By Sandra Gonzalez
Updated July 30, 2020 at 11:13 AM EDT
McHale is the king of snark, which made him the perfect choice for prickly, self-obsessed Jeff Winger. But here's the surprise: As Jeff continued to…
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Image Credit: Mitchell Haaseth/NBCThe season premiere of Community is less than a week away, and I’m krumping with excitement, PopWatchers. And you should know that I krump almost as well as Alison Brie does the robot — a move she broke out twice while visiting EW’s offices last week. In this interview with the bubbly star, who pulls double duty with a recurring role in Mad Men, Brie opens up about the upcoming season and its guest stars. (Betty White, Drew Carey, John Oliver, oh my!) Spoiler phobes beware.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Can you tease anything about the upcoming season of Community?

ALISON BRIE: What I can say — I want the premiere to still be exciting for people — but what I can say is that everything that happened in the finale is addressed in the premiere. So we’re not going to leave viewers hanging. It’s not going to be this long, drawn-out season of romance. We deal with it right away, and then we have our fun. And that’s in terms of Jeff [Joel McHale], Britta [Gillian Jacobs], and Annie and all those things. Jeff and Annie, when they come back, what I’d say about the two of them is that they just might not be on the same page about what happened. So that’s a little issue when we come back. They each have different ideas about where it’s going to go. So that gets interesting fast.

I know you also said in an interview with Ausiello that there have been a few dynamic changes in the group. What can you tell me about those?

Well, when I spoke before, we had shot maybe one episode, and now we’ve shot more. So the truth is, I don’t think the dynamic in the group has changed so dramatically, but we’re just all so much closer. Last season, you watched the characters getting to know each other. Now they come back and already know each other. You’ll see a lot of Troy and Abed stuff, because they’re not solidified as this duo now, and you’ll see other friendships pop up and evolve. And Jeff has sort of been through it with both of the girls now, so that dynamic is going to change, as well.

He’s really making his way through them…

He works fast, yeah. [Laughs]

The group is also tackling a new subject this season. No more Spanish. We’re in anthropology now.

Yes, when we get back our new teacher is Betty White, and she’s a little nuts. She’s a little dangerous, and she takes the job very seriously. But the best thing about Betty White is she’s so great at finding that dynamic. She knows her strengths. As an actor, that’s so cool — that’s, like, the worst word to use [laughs] — but it was cool to watch her work and immediately realize why she’s been working in this business so long and continues to work. She’s such a pro and so specific. And when I say she plays to her strengths, she knew how to take this character — who is this crazy badass — and make her this very sweet woman, and then these things come out. She’s not pushing anything too hard. She lets it happen as it’s written.

Did you learn anything from her as an actor?

It reinforced some things I already know about preparation and professionalism. Just the way she handled herself on set. I think it’s never too late to learn — or it’s a lesson that’s good to continue learning — that you need to treat everyone on a set with respect. She’s just the sweetest person on set you’ll ever meet. It’s great to see someone who’s been working as long as she has and still takes time to be nice to everyone she speaks to. That never goes out of style.

Script-wise, are you finding it easy to make anthro a funny subject? Because Spanish — were you ever in Spanish?

I wasn’t. I took French.

Ah. Well, I’ve found that language classes are just easy classes to make a fool of yourself in — between the stupid projects and quirky teachers — and it was written so effortlessly last year. Are you all having an easy time making anthro funny?

Luckily, we get to have John Oliver [Professor Duncan] back a bunch this season, too. He’ll step in as our anthropology teacher a little bit, so done. The comedy, there you go. I feel like any time John Oliver is added to something, the comedy is instantly there. He’s so funny. I think that’s where [the writers] have their fun, trying out different teachers for our class. And also, this year, a lot of the stuff on the show is going to happen outside the classroom. You know, Senor Chang [Ken Jeong], who was our teacher last year, now he’s a student. That gives us also some cool wiggle room with still being able to have great interactions with Ken — who’s hilarious, just amazing and so darling — without having to be in class. We’re not actually in class as much as we used to be.

I know that Drew Carey is also coming on as Jeff’s co-worker. Have you filmed with him yet this season?

Yes, we shot with Drew Carey, and Rob Corddry was also in the same episode as an old co-worker of Joel’s. And I can say the same thing: Drew Carey was so sweet, just so nice. The minute he walked into the makeup trailer, introduced himself right away and was just super nice. And again, like John Oliver, and all these people, the comedy just falls effortlessly from their mouths, and hands, and eyes. It’s so cool to have them on the show. [Scoffs at self] Cool? [Laughs] It’s amazing to have these people who have worked in comedy come on the show, because it’s second nature to them. And it’s starting to be that way for us as well. We just get to play.

I didn’t recognize Drew Carey when I saw all the weight he lost. Did you?

I actually went online and looked up some photos of him prior to meeting him on set so I was prepared. I hadn’t really heard about his weight loss until he was going to come on the show — I just hadn’t. Somebody mentioned him coming on the show and he’d lost a bunch of weight, and I was like, “Really?” I just wasn’t on the up and up about that. So I Googled him, and I was glad that I did because he does look very different. I was happy; I was like “Wow, I would have made a fool of myself.”

You were prepared.

But as soon as you hear him speak, you’d know it was him. And he looks great. He looks healthy, and, like I said, he’s an easy-going, nice guy.

In the episodes Drew and Rob are in, we’re going to learn a lot about Jeff’s past, no doubt. But who would you like to see from Annie’s past?

I would love to see some stuff — just because I like to play things that are a little edgy and out there — I would love to see some blasts from the past from her drug-induced days.

Her days as Annie Adderall?!

Yeah! Her Adderall days — maybe some of her junkie friends. Or maybe she has a relapse. I just think that would be funny. Although, I also wonder about her parents. We’ve been working on our holiday episode, which is going to be a very special episode. I don’t think I can say anything about it, but it’s very exciting. And with the holidays, you always get into exploring family, and what the holidays mean to you — that sort of thing. So I talked to Dan Harmon a bit about what the holidays mean to me, helping him form Annie. And it just made me think, “Oh, that’s something we don’t know about her.” And because she’s one of the younger characters, I think it would be interesting to see how her parents have influenced her. Her upbringing must have influenced her uptightness.

And her overachieving.

Yeah. You sort of wonder, “Where did this girl come from?”

“What planet?”

Yeah. “What did they do to her to make her like that!?”


Or does she have these amazingly perfect parents, and she’s just always been that way.

Switching gears a bit, I want to talk about romance. Yvette Nicole Brown (who plays Shirley) has talked a lot about who she’d like to see cast as her love interest. Speaking of which, are they going to cast that?

No. I don’t know if they actually plan to.

No love for Shirley?! Was this just a fan-created cause?

I think fans do [want to see that]. I know Yvette does. She’s always pushing for different guys, but I don’t know if it’s actually been thrown out there as a real plotline. We’ll see if it happens or not.

Either way, I know Dan recently said in an interview that he assembled the cast to be sort of romantically interchangeable should he want to pair up anyone at any time. Who do you think is Annie’s next romantic conquest?

It sort of narrows the playing field because she started with a crush on Troy [Donald Glover], she dated Vaughn [Eric Christian Olsen], she had a little something with Jeff, so it’s sort of like “Who’s left?” To be honest, I always tell them John Oliver. I think it’d be funny. Talk about taboo! I’m like, “Come on!” Last season, we did the psychology episode, and it was our fourth episode we ever shot, and he and I did this experiment where we stayed up all night. There was this one scene where we were both wearing argyle, and I was like “It’s a sign! They both like argyle! They should be together.” There’s just something I think that’d be funny about Annie and John Oliver’s character. [Imitates swooning Annie] Professor Duncan.

See, I would have initially said Abed (Danny Pudi), but now that I think about it, I see them more as a musical duo.

They’re buddies. It’s true! I always want to get paired with Danny for storylines, but not romantically. I love the character Abed, but I like his friendship with all the characters. That’s sort of how Danny is in real life, too. He’s friends with everyone. He’s everyone’s favorite. And I think Danny and Annie have cute rapport and that they’re a cute duo friend-wise. But Professor Duncan — I don’t know why. I guess because I think Annie has that sexy schoolgirl thing going on — not that she’s super sexy, but she has that forbidden fruit thing going on. So why not be super taboo about it and have her be hot for teacher? [Laughs]

The complete opposite of what that character is supposed to be. I love it.

Exactly. I think that’s why people fantasize about girls in schoolgirl outfits. It makes you think “slutty nerd,” [or] “sexy schoolgirl.” Incongruities are what people like.

I saw a Tweet of yours about you and Danny doing a music video. I liked that idea.

Danny and I have so much fun on set. We goof around. We are [trailer] neighbors, and we’ll visit each other every morning, like “What’s up?” And we have this favorite song, it’s called “Difficult” [by Uffie]. I hadn’t really heard of her before. And Danny comes into my trailer, and he’s like “You have to hear this song!” And he plays it for me, and the rest of the day we’re doing like [does a robot dance]. Because we [didn’t] know the words, we were being robots. And this isn’t sounding cool because it’s not cool. But [laughs] we had so much fun the rest of the day planning our music video, and how we would do it. We acted it out for a couple of people, like Donald, who was like “Don’t ever show me that again. Why did you waste 30 seconds of my time showing me that?” So yeah, I think Danny and I could make a great music video.

Here’s a question that’s not “difficult,” PopWatchers: Are you excited about Community?

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