Thanksgiving will double as Father’s Day on an episode of Community that airs on…. March 7. And what will this special holiday bring? The first sighting of James Brolin as Jeff Winger’s estranged father, William, who skipped out when Jeff (Joel McHale) was only 8 years old. In this installment of NBC’s community college-set comedy, most of the study group suffers through an unsavory T-Day at the home of Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), while Jeff and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) wind up at William’s place, where awkwardness and discomfort are also on the menu. “From the moment he opens the front door, whatever he says is just off,” notes Brolin of his character. “And when Jeff says something and he answers, it’s just not on the same track at all. There’s probably something very sad about this, but there’s something very funny and recognizable about it… Good comedy is about real stuff.”
As you can see in these photos from the episode, Winger Sr. isn’t exactly a dour dad. “You’re dealing with a charming charismatic, confident, intelligent who invented a lot of the tricks that Jeff has at his disposal,” says Community executive producer Moses Port. Adds Brolin: “The father tries but I just don’t think he fits in a lot of places. And a lot of his answers are from left field. I loved every bit of dialogue that they had written. Every once in awhile there’s something kind of delicious and fun for an actor who’s done a lot of things, and this is one of them.”
The 72-year-old film and TV vet (Marcus Welby, M.D., Hotel) who’s married to Barbra Streisand points out that his casting raised a few eyebrows. (Community creator Dan Harmon, who left the show at the end of last season, had harbored a pie-in-the-sky dream of scoring Bill Murray for the role.) “There were millions of tweets either wondering, ‘Who the hell is this Jim Brolin guy?’ or ‘Why the hell did they choose him? He’s not right for his father!'” chuckles Brolin. “Then there were all kinds of really nice things said too. I love that when it’s all over the place.”
Brolin isn’t the only celebrity guest in the episode, as Workaholics star Adam Devine also pops up. “He may have an unexpected connection to Jeff,” hints David Guarascio.
Interestingly enough, Brolin will assume the role of another MIA dad of sorts on the Feb. 25 episode of Castle: An undercover operative, he is reunited with son Castle (Nathan Fillion), who is trying to retrieve the kidnapped Alexis (Molly Quinn).