"Community" is back on our screens after an agonizingly long wait (it airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. EST on NBC). Even though Season 4 returned without the singular voice of creator Dan Harmon, thankfully the new showrunners haven't completely Britta'd up the show's return.
HuffPost TV caught up with Gillian Jacobs (who plays resident Psych major and all-around meddler Britta Perry) for her thoughts on the creative differences between Season 3 and Season 4, whether Britta is more compatible with Troy (Donald Glover) or Jeff (Joel McHale), and what we can expect from an episode written by co-star and Oscar winner Jim Rash.
This week's episode is a big one, because we're finally meeting Jeff's dad, played by James Brolin. What else can you tell us about this Thanksgiving-in-March episode?
I know, all of our holidays are way off, which is somehow perfect for "Community." [Laughs.] So yeah, we’ve been building to meeting Jeff’s father for three seasons now, so [it's big] not just because it’s the wonderful James Brolin, but because it’s such a huge moment for this character and Britta has been really pushing him for a while now to confront his daddy issues. We had a breakthrough on Halloween when she realized that Jeff had his number, so now it’s all coming to a head. I think sparks will probably fly and [things will] probably get messy.
As you said, Britta's been trying to crack Jeff's daddy issues for years, so how thrilled is she that he's facing it head on now?
Oh, so thrilled. I mean, this is probably her biggest therapy victory to date. It’s dreams come true for Britta Perry!
It sounds as if meeting his father will be an emotional time for Jeff, and he'll be turning to Britta to help him deal with it all -- where does that leave Britta and Troy?
Well, things are never simple when it comes to the human heart ... [Laughs.]
Britta has had pretty questionable taste in guys over the course of the show -- is Troy a little too nice for her?
Yeah, I think sweet and earnest are not qualities that Britta is normally drawn toward so I think that is a really big change for her, being with someone who’s not either jaded or cynical. I think it’s easier for her around Jeff because they’re both kind of damaged people and they recognize that in each other. Troy isn’t damaged in that way, so sometimes Britta’s trying to be a better version of herself with Troy.
In the March 14 episode, "Advanced Documentary Filmmaking," it looks like Troy and Annie will be teaming up and going a little bit "Law and Order" -- does that stir up some jealousy in Britta?
Well, she’s definitely been jealous of Annie (Alison Brie) in the past, when she was dating Vaughn. That brought out the worst in Britta and also I think there have been times with Jeff where it led them to oil wrestle. So, she definitely is not above getting jealous.
As we can tell from the title, the March 14 episode also features another documentary film from Abed (Danny Pudi). What else can you reveal about that episode?
Well, Britta is going to be manning a camera for part of it, so you can be pretty sure that things are going to go awry. Yeah, we’re going to see a lot more of Chang -- or Kevin, as he’s now called -- and his "Changnesia" and further investing what has happened to Chang since last we saw him, so big developments for that character for sure.
I hear that Jim Rash (Dean Pelton) also wrote an episode; can you tell us anything more about that?
Aww, very special. So exciting for all of us because we love Jim so much and obviously he’s an Oscar winner so he’s more respected in the profession than all of us put together. He did a "Freaky Friday" episode where Troy and Abed switch bodies and I think it’s going to be pretty special. It was really exciting to get to speak Jim’s words, so I was thrilled.
The show was off the air for so long, you got to film most of Season 4 in a bubble. What have the reactions been like now that you're airing? Have you heard from the fans?
I’ve heard from fans. I try and not really read a lot because you do create it in a bubble and I’m very proud of us and I’m proud of the show and so it seems like people love them and then some they don’t like, and then some they love, and then some people love and some people hate. So you can never please everyone, but I’m proud of the show and I hope that it continues on and I love this cast so much. I don’t want to work with any other people.
Are you guys feeling optimistic about next season? Is it something you've discussed amongst the cast?
I think we’re all hopeful and we’re also strangely optimistic about the show. Maybe because it seemed like we were cancelled so many times and we’ve always come back. We sort of feel invincible at this point. [Laughs.] Maybe, knock on wood, we get another life in us. We always want to work together no matter how crazy the show gets or all the hysterics surrounding it. I think, as a cast, we always want to continue working together so I think we would all be happy to come back. You know, we certainly text and email each other and talk very consistently so there’s still a lot of love there and a desire, on our part, to keep going.
What have been the most noticeable changes this season compared to last, and what's stayed the same?
You know, I think day-to-day for us, making the show, it feels the same. The hours didn’t get any easier. [Laughs.] We’re still there 12, 14, 15 hours a day. A lot of the same crew, so physically being on set, it felt very much the same, but you know, it was Dan’s show so of course it’s going to be different in some way because he’s not there anymore and we’re not speaking words written by Dan Harmon any longer. But for us, showing up to work every day, putting on your costume and going on the set, it felt very much the same.
I feel like this season's episodes seem a little more plot-driven, as opposed to the more abstract, random themes that you guys would often tackle before -- are you enjoying that change or do you miss the abstract kookiness?
I always just feel like, as an actor, I’m happy with wherever they go -- partly because I don’t have any control over anything. You just learn to enjoy the ride that you’re on and so I’ve been on a ride of having some more consistent plotlines, having a relationship develop with Troy and that’s really nice. I love working with Donald so it’s fun to get to do that more consistently. But I’ve really loved a lot of the stranger episodes that we’ve done and I hope we get to do weird episodes in the future. I really loved our Halloween episode this year that Megan Ganz wrote. I thought that was a really special one and she wrote our season finale as well, and Jim Rash’s "Freaky Friday" episode is conceptual, but not too conceptual ...
The season's main narrative engine is that the gang is facing the prospect of graduation and life after college. Britta finally chose her major in Psychology, even if some of the others are more indecisive -- what else can you say about her journey?
Well, that’s been the biggest development for her, having a focus and a drive and a goal that she’s moving towards so I’m very excited about that. Is she ever going to actually mature herself? Probably not, but you can hope. [Laughs.]
"Community" airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. EST on NBC.
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Pictured: Jim Rash as Dean Pelton.
Pictured: (l-r) Joel McHale as Jeff, Yvette Nicole Brown as Shirley.
Pictured: (l-r) Ken Jeong as Chang, Yvette Nicole Brown as Shirley.
Pictured: Yvette Nicole Brown as Shirley.
Pictured: (l-r) Crystal as Annie's Boobs, Alison Brie as Annie.
Pictured: (l-r) Joel McHale as Jeff, Gillian Jacobs as Britta.