'Community' stars Gillian Jacobs and Yvette Nicole Brown talk season four

'Community' stars Gillian Jacobs and Yvette Nicole Brown talk about the show post-Dan Harmon and where newbies should start watching.

John Shearer/Invision/AP
'Community' star Gillian Jacobs said of the show's transition after creator Dan Harmon left, 'I don’t think the show is betraying itself or moving away from what it was that people loved about it. We love the show as much as the fans do.'

As if free health care, all-you-can-eat poutine and a Tim Hortons on every corner weren’t reason enough to want to drop everything and visit the Great White North, Netflix Canada recently announced that COMMUNITY seasons one thru three are now available for streaming in their entirety. How do we know this you ask, well aside from being a longtime Netflix Canada subscriber (DAMAGES FTW!), we recently had the pleasure of chatting one-on-two with series stars Gillian Jacobs and Yvette Nicole Brown, who were only too happy to dish about their favorite episodes, behind-the-scenes antics and what life is like at Greendale in a post Dan Harmon world.

With COMMUNITY now available on Netflix Canada, is there a specific episodes, or a favorite one that you’d recommend newbies start with?
 Yvette Nicole Brown: Since Netflix Canada is streaming all three seasons, I would suggest that you start at season one, wouldn’t you say Gillian?
 Gillian Jacobs: I think our first stand out episode would be Halloween season one.
 YNB: Yes! I also think the paintball episode would be a good choice. If you’re trying to introduce someone new to the show I would show them the paintball one or Halloween, but if you’re trying to experience the show for yourself, I would go for the pilot and take a ride.

What about in terms of your character’s specifically?
 YNB: I really loved the Halloween episode, because it’s the one where I worked with Gillian for the first time.
 GJ: I think Jeff and Shirley season one.
 YNB: Really, you think? Alright, we’ll go with Jeff and Shirley, the gossip episode.

Unlike many actors who shall remain nameless, both of you seem to really know your show inside and out. Do you watch it?
 GJ: Totally! I’ve seen every episode of the show.
 YNB: I’ve seen every episode, some episodes more than once because I’m also a fan of the show. Especially if it’s a scene that I’m not in I tend to watch more than the ones I’m in because we weren’t there when it was taped and I’m a fan of these people and want to see how they brought it to life.
 GJ: I remember this moment in season one where Donald [Glover] went, “I think you know I have a thing for butt stuff,” which was a scene that neither one of us was in and I just remember watching that over and over and over, it made me laugh so hard. It was so unexpected because it wasn’t in the script, it was just an improv that Donald had done.

The show has such an amazing track record when it comes to fans picking up on things that take on a life of their own (See: Pulling a ‘Britta,’ Streets ahead, #sixseasonsandamovie). Can you as an actor to read the script and predict what things will have a second life online?
 GJ: I don’t know if you can predict it. THere are certainly things that we as a cast have fallen in love with that we repeat to each other endlessly that I don’t think are any fan’s favorite. In season one, Shirley said, “I’m gonna die by a werewolf.”
 YNB: We made a song.
 GJ: Before the rap, we were the only people saying it.
 YNB: We’ve been doing it since season one.
 GJ: And it wasn’t anything the fans knew about or ever caught on. We also love to say Jim’s [Rash] lines over and over again, “Oh Jeffrey,” or “Save a dance for Jeffery,” it’s just this thing that amuses us on set.

Moving on to the awkward portion of this interview, how does Dan Harmon’s exit affect the show’s fourth season? One imagines that things must be different when a showrunner with a vision as unique as Harmons is no longer steering the ship.
 GJ: They changed all the character names, we don’t go to community college anymore…
 YNB: [Laughs] That’s the best answer I’ve ever heard!
 GJ: It’s all of our intention — and this includes the new writers, returning writers, cast and crew — to keep the show true to what Dan Harmon created and what he would want. We have the utmost respect for him and it’s no ones intention to change it. Dan is not writing the episodes anymore so that is inherently going to make it different but I don’t think the show is betraying itself or moving away from what it was that people loved about it. We love the show as much as the fans do so we would never want to participate in the betrayal of COMMUNITY. We want nothing more than continue to give you quality episodes of television so that’s all of our fervent goal and desire.

One thing that the show has not “Britta’d” this season is the guest stars with Malcolm Mcdowell, Matt Lucas and Tricia Helfer already confirmed.
 GJ: We haven’t worked with Matt Lucas or Tricia Helfer yet but Malcolm Mcdowell is lovely.
 YNB: He’s a legend.
 GJ: Very funny.
 YNB: And very approachable. You would think that someone who is that famous, British, proper, would be standoffish. But he’s not, he’s just a silly fun man.
 GJ: We’re very comfortable joking around him.

What surprises can you let slip about the upcoming fourth season?
 YNB: We see Pierce’s mansion in the season opener, a Halloween episode and it’s a sight to behold. We’re also going to meet Jeff’s father, it hasn’t happened yet but we’re going to meet him. There’s also some Britta/Troy developments… picture that… instagram?!
 GJ: What?
 YNB: That was a reach.

Speaking of social media, is it fair to say that Twitter has played a fairly substantial role in keeping COMMUNITY on the air?
 GJ: Yeah definitely. It’s a way for us to directly communicate with the fans, for them to communicate with us and I think they also used it to rally amongst each other to support the show.
 YNB: They’re very organized.
 GJ: I think seeing things from our show trending as the episode is airing has been not only good for the network and studio but for us as well. It makes us feel so incredibly good when we see that happen because we’re not a ratings blockbuster. And not just Twitter, but Tumblr, Reddit, we’re very much a show of the internet. All these things have really embraced the show and helped spread the word.

Does it ever weird you out that a fan can grab any frame of your show and turn it into an animated GIF that will live on the internet in perpetuity?
 GJ: This is not nearly the raciest thing I’ve been a part of so any GIF fans are going to make of me on COMMUNITY is tame compared to films I’ve done! What’s strange though is that how things have changed over the course of our career. You used to feel like you did something, it existed in time and maybe there’s an image of it somewhere, but now it’s instantaneous.
 YNB: It’s forever now, it’s a video, a remix, a GIF, a meme, the creativity of the people that watch the show baffles me to this day. There’s a lot of ways they can use their gifts and they choose to use them to draw us and make videos, posters, fan art, my mind can’t wrap my head around it, it’s amazing.

Is there anything in particular you’d like to see for your characters this season?
 GJ: I’d like to see Britta continue to work her therapy skills on people’s minds. I enjoy her unconventional approach to the art of therapy. Also, anytime she gets to make a fool of herself, I’m really happy.
 YNB: I’d like to see Shirley continue with her sandwich shop. I’d like to see more of [Shirley's Husband] Malcolm-Jamal Warner, for creative and personal reasons (Kidding!) And if anyone graduates this year I kind of hope it’s Shirley. I think it would be nice to realize that Shirley has actually been studying all these years, never opened a book mind you, she’s a savant!

And finally, since you’re here to promote COMMUNITY on Netflix Canada, what’s in your queue?
 YNB: I just started watching…
 YNB: Shut Up! I just started watching BREAKING BAD, on Sunday I started watching when I should have been packing for this trip… just one more episdoe… it was so good. Also, FAMILY GUY, those two on Netflix I’m all over every single episode from start to finish.

The TV Addict staff blogs at The TV Addict.

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