By Curt Wagner
12:36 PM EDT, July 20, 2011
Yes, that was Abed you spotted last Friday at Pitchfork. "Community" star and Chicago native Danny Pudi took in a few shows while visiting his mother before filming begins on the NBC comedy's third season.
Pudi also met with students at Second City and guest starred on the season premiere of the extremely fun "The Late Live Show with Joe Kwaczala" at Second City.(This weekend's guest is Jeff Garlin from "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Click the link to learn more.)
I'm sure Pudi did much more while in town, but I wasn't stalking the guy! I did catch him at "The Late Live Show," where he talked about playing pop culture savant Abed and working on “Community” in general. It reflected a phone conversation we had a few weeks ago, when he was “getting into Season 3 mental space.”
The “Community” cast has since had a table read for the new season, and after their appearance Saturday at San Diego Comic Con, they begin filming the new season July 25.
Here’s a taste of our recent conversation. I’ll have more from the “Community” cast after their Saturday appearance at SDCC, so stay tuned.
Are you ready for Season 3 to begin?
I’m really excited. It’s crazy to look back and think we’ve already done 49 episodes. And they’re so different and unique in many ways. It’s one thing we talk about on our show; even though it’s been two seasons, we all feel like they’re dog years and we’ve been on the show for 14 years already just because of how much we’ve done and how far we’ve gone.
I never, ever know what to expect from your show, except to expect the unexpected.
I’m forever thankful and grateful to Dan Harmon and his brain for constantly giving himself and us challenges to overcome. And not just as comedians trying to think of new ways to be funny, but overall as artists in a very creative environment. We’re finding zombies, and doing something in claymation and then doing a Dungeons & Dragons episode … and then to just be ambitious enough to revisit paintball again after that was many people’s favorite episode. To go back and do something like that—I would say and I’m pretty confident—no show has done three half-hours on paintball.
Something like that is what makes working on our show such a fun, fun experience. I’m excited just because I miss the guys. … We finished production back in March and three months without seeing Ken Jeong doing weird activities behind your back and three months without making fun of Chevy Chase’s nipples is way too long.
Are you surprised you’ve made it to 49 episodes; that you survived? The show has always been in a tough schedule.
The answer is yes. [Laughs.] I’m surprised; I’m shocked by all of this. There’s nothing to prepare you for how a show should go. Especially as an actor; I’ve been out in Los Angeles for almost five years. … I’m used to the up-and-down nature of the acting industry and it’s never about stability or comfort. You’re used to an uncomfortable existence.
You become really good friends with [the idea that] you’re probably not going to get this and this probably won’t work out so just have as much fun as possible. [Laughs.]
That’s sort of the mentality a lot of us have on this show and I think that pays off. … We don’t know how many episodes we’re going to get away with, so let’s see what we can get away with. It’s in many ways been everyone’s mantra but also a response to like, “Holy crap, we’re on Thursday nights against ‘American Idol,’ against ‘Big Bang Theory.’” … We’ve sort of been under the radar.
The fact that we’re still on is such a wonderful gift, but it’s been a nice blessing because we have been able to get away with things that other shows that are really, really, really, really focused on ratings might not be able to get away with.
I’m still shocked that we got away with an episode for my birthday [called] “Pulp Fiction,” but it’s really about “My Dinner with Andre” and “Cougartown.” How do explain that concept to people? I tried to explain that to my mom and I think her one comment was, “I don’t get it, but it’s funny.” That’s sort of the motto.
There are quite a few references that I have to think about, but then there’s just the funny physical stuff too.
I think Dan knows we’re all willing to do whatever it takes to do an episode, even if that means Ken Jeong has to be completely doused in Vaseline, naked in a Speedo. If that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes. Try sitting in a scene and not laughing at that, by the way.
And the meta jokes, too, the winks to the audience.
Dan never takes for granted the audience. … They’re part of the experience. We’re never lazy, any of the jokes or concepts.
Let’s talk about the kiss between Abed and Annie in the finale.
Yeah! That was a nice little surprise. We didn’t see that coming. I think both Alison [Brie] and I saw that in the script and were like, “Oh shit.” We’re good friends.
… I think Abed had become Han Solo; he knew what to do in that moment. And the thing about Annie, she is such a hopeless romantic and she loves being in those romantic scenes and she loves to be swept off her feet.
It’s another example of the unexpected, the way Abed surprises us.
Abed loves to have these heroic moments. That’s what’s really fun, too, to play a character who could easily be swept to the side as quirky and living in his own world. But he’s allowed to have these heroic moments.
That heroic moment after the epic paintball battle, that, to me, was such a treat—on top of having toxic paint in my mouth. Again, that’s two checks off my fantasy list. Toxic paint in my mouth while making out with Alison. Check! Check!
It was nice to see that we could go there. The show could just be about how many different girls can Jeff Winger make out with. … Some of the other characters this year have been able to have romantic escapades.
What can we expect in Season 3?
I don’t really know what to expect. I’m very eager to see what happens next. Last year we started off with Betty White, so we’ll see what we start with this year.
… [The study group has learned] the most anyone has ever known about Abed and accepted him. Whether that leads to more acting out because people do accept him, [or] getting deeper into his filmmaking. Who knows, maybe it’s time for Abed’s blue period like Picasso …
As Abed reveals more about himself, are we going to see big changes in his personality?
Changing is not his jam … There’s something interesting to be said about characters and people who don’t change very often. I know a lot of people who are similar to who they were when I first met them.
It’ll be interesting to see how these characters all change and if Abed stays the same in this world and how that effects him with all these other characters who are getting closer and closer to potentially leaving Greendale.