Community will kick off its second season on Thursday, September 23 at 8 PM ET on NBC, and two of the big reasons behind the show's success took a conference call to discuss these upcoming new episodes. Joel McHale, who plays disgraced lawyer Jeff Winger, and Alison Brie, who portrays the ambitious Annie Edison, took part in a conference call where they talked about what's going on at Greendale this semester. Here's what they had to say:
What kind of fan reaction, what kind of feedback did you all get last year after your two characters kissed in the season finale?
Alison Brie: Well, I thought it was interesting. The difference of the fan reaction sort of between our - from our first kiss after the eighth episode to our kiss to the finale, because after the first time we kissed, fans really embraced it. There was a lot of fans scripting online, there was a lot of chipping I guess people kept calling for our characters. So when I read the tally I felt like, "Oh, people are going to be into this." There is definitely a fan base for it. And then after it happened there was a whole other scam that came forward that was like, that's shocking. I can't believe that.
Joel McHale: That was exactly what I was going to say, but yes, it was something completely unexpected because, at the beginning of the season there was the love interest kind of between Troy and Annie, and then of course Jeff and Britta. But then after that debate sort of took off, there is literally a Web site called Bust the Head Jeff and Annie.
Joel McHale: Yes, I never thought it would take on a life of its own like this.
Alison Brie: Me neither.
David Martindale: Wow, okay. So with this first episode, who knows what the first episode and the nose punch will do for all of that.
Joel McHale: Yes, the good thing is I'm very happy that they didn't shy away from it and they just went head on into the issues. I think there was even a line in the show that says, "Real life is not like TV, it's messy." And so things weren't kind of buttoned up the way that a lot of, you know, like on Gilligan's Island when they're all just kind of back on the island, you know, the reset button wasn't hit. No, I love Gilligan's Island, believe me. But come on, I mean, they had so many chances. Give me a break.
Joel, has anybody challenged you to a game of pool in shorts?
Joel McHale: Only in West Hollywood. nd, you know, yes, just a couple of red light districts.
Alison Brie: Although we keep trying to get him to do it again on set but he was like - it was a one time only deal. "You have to find different ways to get me nude. You can't pull the pool card again."
Joel McHale: Right.
Joel McHale: Yes, believe me, when I had to lean over that pool table and the entire cast plus 30 extras were looking at my ass, I thought, "Wow, this is not something I ever planned on."
Alison Brie: They were very real reactions from the crowd I think.
Joel McHale: Yes, terror.
So basically we've heard of so many like scenes, episodes - we've heard of the Apollo 13 episode. We've heard the Halloween zombie episode, the stop motion Christmas episode. Is there one that you think already - you already know is going to have the resonance of like the paintball episode from last season? Do you get that feeling from one of those? Or is there one that's still to come that we haven't heard of that you think will have that resonance?
Joel McHale: For me I think it's either going to be our Apollo 13 episode or a zombie episode at this point. But I actually haven't seen any of them yet, so I only say that because they're both kind of as big as paintball. So those could, but I'm not sure.
Alison Brie: Well, I do have to say that as soon as I found out about our Christmas episode being stop motion animated, I just got chills and more important I feel like the better way to describe it was I'm just so in love with our show. I just think when we started this show we all got involved in the pilot because our writing was so good and the characters are so interesting. It was at the very start a well written comedy and it remains that. The direction is so different than any of us could imagine, so innovative and so interesting.
The Christmas episode news is probably the latest episode we've all heard about. Clarify for me, are your characters in Claymation, sort of that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer kind of thing?
Joel McHale: I believe so. None of us have seen the renderings yet. We know it's going to be stop motion and that's about it. I haven't even seen - I don't even know what our characters will look like yet.
Alison Brie: I don't think they've actually made them yet.
Joel McHale: Yes. We've already cut the dialogue - we've already made the dialogue for it because it takes a long time to make it apparently.
Alison Brie: So we've recorded everything, but they haven't started making our little puppets or whatever yet.
Alison Brie: It's so awesome. I have to say I think out of those three I was the most excited to work with Rob Corddry. He was so great. I was such a fan of his and everyone made fun of me. Okay, not everyone but like Yvette made fun of me. She was like, "You're so excited about Rob Corddry, like you've got all these other amazing people here." I was like, "Guys, just wait. You'll see the comic genius of Rob Corddry." And he was awesome.
Joel McHale: He was awesome. He's so funny.
Joel McHale: Yes. Jim Rash is the Dean who is like Rumpelstiltskin and can spin comedy out of anything, and that's how Rob is. He's amazing and with Betty White, I know that she is very picky and the fact that she picked our show, I was like, "I can't imagine she watches it but this is great." And she was absolutely delightful. It was like having the queen on the set and it was just kind of like it was just this honor. So I can tell my grandkids I worked with Betty White. And then Drew Carey came on with 80 pounds less Drew. It was 80 pounds less of him and I said, "We paid for the full sized Drew Carey."
Alison Brie: Just as much charm as ever though.
How long will Jeff stay at Community college before he can go back to practicing law? Like is there an end date for him to be there?
Joel McHale: Well, you have to get a degree and you know how those go. Either you can do them, I don't know, in three years or horrible things can happen and it will take seven. So I don't know...
Alison Brie: Keep your fingers crossed for seven.
Joel McHale: Yes, maybe a brain injury will slow me down. But I don't know. I mean, I see - we see about one to two scripts ahead. So sometimes I'll ask Dan but there's a side of me, I mean, I look forward to our table reads like a boy does Christmas. I don't know exactly what will happen. I don't know the grand plan yet so - but, you know, if the show is successful I'm sure they'll find all sorts of ways to keep everyone in school.
I was going to say would that apply to the students too? Can they just be like lifetime students?
Joel McHale: Yes.
Alison Brie: I mean, I think it's like Joel said. We don't really know what's going to happen and we don't know the master plan. But I would imagine our writers are talented and creative enough to figure out ways around that should our show continue to be a success.
How well do you get all of the movie references that Dan puts in the writing?
Alison Brie: I think that Joel gets more of them than I get.
Joel McHale: I think Danny gets more than anybody.
Alison Brie: Danny loves research so he doesn't get them all at first but by the time we shoot it he knows what's going on. I find that I'll get to set and I'll still be finding out what movie we're referencing. Even when I try to Google and find stuff in advance, there's still some that escape me.
You guys keep mentioning, you know, the writing and the talent of Dan Harmon and he is great, but there's so much improvisational comedy background between all of you guys. Is there any aspects that, you know, weren't on the original pages that you guys bring to the show?
Joel McHale: Well I think, you know, when you've got someone like Donald Glover and Danny Pudi on set it's pretty unstoppable. And then you've got Jim Rash and Ken Jeong who can, I mean, Ken - Jim Rash teaches and has been at Groundlings for years. And so you do have this crazy group of folks that can nail it but, you know, Dan's writing is so good we do it the way, you know, it's written and then if something else is happening or we - then there'll usually be a chance to kind of - to improvise. And Dan's great because he'll be like, "Yes, good, do that." He's very liberal about, you know, how it comes out.
Joel McHale: Well, I had the most sex scenes with her.
Alison Brie: It's true. I think she and Joel really heated up the set. You know, I feel like - I thought that you and Bet really clicked and had some moments. Even off camera I think everything sort of clicked.
Joel McHale: Yes, my wife came on set and met her and fell in love with her.
Alison Brie: You couldn't not fall in love with her. She's the sweetest woman in the world.
Joel McHale: Yes. She needs to write a book on how to operate on a set. She's just so professional and so sweet, so polite and...
Alison Brie: And is cool to everyone.
Joel McHale: She just nailed her lines. She's 88 and she's just is great. Really funny.
You mentioned Dan Harmon a few times and I'm just wondering what it's like to work with him and you've mentioned some of the writers coming and bringing things by to you. Do you have any kind of input what happens with Jeff and Annie? Maybe you could illuminate us a little bit.
Joel McHale: As far as like us putting input into the story or something, no, not at all. I trust Dan implicitly. I would follow him into any battle because the things they come up with every week is so fantastic. And so I don't know where it's going and I'm always excited to be - what we read the next week at the table read.
Alison Brie: As opposed to it being like us coming to the writers and going, "I have an idea for an episode," or anything like that, what more often happens is that the writers will come to us and say, like last year I know they came to me and they were like, "So and so said you had a really funny story about this gay guy." And then I told them the story and then it was in the next episode. And this year, you know, I got an email from Dan like, "Hey, let me know some stuff about how you feel about the holidays." And, you know, that stuff might go out. So I do think that the writers pay attention to who we are and our sense of person and also what we're capable of and just things that we mention offhandedly that are funny or interesting. And they try to incorporate those things as much as possible just to keep things coming from a real place. And as far as Joel I'm always trying to bribe the writers for what's coming up in the next episodes. But it changes so often that even when they'll tell you stuff it might change. It's tough to get, you know, it might never happen.
Since Jeff is essentially a defrocked lawyer at this point but he should have had enough cash there that I would think I'd spot a bottle of the Macallan 18 in the background somewhere in one of his scenes. Is that a possibility?
Joel McHale: Definitely I hope so, because a lot of the time those are gifts and you can hold on to those bottles for a long time. And you don't want to drink a ton of it. You just want a little dram of it so yes, I'm hoping the Macallan 30 even shows up.
Alison Brie: We're all big fans of Macallan.
Joel McHale: Yes, we love the scotch. We love Scotland really.
Alison Brie: I'm Scottish.
Joel McHale: See? And the Cheerio is also very good.
Alison, who are you rooting for to get Jeff?
Alison Brie: You know, it's a tough one. I kind of chose not to take sides in the Annie versus Britta thing. I don't know. I feel like they're totally gone with those relationships. Maybe Jeff does keep (unintelligible) for a little while.
Joel McHale: Yes, maybe Jeff has an accident and accidentally castrates himself and has to keep it a secret for years, while climbing a fence and it caught him.
I just wanted to say I really like the dynamic of the whole group and it's really awesome to see a show where you all clearly have a wonderful working relationship together. I just want to know, do you find yourself focusing more on the group dynamic of your characters than your individual characters, and how much of that do you play on to the show?
Joel McHale: For me it's a case-by-case thing. It depends on the episode and if we're spending a lot of time with the group then I tend to kind of focus on that dynamic. And then if my character's having to take a little journey then I definitely focus on what he wants and what he's up to. I mean, I always think about what Jeff would want in every situation, but - or needs but yes, it changes from script to script for me.
Alison Brie: I think the characters all have a very sadistic point of view so when we're in any situation, I guess like Joel is saying we're always going to take into account what our personal character is thinking or feeling about that. And often I think with Annie because she sometimes can be like the antagonistic character in certain situations, it does sort of seem to be her versus the group at times. And I think a lot of different characters have that too. I guess Jeff a lot of times it's him versus the group. So when it's that way for Annie I definitely think a lot about what's going on with her. But it all relates back to how they relate with each other.
So I know that there's a lot of fun specials coming up with the zombie Halloween and the stop motion Christmas. Are there any things that you would like the show to do, like a certain theme or a direction you want it to go in?
Joel McHale: I'd like them to recreate an Akira Kurosawa movie, Seven Samurai.
Alison Brie: I don't know. I don't because I just filmed a little bit for the little film for Scream 4. Just drop that in there and I thought, "Oh, it would be great if we did some sort of horror movie homage thing." And then, you know, we kind of just did it.
Joel McHale: Yes, the zombie. I think maybe Cronenberg or Shalini, I'm not sure.
So along with that how would you want to see your characters develop over the show?
Alison Brie: I think that Annie still has a lot of maturing to do. I enjoy watching Annie kind of go through different stages and meeting different guys and have different fads, but she's such a malleable character that I would just like to see new things introduced that she can try, because anything Annie tries she really goes for it. She's all gung ho about anything that she gets involved with so, you know, just like when she dated John and she was supposed to be in sort of a hippie phase. I think it would be funny to see her with any different type of guy or get into any different kind of thing where she went full fledged into it and then you see like the plastic Annie or, you know, I don't know, Shakespearean phase Annie. That's weird. That's not a thing.
Joel McHale: And I think with Jeff he was very used to a lifestyle that he had as a lawyer and last year was some of the undoing of that. And I think it's just going to be a long, long road to making him not the most selfish guy in the world.
I love all the pop culture references on the show but I'm just wondering, is there ever a danger in being too specific with that kind of stuff? Is there sort of a balance that you guys have to tread and - that might date the show too much by going too far with that stuff?
Alison Brie: Well I was going to say this isn't much about dating the show, but I was just going to say that I think the writers are good at sprinkling in a variety of references, but some that already date back, you know, 20 years and some that are current. So there's kind of a good mix going on already in terms of not locking us into right now, you know. It's like we're referencing Star Trek and some things that are timeless, The Godfather, you know. And then sure, there are other things that are very current like Twitter and things like that which you kind of couldn't not reference because they're such a big part of people's lives today, or at least, you know, pop culture thing.
Joel McHale: Yes and, you know, I think it's like sometimes like a sense in where the jokes are moving so fast that if you don't get one you're going to probably get the next one.
Did you have any dream guests that you'd like to see coming up on to the show, like other stars?
Joel McHale: Yes, I would like to have Bono be our music teacher. If Bono could be the music teacher I'd be totally into that.
Joel McHale: I was serious about Bono.
Alison Brie: So yes, ninjas.
Can you see more students joining the study group?
Joel McHale: I don't know. That would sure make the days that much longer.
Alison Brie: It's true. We already have a lot of people to cover.
Joel McHale: Boy, I haven't thought about that.
Alison Brie: The introduction of a new student to our group and it kind of rocked the group. I think that the group does well. We kind of have all our components set. So I don't know if other people are going to try to get into the study group. But I feel like we can certainly encounter some other students, although any of these people that we just named could be lay students. That's the greatest thing about the Community college thing is that a lay student is that it doesn't put them into a spot.
I just wanted to ask you about the sort of dynamic that makes your show unique I think. And of the seven major characters you all can actually be the butt of the joke and I think that that is not something you see all the time. A lot of times with ensemble comedies there will be the people who get picked on all the time. I'm wondering if you could talk about maybe that helps keep it fresh for you because all of your characters get to be at times the tormenter and at other times you're the tormentee.
Joel McHale: Yes, or even M*A*S*H, they all are targets and they all are weapons to hit those targets. So I think that's a really good. I never even had thought about that. Yes, and so, I mean, that's why Dan is such a brilliant creator of the show. I mean, he said he wanted to make a show that his uncle in Wisconsin would watch. And so I think like real life those, you know, everyone in life has the strengths and weaknesses and people could be both.
Alison Brie: You know, I think that comedy, you know, a big part of comedy is being made fun of and it is looking silly or looking stupid. And it's great that we all get a chance to do that. Everyone gets a chance to be funny in terms of, you know, taking turns playing the straight man. Nobody's just the straight man all the time. We all get to see the comic relief as well.
Community premieres its second season on Thursday, September 23 at 8 PM ET on NBC.