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Alison Brie and Danny Pudi Talk 'Community' Season 4, Dream Guest Stars, and Annie and Abed's Bond

Alison Brie and Danny Pudi (NBC)

Haunted retro mansions, Inspector Spacetime conventions, faux German invasions…Community's fourth season has just begun and already the Greendale gang has been on some very strange trips. So what other shenanigans can fans expect this season?

During a recent conference call with reporters, Community stars Alison Brie and Danny Pudi previewed what else is coming up this season — including a Hitchcock-themed Christmas outing and a Freaky Friday episode penned by Dean Pelton himself, Jim Rash. The pair also discussed Annie and Abed's evolving friendship, reminisced about their favorite past episodes, and pondered the future of Community. Read on the see what Brie and Pudi had to say.

ALISON: I loved shooting that episode ["Virtual Systems Analysis"].
DANNY: Me too.
ALISON: By having Annie go in there you got to have the whole audience go in there and really take this journey into Abed's mind, which is a place we're never really privy to. And it was kind of really special because I think Annie and Abed have distinct differences in their characters, but they also have similarities in their lack of being able to relate to other people. Annie's never had a lot of friends and I think Abed's never 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: We didn't have a working script for the entire week. Dan Harmon would give us pages on the day as we went. and so for us it was really Alison and I and Tristram Shapeero, our director, in the Dreamatorium piecing it all together.


DANNY: I like how there's this kind of language that's happened between Annie and Abed this season. A lot of it started back in the timeline episode of Season 3, where at the end I was like, "You should move in here." And then Annie moves in. And then this year [Abed says], "You should take forensics" —
ALISON: And Annie listens to him because she knows how observant he is.
Danny: It's kind of nice that we understand each other and where we see each other. And I think a lot of it is because [of] the Dreamatorium.

ALISON: This season is sort of a fun season for Jeff and Annie fans because as usual their relationship doesn't really progress. I think that the last episode showed a progression in terms of Annie's maturity and their maturity sort of as friends in terms of her admitting that she sort of has a crush on Jeff. And I think that Annie will always have a crush on Jeff, and I don't know that Jeff will ever be fully comfortable really getting together with Annie. It's not as primary as focus on Jeff's radar as it is on Annie's and that's fair. So I think this season is sort of like them acknowledging and almost sort of moving past it to being good friends.

For fans there are some ways — without them actually getting really close — there will be some interesting things for fans later this season between Joel [McHale] and I. Some certain… I'm trying not to tease too much! Some certain things in an alternate reality…

DANNY: I think there has been — I don't want to say a shift — but maybe starting in Season 3 [there was] a deeper dive into Abed's mind. Which in some ways it's been great because it allows us to go to these really interesting worlds. It's a great way for us to go to an Inspector Spacetime convention or go into whatever it is, the space bus. Or into the Dreamatorium.

It would be hard to start our show that way because I think it would be difficult for people to grasp what is going on. I think it's a little easier on the palate when you don't go into the Dreamatorium right away. But it's been fun to go there. Sometimes I'm relieved when it's not an Abed-centric episode… because it allows me a week to not have to memorize monologues from a movie that I haven't seen [laughs].

ALISON: I do think that it's always been a very progressive show. Dan Harmon set the precedent of really pushing the boundaries of what could be on network television and in that way I think, you know, it will take people some time to catch up with it. Sometimes I wonder though, on the other hand, how the show will age just because so many of our references are current. But at the same time, the genius of the show is that it sort of feeds into all those kinds of things. You know, later this season we have our Christmas episode, which is sort of an 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 our stuff, it really spans genres and time periods.

And I've always thought that it's a show that gets 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, that I could watch it again and again. I was the person who caught up with it late [and] I caught up with Freaks and Geeks late. So I hope that we can be a show like that.

DANNY: Some of our jokes may not necessarily age well, but I think the storylines and the characters will be appreciated a few years from now. There's a lot of challenges our show faces. The number one thing is that there's so much on television and how do you get to our show? We're not a show that's marketed all over the place and we've always faced a lot of competition… and so I think just getting people aware of our show is a big challenge. But I think that when people do get aware of our show, I like to think and hope that they'll really enjoy it.


DANNY: I think with Abed we've explored change a few different times. In My Dinner with Andre episode ["Critical Film Studies"] it ends with Abed saying that changing isn't really his jam. He's more of a stoic type. And I think the thing about senior year at Greendale is that whether or not we change much as individuals, our circumstances change and our environments change. So I think that is something that we have to at least address.
ALISON: All the characters have always been changing. Because they started out as singular beings and now they're sort of a unit… I always kind of think of Annie as being two steps forward and one step back like in all of her growth. She started off so studious and very driven, and then she'll still driven but we see some detours. She gets hung up on guys, she gets hung up on the friend group and trying to keep the friend group tougher because she's never had friends like this before and she's never had guys interested in her before. And so we've seen those kind of detours with Annie, and this year she's sort of returning to her studious roots.

ALISON: I've always thought that Jason Bateman would be so great on the show.
DANNY: [My] dream would be Zach Galifinakis. I think that would be super fun. Or Bruce Willis. We could do a Looper… that would be amazing.

ALISON: I love the episode from Season 2 with Troy's 21st birthday ["Mixology Certification"] where all the characters go to the bar. It was a really dark episode for the show, at that point. Of course Season 3 got a lot darker. [laughs] Just for my character there was a scene for me and Donald at the end of the episode. Just seeing the two characters, Annie and Troy, who were in high school together and are the same age, just sort of connecting with each other in that way like 'I don't know what I'm doing, I don't know where I'm going.' Which I think is a feeling everyone feels at different points in their life. And it was such an amazing, honest scene. That episode was so rich with character development on a comedy show. And for such a dark episode, there were so many sweet moments with the characters learning about themselves.
DANNY: The very first time I remember thinking, 'Wow, this show is going in an amazing way,' is the Halloween episode ["Introduction to Statistics"]. The very first one, which I think was like our sixth or seventh episode. And that was the first time where I could really see the potential of us going into different worlds. And that, creatively, was super exciting. Especially playing Batman, knowing full well I'll probably never play Batman. Harsh reality… and one more, the end of Season 1, the chicken fingers episode ["Contemporary American Poultry"]. I felt that our show was changing. I remember that week being like, 'Wow, this is really exciting.'

Community airs Thursday nights at 8/7c on NBC.

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