Slap on some goggles and peer out cautiously from behind the corner: It’s almost time for Paintball: The Sequel! A year after Community’s splendid splatterfest “Modern Warfare,” the NBC comedy aims to outdo itself with a two-part season finale (airing May 5 and 12). The first half, titled “A Fist Full of Paintballs,” features a special guest star, Lost’s Josh Holloway, who plays a “mysterious, serious” paintball player named Black Rider. Holloway and series creator Dan Harmon spoke with EW about the big game.
On the casting of Holloway
HARMON: “We knew we wanted somebody special for this role, because it’s a mysterious stranger who’s thrown a wrench into the paintball game…. I don’t know how we bagged him. It seemed like he was on Lost and then he was lost and then we found him, and I don’t know what we did to deserve that.”
HOLLOWAY: “I got a phone call from my agent. They said, ‘Community, it’s a big paintball thing and you’re a mysterious character,’ and I’m like ‘I’m in!’ … This show is just hilarious and it’s a sleeper hit to me. And I had worked with Chevy [Chase] a couple years ago on a movie called Stay Cool and we just hit off and laughed because he’s Chevy, you know? He and his wife were big fans of Lost so he asked me questions about that and he’d give me hell about my inability to be a better actor. He was just funny as hell … I was excited to work on the show not just because he’s on it, but it’s really smart and the actors are so great and so talented. I’m like ‘Damn, they’re funny! I don’t know if I’m funny.'”
On Black Rider
HOLLOWAY: “He’s a mysterious, serious guy — but then it gets funny.”
HARMON: “He’s badass. He’s from somewhere else so he’s not your typical Greendale screwball. He’s definitely got his stuff together, and he knows how to shoot a gun and he’s got the right equipment. He’s a formidable, shadowy threat. He seems to out-Winger Winger a little bit…. [Black Rider] and Jeff [Winger, played by Joel McHale] onscreen together is pretty funny — you can definitely see the overlap that two flint rocks have — that creates friction and it’s classic stuff. Having another fellow with such looks in the story certainly brings out the worst in Jeff.”
On this year’s paintball game
HARMON: “The Dean is intent on having this one go a lot more smoothly, but he fails. What was supposed to be a smaller, quicker, safer game becomes quite the opposite: it’s bigger, longer, and more brutal.”
On working with the Community cast
HOLLOWAY: “They’re smart and fast. I felt a little behind the times. They’re referring to all these shows and actors, and I’m like, ‘All I’ve been doing is watching Yo Gabba Gabba and Wonder Pets with my daughter!'”
On the possibility of Holloway returning to Community next season
HARMON: “I’m looking forward to having him back if he’s so inclined, because he’s got a lot of comedy chops. He was a lot of fun to work with.”
On the possibility of Holloway guest-starring on other comedies
HOLLOWAY: “Oh god, I’d love to be on 30 Rock. Who wouldn’t? Modern Family is awesome. I’ve always been interested in comedy … [I’m available] for fun guest-starring roles. Really, the TV thing I’m holding off of is the six-year relationship with one character. I just wanted to give myself some breathing room as an actor first.
On the concept of a two-part paintball finale
HARMON “It’s designed to exist both as one story but also two separate episodes. [The first] one has a Sergio Leone Western motif, so there’s more emphasis on tension, scarcity of ammo, and who might draw on who. But the second one erupts — the Western motif falls away and an out-and-out war happens. There’s a kind of an epic, wartime, band-of-rebels-against-a-larger-force Star Wars feel to the second one … If we only did the Western one, there might have been some people who said, ‘Oh it’s great, but it’s not ‘Modern Warfare.’ And then there’s other people who, if we had only done ‘Modern Warfare,’ would say, ‘Eh, same thing again.’”
On addressing Pierce’s turn to the dark side
HARMON: “This so-called Pierce problem that’s been talked about in critics’ columns is in fact building to a climax in this final story. That’s the drive of both of the stories in a large way. People have pointed to the fact that Pierce [Chase] is sort of villainous this season, which I did on purpose because I like him that way. But I think the only people who felt like that are people who feel like it’s being ignored by the group. And so we’re using these stories to have the group acknowledge it.”
On the risk of repeating themselves with another paintball episode
HARMON: It’s always worth considering, ‘Let’s not go back and try to recapture lightning.’ That’s a good way to fall on your face, but at the same time … the idea that we wouldn’t be able to top ourselves was too tempting to me as a self-destructive producer. I’ve tried so many times to fail on this show, and every time I try really hard to screw up, we get a really good episode. I was so busy walking around with knots in my stomach about the fact that we were about to air a My Dinner With Andre episode that the potential embarrassment of trying and failing to [pull off] another paintball was small potatoes. I fully accept the potential of failure all the time. I just feel like ‘high risk, high yield’ is a better philosophy in entertainment. We’ve doubled down quite a bit on this show and we’ve got a big stack of chips, so we’re just going to keep doing it until we lose.”
For more on Holloway’s Community guest spot, check out this week’s issue of EW.