Joel McHale and Gillian Jacobs Talk COMMUNITY Season 3, the Hiatus, Possibility of Season 4 and More

     March 14, 2012


The NBC comedy series Community is finally returning with new episodes for the remainder of its third season on March 15th., much to the happiness of its devoted fans. Telling the story of a tight-knit Greendale Community College study group, that includes actor Joel McHale as Jeff Winger and actress Gillian Jacobs as 20-something drop-out Britta, the show is always smart, always clever and always funny.

During this recent interview to promote the return of the show, co-stars Joel McHale and Gillian Jacobs talked about their reaction to being pulled off of the schedule, what a savior the fans of been, what viewers can expect from their relationship for the remainder of the season, their favorite scene in the show, how important it is for these episodes to get decent ratings, if there’s going to be a Season 4, and what props they would like to “borrow” from the set. Check out what they had to say after the jump:

joel-mchale-community-imageQuestion: When did you shoot the episodes that are airing now?

GILLIAN JACOBS: Well, we never stopped shooting. We didn’t take a pause in filming. So, we finished shooting the season about three weeks ago. We just kept straight on through. There was no pause.

JOEL McHALE: That is true, so that we’re not canceled and we’re coming back.

JACOBS: That means everything. They didn’t reduce our episode order.

How did you react to being pulled off of the schedule? Did it worry you?

JACOBS: It’s not fun! It’s not what you hope for, but on the other hand, they didn’t reduce our episode order, which is a worse sign. The fact that we finished our season of 22 episodes meant to us that there was still a belief in the show and a faith in the show. And then, when the fans went insane that, to us, was also another sign that the network and, hopefully, people at large were going to pay attention to us and they weren’t going to forget about us, even though we weren’t on the schedule.

McHALE: Yeah, and that fan response got even louder as it went along, which was also a surprise. I think people thought it would die down, but it only fanned the flames.

JACOBS: Oh, yeah, those fans fanned the flames.

McHALE: It’s been our savior. It’s been great. And the other thing was that, with 30 Rock replacing us, if they had destroyed in the ratings, we probably wouldn’t be back. I think it showed that 8 o’clock on Thursdays is a really difficult time with The Big Bang Theory, American Idol, NFL Football, and now March Madness. It is a tough slot, and it was a relief to us. I would never be happy with anyone’s misfortune, but it’s a network problem more than it is a show problem, especially with the internet response. With our Glee episode, there were six trending topics worldwide about the show. There is a gap between the ratings system and how it’s measured, and the people that watch. That makes me feel a lot better about the show.

gillian-jacobs-community-imageIn the first episode back, Britta and Jeff have another emotional chicken moment. Going forward for the rest of the season, what does that relationship look like?

McHALE: Oh, we have a baby. We have two babies.

JACOBS: I have a hysterical pregnancy, and then it turns out that it was just a food baby. I would say that Jeff and Britta have morphed.

McHALE: It’s not a romantic relationship. It’s more like we’ve been married for 50 years. We just yell at each other a lot.

JACOBS: We bring out the worst in each other, so if it’s us versus high school students, we will gang up together to try to take down other people.

McHALE: We’re like two people that know each other well, that have gotten together at parties, once in awhile.

JACOBS: We both like to drink, so we drink together a lot. And, when you mix alcohol and Jeff and Britta, bad things or wonderful things happen. But, I would say that the group, as a whole, is less focused on romance right now. We’ve got bigger problems.

McHALE: There are much bigger outside problems that are swooping in on the group and threatening their very existence. As you have probably seen from the trailer, we get expelled.

What is your favorite scene in the show, from any of the seasons?

McHALE: I like the one when we were in the submarine and all the controls were in German, and we had to bring the sub back to the United States.

JACOBS: Oh, gosh, that was a real tough bind that we were in.

joel-mchale-community-image-2McHALE: In the episode, in Season 2, where Pierce (Chevy Chase) is in the hospital, there’s a half-page exchange between Britta and I. Pierce is threatened that my father is coming to the hospital that day and has wigged me out completely, and she notices because now she’s a psych major or a pre-psych major, at that point.

JACOBS: Practitioner of the mental arts is the title that I prefer.

McHALE: She goes, “Oh, well, let’s do some role playing. I’ll play your dad.” And I was like, “Okay.” She was like, “Hi, I’m Jeff’s dad,” and I was like, “Hi, I’m Britta’s gay dad,” and she was like, “Wait, what?!” So, I had my own role playing. That little exchange, back and forth, was some of the most well-written dialogue I’ve ever been able to utter out loud.

JACOBS: I had an episode, at the beginning of Season 3, where it was me and Ken Jeong a lot, and we had never been paired together, to have a B story of our own. So, I got to do things like be locked in a dog crate with a globe and some paint and a hammer. He pulled my hair and I slapped him. He tased me. It was really fun because Ken and I always talk about how much our characters hate each other, but it had never fully been realized in the show, how much they hate each other, so it was a great culmination of three years of us just shit-talking each other.

McHALE: Their storyline was completely separate from ours. We would come in and see it and just be like, “This is getting very odd.”

JACOBS: It culminated in me wearing a black unitard, covered in charred Barbies. You know it’s a good show when you involve fire and dolls and unitards.

McHALE: Yeah, it was good.

The reaction to the newest trailer has been really extraordinary, particularly online. But, do you ever get weary of the internet buzz?

McHALE: No, I have never gotten tired of it. That’s what’s so great about the fans. They are dedicated and rabid, and they really know how to use certain editing programs.

joel-mchale-gillian-jacobs-communityJACOBS: They know how to make a GIF like nobody’s business.

McHALE: It is like going to bed at night with an alarm system on, where you’re like, “At least there’s people on the internet that love us.”

JACOBS: What was nice was that NBC has actually been showing a cut-down version of that trailer. For us, it was really exciting to see that the network was airing it. I just thought that trailer was so great. Joel and I premiered it on The Soup, and it really did give me goosebumps when I watched it for the first time. Because it’s such a pressure-cooker making this show, we tend to almost forget what we’ve shot, after it’s over. So, seeing it all cut together, in that way, it was so amazing to think, “Oh, my god, we did all of that.”

McHALE: And then, there are some shots where I’m like, “I don’t even remember that.”

JACOBS: Hopefully, those rabid fans on the internet are forcing their 10 friends to watch the show, who have never seen it before. A girl came up to me at Pinkberry, over the weekend, and told me that she forced her friends to watch the first six episodes of the show. Hopefully, they keep telling their friends who tell their friends who tell their friends, and maybe we gained some new fans while we’ve been off the air.

McHALE: A man with tattoos on his face came up to me and said that he loved the show. And then, my mother-in-law said to me, “I feel like watching the show is a duty,” and I said, “That is true.”

JACOBS: That is true! For family, it’s a duty.

McHALE: She said she would much rather watch a procedural crime drama, but she will watch our show.

JACOBS: My grandfather sometimes watches Parks & Recreation and thinks it’s the second act of our show and I’m Amy Poehler. At least he’s got the TV on.

In teasing things that are coming up on the show, is there a line that you cross where you have told too much?

JACOBS: Yeah, but it’s hard when you’ve got a show that’s been off the air, to generate buzz without teasing things.

McHALE: We always are scared to tease anything, and then it turns out that we’re not teasing it enough.

Joel, you completely gave away the Law & Order thing recently.

McHALE: No, I didn’t. They approved that I could say that. So, eat it! The one thing I did reveal is that someone dies, but that was before anybody said, “You can’t say that.”

JACOBS: If we were Lost, then it would be another thing and we probably would be shot down dead, where we stood, by network executives. But, for us, having a show that’s been pulled, trying to get people who aren’t the rabid internet fans, and who are just the general public, sometimes takes saying, “An actor that you’re a fan of is guesting on our show.” So, we have to sometimes tease more of our guest stars then we would necessarily want to, or hint at upcoming plotlines. That trailer revealed far more then I thought we’d been sanctioned to reveal, but it also didn’t tell you the specific ins and outs of any one of those episodes.

gillian-jacobs-danny-pudi-donald-glover-communityMcHALE: That really was like a James Bond movie trailer, where it was like, “Here’s James Bond. He gets together with ladies. He has a lot of cool gadgets, and a lot of stuff explodes. Here’s the entire story in three minutes. Now, you get to pay for the long version.” I think it’s all good. We need that awareness of the show, for a huge section of viewers who are older people, mainly. They have no idea what the show is. One person said to me, “It’s called Commodities?” And I was like, “Yes, it’s about commodities exchange. It’s really exciting!”

If you guys get a Season 4, would you want to do anything to give a nod to the fans?

JACOBS: Sure! That’s not up to us, though, unfortunately.

McHALE: If it costs money, then probably not.

JACOBS: But, if it’s on our Twitter accounts then, yes, they’re very interested in doing that.

McHALE: We would like for all of them to appear on the show, at once.

JACOBS: That would be great, actually, if we did a crowd scene with all of our super-fans.

McHALE: It would be an expensive shot, but yeah.

gillian-jacobs-community-imageJACOBS: We did the PaleyFest last week and people flew in from Canada and Chicago and all over, and they paid money to come see us, plus air fare and hotel rooms, to watch us just goof around on stage. They’re willing to spend money on the show. They’ll buy the DVDs, and they’ll buy the toys and the t-shirts on NBC, but they don’t have Nielsen boxes, so it’s that weird disconnect between fandom and TV ratings.

Do you have any idea of how critical this group of shows is to getting another season?

McHALE: Oh, I would assume very critical. I would assume that we have to perform decently. If the bottom drops out, then my guess is that it’s going to be tough. We are close to 100 episodes and we’ve been syndicated on Hulu and we have a good, big international deal.

JACOBS: We’re launching in the U.K. again.

McHALE: I was like, “I thought we did that last year,” and they were like, “No, it was on a really weird channel that no one watches, so we’re going to relaunch it.” All those things are positive, but network television is incredibly unpredictable, so who knows? But, if we do okay, then I’m confident that we will be back, just because we’re so close to 100 episodes. But, that all said, the jury is always out.

This show is really interconnected with the internet and you wouldn’t have the show that you do without it. What do you think about that and the affect of that on ratings?

JACOBS: Nobody knows what the future is, except for wizards. But, a girl said to me one time, “I really love your show.” I said, “Oh, there’s a new episode on tonight!,” and she said, “I don’t even know what night your show is on.” People make their careers out of coming up with network TV schedules, and then there is a whole generation of people to whom that is completely irrelevant, but we are able to tap into that. There’s almost this synergistic relationship between us and the fans through Twitter and Facebook, and these websites. I don’t know how networks will monetize that, in the future, but there is a lot of energy and excitement in that direction, and I certainly feel like it has fed our show and done nothing but energize us, as actors. It keeps the excitement up that we have about making the show because, when you see that an episode airs and two hours later there’s a hundred gifts of a moment that we all loved, it’s like, “Oh, we weren’t wrong in thinking that that was cool.” They have Twitter accounts for our characters, that they started very early on.

community-gillian-jacobs-michael-jacksonMcHALE: And they have a lot of followers.

JACOBS: Once again, I’m not sure how they monetize that, but I do feel like we’re on the forefront of integrating the two.

McHALE: Once they figure that out, we’re going to be the next American Idol. It’s a weird thing because the ratings weren’t that strong, at that time, but the response was always so big. There’s some sort of gap that needs to be filled in. I know that the Nielsens are changing as well. They’re trying out a new system in Dallas, and there are a couple companies that monitor social media sites and online stuff while it’s happening, and whether it’s positive or negative. If they can figure out how to monetize that, then I think it will be helpful for us. Judging from the fan response, I think there are some fans that are going to have a human sacrifice on Thursday.

Do you have any plans for the return on Thursday?

McHALE: I will be in New York, on stage at Caroline’s, and we’re all going to watch it together. On Thursday, I’m going to be on the Today show promoting it.

community-cast-imageWhat are your three favorite TV shows of all-time?

JACOBS: The Comeback is my favorite TV show of all-time because it’s just brill. It’s Lisa Kudrow’s show about what it’s like to be an actor on a TV show. She’s so amazing on it. It features an unknown Kellan Lutz, as one of the younger actors on the show. If any Twilight fans are reading this, check it out. RuPaul’s Drag Race would be my favorite current television show on the air. And On Freddie Roach on HBO. It follows Manny Paciquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach.

McHALE: I’m going to go with Hillbilly Handfishin’ because there’s never been a show that takes hillbillies, puts them in rivers, has people reach into holes and has people pull catfish out of the holes. Dutch Oven was a great show that’s off the air now. They did eight episodes. And, Love Boat: The Next Wave.

Have you ever “borrowed” any props from the set that you just never returned?

JACOBS: No, but I would like Torg.

McHALE: I borrowed the study room tables.

JACOBS: I would like to take our evil Norwegian troll doll, Torg. But, he’s too valuable.

McHALE: He is valuable. That will be in the Smithsonian, not because it’s on display, but because someone walks in and throws it, like a grenade.

JACOBS: That would be what I would want, but I would have to fight Chevy [Chase] to the death because Torg is maybe his favorite thing, in the world. Maybe I would want Boobatron, the robot.

McHALE: I wonder where Boobatron is now.

JACOBS: Probably having a lot of fun, drinking some beers.

Community airs on Thursday nights on NBC and returns on March 15th.