me marvel at the differences between the shows because it’s surprisingly not that difficult to go form one set to the other and from one character to the other. I think I’ve done “Mad Men” in the morning and gone over to “Community” in the evening and started with “Community” in the morning and then finished up with “Mad Men.” It’s such a funny and interesting transformation, putting on the jewelry and getting your hair done and then sort of stripping down and wiping it away. It’s very cool.
Q: You sound more like Trudy than Annie. Is that closer to your real voice?
AB: I’m glad that you commented on my voice because I do make an effort to differentiate them vocally and physically and all of that. I got my degree in theater from California Institute of the Arts so we do all sorts of physical and vocal training there, down to the minute exploring different parts of your tongue and teeth and sounds that you can make. I found it invaluable, just totally useful.
“Community” returns tonight at 8PM on NBC.