Fans of NBC’s Community (Thursdays, 9:30 p.m. ET) know Yvette Nicole Brown as Shirley, the sassy divorcée that Chevy Chase’s eccentric Pierce has sexually harassed during Spanish study group. Fans of TV in general might remember her as a Daily Variety ad salesperson on Entourage, the Staples coworker who had an argument with Dwight on The Office, or the organ procurement person who didn’t realize that the husband (Heroes‘ Greg Grunberg) she was speaking to didn’t know that his wife was dead on House. Fans of movies (who don’t blink) might recall her as a secretary in (500) Days of Summer and the only black woman a producer arguing for more fluff in the opening show-how-efficient-Katherine-Heigl-is sequence in The Ugly Truth.
After meeting Brown, we know her as someone we’d like to have drinks with. The woman, whose big splurge when she finally got a promising network series was to order HBO (she’s working up to a home bowling alley and screening room), knows how to tell a great story. Here, she dishes on her Community classmates Chase and Joel McHale, as well as Jude Law, Gerard Butler, and Michael Bivins….
• How Yvette met Chevy Chase… She’s a hugger, which we can confirm, and, like Shirley, she’s also fond of the word “pumpkin.” Her genuinely warm personality has been embraced by show creator Dan Harmon, who’s made her “Ah, that’s nice!” into Shirley’s catchphrase. The show’s cast, however…. “For some reason, Chevy is the most frustrated with my sweetness and corniness,” she says. “As soon I say, ‘Ah…’ he’s like, ‘Here she goes.’ When he’s sitting next to me, I’m like giving him a little back rub, petting his knee. He’s like, Ugggggggh.” They met at the first table read, and she’d been cast only 30 minutes prior. “I think I was 25 minutes late, and I live about 45 minutes away and I showered — so I would like to apologize. I scared the mess out of everybody on the highway…. There’s a thing in the Bible that says a man’s gifts will make room for him and place him in front of great men. When I walked in and saw that one open chair right across from Chevy Chase, I was like, ‘Better make room! That’s a great man!’ He reached across and said, ‘Hi, I’m Chevy Chase.’ I’m like, ‘Yes, you are. Yes. You. Are.'”
• How Yvette met Jude Law… They shot the psychological thriller Repo Men together back in late 2007. She plays the leader of a resistance who dons a wig, a facial scar, and a wardrobe borrowed from The Matrix. (“I have to turn around with this gun in my hand and be badass,” she says, before whispering “I am so not badass.”) A Jude Law fan since Gattaca, she plotted their meeting carefully. “I want to make sure I stalk, but not in a dangerous way, the people I love. How can I let Jude know how I feel without scaring him? I’m in the trailer [practicing], ‘Hey, Jude.’ ‘Hey, Mr. Law’, and he comes in and he says, ‘Ohmygod, I love you.’ I’m like, Dream come true, but what? His kids watch Drake & Josh [she was Helen], and he says, ‘When I can’t be with my kids, I’ll watch Drake & Josh, and it makes me feel closer to them.’ So, Jude Law, who I adore, knew who I was… We’ll see if I make it into the movie.”
• How Yvette met Michael Bivins… When she was a senior in high school in Ohio, she heard Bel Biv DeVoe’s Michael Bivins say on BET that he was looking for talent to manage. She found out what hotel BBD was staying in after their concert, and she and her friends waited in the lobby. “All the hoochies were there, for other reasons, and I was there in my little overalls and baggy T-shirt. It was probably three o’clock in the morning when they came in, and I followed him through the lobby, every five seconds, ‘Mr. Bivins, may I sing for you now?… Mr. Bivins, may I sing for you now?… Mr. Bivins, may I sing for you now?’ I was so annoying, that he was like, ‘Ugh! Just sing! Just sing!’ And I sang ‘Go Outside in the Rain’ by Milira. He was still so irritated, but he liked my voice, and was like [sighs] ‘What’s your number? What’s your name?’ And the next day, he called me and said, ‘I want to manage you.’ It was that quick. I remember being like, this is your one shot to do this. You’re probably gonna embarrass the mess out of yourself, and he really doesn’t want to be bothered with you, but if this is your dream, you gotta go for it. We did an album as the East Coast Family, my first trip to LA was with the East Coast Family. It was a great run, but I guess music was just never meant to be for me.” (Yes, she’s pushing for a musical episode of Community.)
• How Yvette gets teased by Joel McHale… “Joel is the snarkiest nice person you’ll ever meet. Joel picking on you, you enjoy. He and I are the same age, but he’s like a big brother, the one that’s always like [pretends to poke], ‘I’m not touching you. I’m not touching you.’ He’s so cute and charming and talented that you don’t mind…. Joel will make fun of you, but he always knows instinctively where not to go. I make jokes about being chubby all the time, and I said something once, and he was like, ‘Oh, all of that is gorgeous’ when he could have been like, ‘Put down the donut.’ He could have gone for the jugular, but instead he embraced my womanly curves, and even though I was making fun of myself, he was like, No, no, not here. We don’t do that kind of funny. It’s not just me. Everybody has something about them that’s a little wonky, and as brutal as he is in every other area [laughs], he will never go for that one thing that he thinks will hurt you. I respect him for that.” (Note: McHale, who towers over her, will hold up his hand and say ‘Up high, Yvette.’ She can reach his armpit.)
• How Yvette loves her some Gerard Butler… “That’s a huggin’ man. That’s a huggin’ man,” she says. “I saw him at the premiere [of The Ugly Truth], and he was surrounded by women. I hadn’t seen him since we shot the film. I walked up, and I don’t know why, but somehow the women knew to just part, and he looked at me and he said, ‘Come here.’ I was like, ‘Did you miss me?’ He was like, ‘Terribly.’ Lord knows, he probably doesn’t mean any of it, but it means the world to me, and that’s all that matters.”
Photo credit: Paul Drinkwater/NBC