As a fan of Community since it began airing, I lost my entire damn mind when Danny Pudi, who played Abed Nadir on that NBC cult hit sitcom, showed up unexpectedly in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as a S.H.I.E.L.D technician ransacked by Captain America (Chris Evans), the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders). My man Pudi, one of my all-time favorite TV comedy actors, on the big screen in a damn MCU joint! In retrospect, I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised, as the film was directed by the Russo Brothers, who had directed several of Community‘s best episodes, and clearly wanted to show their home base some love. Still, I had numerous questions. How did Pudi get cast? How intense was the shooting process? Does this S.H.I.E.L.D technician have a future?
Luckily, I was able to speak to Pudi himself in support of his new film The Argument, and asked him, point-blank, to walk me through his entire MCU experience. And the man did not disappoint:
“I can only speak for myself when I say this, but I got a text from Joe Russo, who was a director of Community at the time, and said, ‘What are you doing on July 4th?’ I said, ‘I think I’m with my family. We might go to this parade.’ And he said, ‘Do you have some time in the afternoon?’ I said, ‘Yeah, well, in the morning we’ll go for this parade and we’re having some hamburgers, but afterwards I’ll stop by.’ He was filming in Manhattan Beach. So I show up at Manhattan Beach, there are no sides, no script. I don’t know what I’m doing. He said, ‘We’d like you just to pop into this scene with Captain America.’ And I said, ‘Great.’
And then they gave me a sheet of paper, on set, with a couple of lines, and then they made me give them the sheet of paper back. And then Captain America, in one take, punched me, and I was super excited because I thought this was going to be in the movie and I was like, ‘This is amazing.’ I want to take a punch and then I want to be able to stand right back up, you know? Just to be like, ‘Okay, I took a punch. It was hard, but I could get back up after being punched in the face by Captain America.’ None of that made it into the film. (laughter) Months later, I saw the film. I’m in it. All my friends were like, ‘How did that happen?’ I wasn’t allowed to tell anybody I was in it, and it was a surprise, and that’s pretty much how it came to be.”
Yes, yes, yes! This is exactly the “filming an MCU movie” story I want! Randomly finding out you’re in a scene with Captain America, being allowed to look at the lines for a literal second, having to live a key aspect of your life in secrecy? Thank you, Kevin Feige, more please! And also, Russo brothers, if you’re reading: #ReleaseThePunchCut imminently. I need to see Cap punch Pudi right in the jaw, and I need to see Pudi get right the heck back up.
So, what does the future of Pudi’s MCU character look like? You may laugh, given how little screen time he has, but even he admits that “people are now wondering, did I make it? Am I still around [post-Thanos snap]? I believe I am. I believe I’m S.H.I.E.L.D. I believe I’m a good guy. I believe I have heart. Without me, I think that film doesn’t work. I’m gonna say that.” While he devolved into laughter at this obvious joke, I pressed him a touch further, asking straight up: Will you show up again in the MCU? His response:
“It’s possible. I mean, to be honest I have no idea. (laughter) I truly have no idea. Based on my experience, I didn’t have any idea what I was doing the first time I was there, so anything is possible.”
Be on the lookout for my full Danny Pudi The Argument interview soon. For more on Captain America: The Winter Soldier, here’s how the film was made.