COMMUNITY Q&A: Alison Brie on Weathering the Show’s Cancellation and Its Yahoo Rebirth

Alison Brie
Victoria Will/Invision/AP
Alison Brie

Alison Brie had made peace with the cancellation of Community. NBC ended the show after five seasons last spring, and Brie says it was hard at first.

“When we found out it got canceled, [the cast] all got together and had a dinner,” she told us on the Community set earlier this year. “We celebrated each other and what we loved about the show. I cried a little when it first got canceled, and then we were all like, ‘Well, life goes on.'”

But enter Yahoo, which saved Community and put the show back into production for a sixth season. As Yahoo Screen prepares to premiere the revived Community on March 17, we’re sharing interviews with the cast throughout the next week. In this installment, Brie discusses the show’s return, what’s in store for Annie Edison, Joel McHale’s role among the actors and whether she’d be up for a long-discussed Community movie.

What has the Yahoo experience been like so far?

Really wonderful. Everyone from Yahoo seems to get the show and love it, so that’s exciting. We’ve been blown away by their support.

Because Community is their first big series, they appear game to spend some money and market the hell out of it.

They are and they have been already. We did a photo shoot with them before we started shooting anything and we haven’t really done a shoot like that together as a cast since season one. It feels nice to have some attention again.

Take me back to the moment where you were told the show was canceled. Did you think there was still a chance it might return?

We’re so in the dark about this stuff. So much of it is out of our control, the actors. So the show got canceled and we were all devastated.

How did you find out Community was returning?

I was in New York shooting Sleeping with Other People with Jason Sudekis and was told, “There’s a possibility that the show might go to Hulu.” We kept hearing Hulu, Hulu, Hulu, and then I heard that it was definitely not going to Hulu. It was very much down to the wire. The day before it happened I heard that it was not happening at all and the show was dead, for real. Then Joel called me and was like, ‘The show is not dead!’ I said, “Hulu?” And Joel said, ‘No, Yahoo, and it sounds like everyone is on board and they really love the show and we’ll have a lot of freedom to do the show the way Dan’s always wanted to do the show.” They did this deal the last day before everyone’s contracts expired.

Joel appears to be the cast ringleader who keeps everyone in the loop. Was he periodically filling you guys in on what was happening?

We all know that when we want information that we go to Joel because he always has the most information. And if he doesn’t, then he’ll seek it out. He’s like our dad, ‘I’ll look into it. Let me take care of everything.”

What’s that like as an actress? This is a show that never really will die.

It’ll die [laughs].

But it must be difficult as an actress not quite knowing for sure, scheduling wise, whether it will come back.

It sucks. It’s the worst feeling. It’s always been difficult in the past to schedule other work. Well all love doing the show. We’d be very excited to come back and do another season of the show. You don’t mind as much if you’re going to miss out on another job because you have this job that you already love. Every year that we would be on hiatus [from Community] it was always stressful trying to do other work because you can’t really work on another show, and you’re still hoping that Community returns. But then if you’re looking at doing films, it would be difficult. It was a constant conundrum. But always worked out to our benefit in the end, the show always came back.

It must be so unusual being a part of this show, where you get asked about a lot more than just your character. Because of what has happened to Community, you’re always asked to discuss industry issues.

It’s true There’s always so much going on behind the scenes. All the questions are much more about us as people and our reactions to these industry changes.

Justin Lubin/Yahoo/Sony Pictures Television

Season 6 returns with new cast members, a new home in Yahoo and you’re even shooting on a new lot [CBS Studio Center]. How have you adapted to the changes?

It definitely feels different but in a good way. The weirdest adjustment has been the location. When you walk through the study room, it doesn’t just lead down the hall to the Dean’s office. That’s weird after spending five years on autopilot because you know exactly where to go. Now we walk on to the set and we’re like, “Oh OK, now I’m in the cafeteria. Now I’m in a bar.” We’ve never had a bar set before. Just a week ago I realized that there was a much quicker path to Annie and Abed’s apartment, that I’ve been going the long way for weeks. Danny still gets lost every day. He has to have someone holding his hand to bring him to set. But otherwise it’s been great. Paget [Brewster] and Keith [David] fit in wonderfully and they’re super cool. The vibe on set is really mellow. Looking back, I can see that all of our years at NBC were so colored by always wondering how the ratings were on nights the show would air, and how the critics were responding to episodes. All that feels like it’s been lifted and now we’re all just enjoying being here.

The show is also stretching its wings a bit this season. You’ve done more location shooting, for example.

Yeah, we’ve seen the light of day this year. Natural light, for the first time in four years. The fun thing about being on a new lot is that we can go shoot on a street that looks like a street. It’s just a little different to us. We went back to Los Angeles City College for the first time since Season 1.

Talk about Annie and where she is in Season 6.

I’m trying to think of some pivotal Annie moments this season because really it’s been a lot of group exploration. And nobody has matured very far in the last season. We never do. Last year when Dan came back, you did see all the characters mature the slightest bit for them in ways they can in this environment. Annie wears pants now [laughs]. That was a big deal in Season 5. She’s still wearing them. But I do think that was last year, Dan was very conscious with my character to start taking her out of the realm of being a little girl and go back to those key Annie characteristics, like her drive to keep the group together. It’s similar this year, although even Annie seems a little more chill.

Maybe the characters realized they’re never going to leave Greendale.

Totally! And now we all just want to focus on making Greendale the best that it can be because we’re just going to be here. Annie is not as concerned about keeping her friends.

Justin Lubin/Yahoo/Sony Pictures Television

I was about to say you guys are never going to depart, but slowly the characters are all leaving.

It’s true. We lose one or two every year. The show has always been very malleable and ever changing. Nothing feels out of the ordinary ever. So even this year having another cast member gone and having two new people, it doesn’t feel strange. That’s almost normal for us and it just brings about new opportunities to explore our characters’ relationships with these new characters. If anything it kind of keeps it fresh.

And then there are opportunities for former characters to come back.

Exactly. Fingers crossed for that Childish Gambino cameo.

He’s got to perform at Greendale at some point. That would be great if you brought Donald Glover back as Childish Gambino.

The movie!

Obviously long-term, everyone will eventually move on. And contracts will expire after this season. What’s your feeling? Do you see yourself sticking around beyond this year?

I don’t know. I think that’s all still up in the air. I don’t even know what the plans are for Community beyond a Season 6. Also, our mantra is “six seasons and a movie.” I think I’d probably look forward more to the movie.

So you’re in for a movie?

Yeah. I think so. I feel like if a Community movie were being made, I wouldn’t want to tell the fans that I wasn’t going to be a part of it. I’d have someone else call and tell them.

What would you like a movie to be?

I don’t know. There’s finality to a movie. You have a start and a finish and it would be a great send off for the show. It would be nice to tell a whole story and to give Dan the time. It’s so hard to fit all the stuff that he wants to do into these episodes. We still end up shooting 45 pages that get whittled down to 24 minutes. So, I think it would just be nice to have the extra time to do something big. And I want Justin Lin to direct it [laughs]. If paintball happened, I’d be fine with it.

Any other highlights from this season?

One episode deals with the idea of a character is moving on to bigger and better things. And then in the meantime we all channel our energy into making a sci-fi movie that we’re going to sell to Steve Guttenberg. That is one of our first real theme episodes this season and it’s already episode eight. It’s been a real grounded season for Community but in a great way. I think the energy has channeled into smaller adventures and character exploration, which I think has always been the show’s strong suit. As much as I love the theme episodes as well, I hear that we do have some bigger ones coming up.

By the way, are we going to see you [as Trudy] on the second half of Mad Men‘s final season?

I just don’t know. You’ll have to tune in.

Check out all of our Community Q&As:

Dan Harmon & Chris McKenna
Dan Harmon &
Chris McKenna
Ken Jeong
Ken Jeong
Allison Brie
Alison Brie
Gillain Jacobs
Gillian Jacobs
Keith David & Paget Brewster
Keith David &
Paget Brewster
Jim Rash
Jim Rash
Joel McHale
Danny Pudi
Joel McHale
Joel McHale


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