Thank you for doing this.
Thank you. I appreciate it; it feels good to be recorded. Woooo! And not by my cable company, so that's good.
Let's talk a little bit about Community. Earlier this year you were on hiatus, and there was some worry among the fans that the show was going to be canceled, and we saw a lot of the fans rallying behind the show. Can you speak a bit about what the feeling was like among the cast during that intervening period?
Yeah, I mean, I think we were concerned, a little saddened, I think it's sort of inevitable. Each season of this show has been really ambitious, but we have been ratings challenged throughout. At the end of every season there's always been a little bit of uncertainty on set. So at least we're comfortable with feeling; we've had that all along. But it's come this far: three seasons of this really ambitious, great show, and we are like a family on set. We really love what we do. We're working in a creative, fun environment with such great people. When you hear your show is getting put on hiatus, it's like anything else: "Oh, what's it going to be like when I can't see these people every day, and I can't work on pillow forts anymore?" Because, ideally, I'd like to work on pillow forts for the rest of my life.
It does seem like there's a fun atmosphere on set, at least in terms of all these characters who get to do these fun things, and be a child in a certain sense.
Yeah, to me that's like the greatest job ever. I mean if I had to write up an ideal job, this would be it. I'm so thankful because I literally get to play a child constantly and do things like I've worn pajamas in multiple episodes now, I've worn fake mustaches
in the last 6 episodes I think I've worn fake mustaches in 5 out of the last 6 episodes. I've gotten to pretend I'm Don Draper, I've gotten to pretend I'm Han Solo. You can't really have a better job than when you're playing Han Solo and kissing Alison Brie in one scene, and the next scene you're running around with a paintball gun, and then you're building a blanket fort with your best friend, so I feel like I'm just blessed with the best job. But yeah when we went on hiatus and we start thinking about season 4 and the end of the show, it is a little sad that this might come to an end.
Speaking of pillow forts and some of these recent episodes, Community seems to revel in genre parody: the most recent pillow fort episode was Ken Burns documentary parody. But then there are other episodes that fit in this unique interesting world of the Greendale campus. Do you have a preference for doing either the genre episodes or the sort of "Universe of Community" episodes?
You know, I think there's something really special about doing a fun, genre episode, where we're fighting zombies or running around with paintball guns. That's something pretty magical because it takes our show from just being straight-up "comedy around a table" into something much bigger, more ambitious. For a guy like me to be able to play a heroic character when I have the body of a 6-foot, 135-pound gangly weird-looking person, it's pretty amazing. But at the same time I think if we don't have those episodes where we're just doing the episode, which I guess in quotes you would say is a little more "simple" in premise, where we're sitting around a study room table, or hanging out in Troy and Abed's apartment and just talking, those episodes to me are some of our best too because it's time for our characters to interact. And I think as time as gone on I've realized our show kind of needs both to work. Once we get some of those episodes where we really start to dig in to the characters and what they're going through, that takes the next episode that's really more physical and genre based, like the Pillow War (the Ken Burns documentary) into a whole other element because you have this really grounded, honest relationship story between Troy and Abed, and then it's just heightened with the Ken Burns documentary style.
Right. While we're talking about the relationship between these characters, I think one thing that people have really latched on to throughout the series has been the relationship between the character of Abed and the character of Troy, and I think what's interesting about this season is the arc of Vice Dean Laybourne trying to tear that relationship apart. I think it's interesting to see the show testing that relationship. Why do you think that relationship works so well between Abed and Troy?
In terms of why the relationship works, that's something that just organically happened from the beginning with Donald [Glover] and I. We just got each other. And I have to say that casting and the directors and the creators have done a great job of assembling this ensemble of like-minded, peculiar, comedic minds to come together. And sometimes it just fits and it works. With Troy and Abed, I think they work, and Donald has said this before, because Troy is super-highly emotional, and then Abed is more matter-of-fact like "Hey, calm down, take it easy, let's get some facts here and get going to our next mission." And I think that's something that just kind of works together: someone who is very emotive and someone who is not very emotive, and I think we just kind of understand each other. We both have these inner hero-geeks who just want to live out adventure and who are very accepting of each other and willing to go to the craziest places possible, like the Dreamatorium. Maybe some of our other friends would be questioning that, like "What are we doing in a room with nothing in it?" We on the other hand see a room with everything in it. I think that's just how we work. It's like C-3PO and R2-D2, there's something that just kind of works together.
That's a good analogy, actually. Jumping back a little bit to talk about genres. You guys have done some pretty niche things. We already mentioned the Ken Burns documentary, there's also the "My dinner with Andre" episode, and Dungeons and Dragons. It kind of seems some times that nothing's off the table. Is there some genre that you'd like to tackle or some piece that you love that might seem too small to parody, but might actually be something that could be done?
Yeah, it's kind of funny, I remember in Season 1 after the paintball episode thinking, "where else can we go?" So it's nice to know that the writers don't think like me. They have a lot of ideas and are very ambitious. The whole "My Dinner with Andre"/Pulp Fiction/my birthday episode to me was so incredible because if you just look at some of the components it looks like the wildest chili you've ever eaten. Some of the ingredients are "My Dinner with Andre," just the conversation between Abed and Jeff Winger, and then there's also the Pulp Fiction surprise birthday party, and then on top of that Abed's conversation with Jeff is about him being an extra in Cougartown. That's pretty incredible, and I think if you told someone about that they'd be like "That can't possibly work." So, I don't know, I love how the show has gone into these places and we're constantly exploring areas that I would never think would work together. In terms of things that I'd like to see done: I was really hoping for a Western last year and I was glad to do some of that with the paintball episode. That was exciting. I've always wanted to do something with ninjas. I think that would be fun.
And we've done a little bit with film noir but I think an entire episode of film noir, maybe black and white, would be fun for me to do, but who knows what the writers have in mind because they're way more creative. I just show up and hope I can play something fun, like Han Solo.
It's interesting you mentioned that second paintball episode too because
this isn't really a question, it's more of an observation
but there's been the two paintball episodes, but it's been two completely different genres, it's like a sequel, but from a different angle, then the same thing with the pillow fort/blanket fort where you had that earlier blanket fort episode and then you revisited that idea in a new way. It's an interesting thing to do.
Yeah, I think that's kind of a fun thing about Dan Harmon, and the writers, and all of us. I mean we all grew up with television. We're very aware of it, anyone in our sort of generation. It's so prevalent. It's hard not to look at the universe and the world around you through that lens. And if you're going to do a two-part episode, which is something we definitely grew up with as kids, I think the writers take it upon themselves as a challenge to see how far we can raise the stakes. What's the twist? How can we make this extra special? How can we get more juice out of it? For us that's really fun. It's also an incredible challenge as an actor when we never know what's going to happen week to week. All of a sudden I'm forcing myself to watch The Tenth Inning and other Ken Burns documentaries two days before shooting the second part just so that I know what's going on. Which is fun, I feel like I'm in a crash course, a grad-level course on television, acting, and also, topically, what's going on around us right now.
On the topic of acting, in your interview with the AV Club in November 2010 you were talking about your experience with dance and how that helped you get into character physically. One of the things I love about your performance of Abed is you can see in the way he moves, in the way he cocks his head for example, there's noticeable Abed movements. I was wondering if you could expand on the importance of physicalization for you in getting into character and if there's anything else we wouldn't necessarily see on screen that is important to you.
Yeah, I think that is really important. For me, my mom made me take dance classes as a kid, which I wasn't a big fan of, but in terms of acting, just getting into the physicality of a character, it's the first thing I do for my approach. It just really helps me get into this new person and make sure that I'm fully trying to capture how they see the world and how they experience it. And I think with Abed it's a very specific way that Abed goes through the world. When I was first working on the character with the Russo brothers and Dan Harmon, some things kind of naturally happened, and then the cocking of the head and the pointing, a lot of that is just through how I see the world as Abed and a lot of it just makes more sense when I'm assessing. I'm assessing, constantly pointing out, looking at patterns, and just really experiencing. A lot of that just happens naturally when I start thinking like Abed. And in terms of what I do, I really find that after a break, a long break, I can feel that I have to sort of get back into character and what really helps me is how specific the material is. I mean Dan's stuff that he writes. It becomes kind of like riding a bike the more I sort of start speaking like Abed and going through monologues about the Breakfast Club, the movements just come naturally. It just starts happening to me. I feel like one way it really helps me to capture and feel a character is physicalization. I feel like it's my first and best way to access that. You know: hand gestures, head cocking, quick movements, rapid speech, eye movement, all that stuff just sort of happens the more and more I play, and that to me is the fun of it. It's a lot of fun.
I know we're running out of time, but I'm going to try to get two last quick questions if that's fine with you.
If you could spin off only one of the following shows, which would it be: Troy and Abed in the Morning or Inspector Spacetime
Ha, okay, definitely Inspector Spacetime I would say. Because we're constantly in adventures I feel like there's more Blogons and more galaxies that we can explore, but Troy and Abed in the Morning we never really can have an end game. We literally get a guest on and as soon as they realize it's a fake show, the segment is over, so I feel like there's a longer shelf life with Inspector Spacetime, definitely. I feel like Troy and Abed in the Morning would live better as a web series.
I think that's a fair answer.
Are there any future projects you want to talk about? There's this Twitter campaign you're running with Speed Stick, and I know you've got Knights of Badassdom coming out. Are there any of these you'd like to talk a little bit more about?
Sure. I'll mention both real quick. I'm working with Speed Stick right now on this Handle It campaign, I think it's basically because I've been thrown into so many awkward situations, part of it is me being comforted hoping to hear from other guys that they've had similar awkward encounters. For me, for example, my first Red Carpet in Los Angeles after an interview I realized halfway down the carpet that I had kale in my teeth, nice big kale. It's stories like that that we're asking people to send messages to @SpeedStick #handleit
and actually CollegeHumor and SpeedStick partnered up to do a survey of some of the examples that people had of awkward situations and breakups, that kind of thing. I've done a lot of different things: I speak Polish, I lit myself on fire, I'm hoping I learn from some other people how to handle it better next time. In terms of other stuff I've got going on I did a movie called Knights of Badassdom about live action role players in the woods, and that was really fun, I got to play a cleric, it's basically a Dungeons and Dragons live. We've got a great cast: Steve Zahn, Ryan Kwanten, Peter Dinklage, who's awesome, probably my favorite character in Game of Thrones, and I'm also working on a movie right now called My Friend Vijay in New York City and Europe, so that'll be interesting too. I play a chef, and I'm definitely not a chef, but my mom is, so I'm hoping I learn something there too.
Great! Thank you for your time, It's been a pleasure talking with you.
I appreciate it, man.