From show creator Dan Harmon, the quirky comedy Community is back for a sixth season, with 13 new, original and inventive half-hour episodes that are available through Yahoo Screen. Centered around a tight-knit group of friends who all met at the world’s worst educational institution, Greendale Community College, regular cast members Joel McHale, Jim Rash, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Allison Brie and Ken Jeong are back and joined by new additions Paget Brewster and Keith David.
At the show’s pres day, actor Jim Rash (who plays the well-intentioned but often floundering Dean Pelton) spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about what it’s like to have the creative support of Yahoo, how the show is still here as a result of the #sixseasonsandamovie hashtag, the new stage layout, getting to venture outside on location, that there could be future seasons or a movie (or both), getting to direct a couple of episodes this season, that he and Nat Faxon are hoping to direct their next feature film in the summer, and his crazy but fun experience making the animated series Mike Tyson Mysteries.
Collider: What’s it like to be working for Yahoo now?
JIM RASH: To be part of a new launch for Yahoo Screen, and to have this slight creative freedom is great. They’re just being supportive of the show, which is so nice, and comes with a new home. They genuinely love the show and you can feel the energy.
When you had heard that the show was canceled, and then you heard it was picked up by Yahoo, what was your reaction to that? Did you wonder what it would mean?
RASH: Yeah. Even for Dan [Harmon], it was like, “Yahoo Screen? What is that going to be?” And then, your brain goes to, “How cool to be a part of a launch of something.” We’re a show that’s been on, and yet we’re still fresh and new, and will maybe attract new eyes plus your fans. Knowing you’re canceled, you go through that moment of, “That’s what it is. You did it.” We’d heard rumblings that other parties might be interested, and then suddenly it became a reality. This show will not go away, wonderfully so.
People started talking about #sixseasonsandamovie without really thinking it would ever actually happen.
RASH: Yeah, just to protect it. We’re here because of hashtags. We are here because of a very loud and vocal group, even those days on NBC. It’s very awesome. It’s changed the game, for sure. It’s its own version of the Nielsens. Social media can save shows.
This show has done so much for TV comedies because it approaches comedy in such a different way than we were used to.
RASH: It shows you the value of allowing voices to be voices, and allowing the creative freedom. Instead of trying to make it into something that you call a hit, just let it be what it is and support it. It’s an uphill battle, all the time, but hopefully the networks and everyone will rise to the occasion. If you’re going to have more players in the game, than you have to rise to the occasion. You either have to shift your game and play the way that they’re going to play, or it’s not going to work out.
How do things feel among the cast, this season?
RASH: It feels the same. It’s a Sony show, but we used to shoot at Paramount. This year, we’re over in the Valley at CBS Radford. So, our home is a little bit different, in the sense that the layout of the stage is different. No one at home will know, but for us, it was pretty cool because it’s a larger stage. We can do walk-and-talks that can take you from the cafeteria, all the way to the library, through hallways in one continuous moment. Creatively, that’s very cool. For us, it all started last year. Last year was the beginning of this rebirth of Community, creatively, after Season 4 and Dan’s return, and I think we’re just continuing. So, it feels the same, but you can feel the energy that Yahoo Screen is bringing for Dan, as far as the storytelling goes.
When I spoke to Joel McHale about the new home at Yahoo, he said he was excited that you’d be able to get outside again. How do you feel about having the show open back up, in that way?
RASH: Yeah, we get fresh air and daylight. We were banned from going outside, after Season 3. For Season 4, we could not leave the building. It was so weird. For a show that started shooting at L.A.C.C. in the quad, this was the first year, since maybe Season 1, that we went back to the quad of the college and actually shot stuff there. It’s the same campus that we were at, in the beginning.
Gillian Jacobs said that there are more fart jokes this season. Would you say that that’s a fair assessment?
RASH: I guess there are. Maybe she just is very sensitive to them. If there are, they’re the smartest fart jokes you’ve ever heard.
With #sixseasonsandamovie, do you think a movie could be next, or do you think Yahoo wants to do more episodes?
RASH: I think it’s open-ended. It’s going to depend on how the launch goes. Whether it’s the hashtag and it’s a movie, or whether it’s a Season 7 or 8, and then a movie, I don’t think any of us can make a guess. We would be wrong.
But, you’re in it for whatever it turns out to be?
RASH: I think we’re all students of this show until we’re forced to graduate. Hopefully.
You got to direct some episodes, this season. How long had you been wanting to do that?
RASH: I didn’t go, “I’d really like to do it,” by any means. They approached us in Season 5, actually, to do it, and we couldn’t do it then because of DGA rules. Because Nat [Faxon] entered the guild as a directing team, with The Way Way Back, that’s your status. They changed the rules this year, for co-directors with episodic TV, so that allowed us to do it this year. We ended up doing two, and it was awesome. Rob Schrab, who is a good friend of Dan’s, is directing almost every other episode this year. And Rob just got the huge big gig to direct The Lego Movie Sequel. He’s super talented and they’re great friends. Dan loves keeping it in the family, so it was very nice. He was very embracing of Nat and I, and very supportive. It was a great experience.
Did The Way Way Back give Dan Harmon a boost of confidence that you could do a good job as directors?
RASH: There will always be stress directing. I don’t think I will ever go, “I’ve got this!,” just because I don’t operate that way. I don’t think my body will allow me to operate that way. The Way Way Back was highly stressful ‘cause it was our first time out. We were also dealing with the constraints of budget. Not that there weren’t constraints here, ‘cause you have five days and they’re long, but they can’t be that long, budget wise. Lucky for us, Community is shot very movie-like. You have three cameras, and we shot The Way Way Back with two, when we could afford it. That helps. It definitely makes it easier. At least, you don’t feel like you’re super blind, going in.
Did you get to pick the episodes you directed, or have any say in which ones they turned out to be?
RASH: No, they were like, “This is it.” Originally, we thought we’d do one this year. And then, they were like, “So, you’re doing the first one.” That was a little intimidating. It airs second. It’s the actual second episode, but due to actor availability, and not with the main cast, we had to flip them. So, we got to introduce Keith David’s character, in the second episode. And then, while we were shooting that, they said, “Could you do another one?” Because of the flip, one of our directors couldn’t do it that week, so we went from doing one episode to two.
Have you and Nat Faxon been writing anything, and do you plan on directing another feature?
RASH: We have two scripts and we are trying to get them off the ground. We’re still living in the world where small movies can be difficult to get together. So, we’re trying to invite a bunch of people to that party, hoping that all of the cards will come together. In a perfect world, we hope to shoot a movie this summer. Nat has the second season of Married, so we’re hoping to do something this summer. We’re crossing our fingers.
What did you learn from your experience with The Way Way Back, that you think you can apply to the next time?
RASH: It’s always going to be a learning curve. Certainly the second time around, there will be more confidence, just instinctually. I think the thing that you learn the most, doing that, is just what goes into making the movie and TV show. You know it as an actor, but you have the utmost respect for you crew. You see, especially when you shoot an independent movie, the lengths they’ll go for your vision. So, I think I’ll take more faith in knowing that everyone is there for the greater good, which is the movie. That almost helps to relieve some of the stress. Granted, you’re at the center and they want you to answer their questions. But I would take that and just enjoy the moment, and not allow it to just be a stress fest where you can’t remember what it was like. You have to enjoy the journey slowly.
How has the experience been, doing Mike Tyson Mysteries?
RASH: Oh, my god, that’s a blast! It’s crazy! It’s so much fun. I just came from recording some episodes, right before this, and they’re hysterical. They’re so weird.
Could you ever have imagined you’d be a part of an animated series with Mike Tyson?
RASH: No. I never even thought I’d be meeting him. It was a gift.
New episodes of Community are at Yahoo Screen.