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‘Community’s’ Jim Rash on Dean Pelton’s Costumes, Directing and Season Six

Throughout all of “Community’s” many changes through its first six seasons, fans could always rely on Dean Pelton, played by Jim Rash, to burst into the study room in an absurd costume (and often hit on Jeff McHale’s Jeff Winger). As “Community” enters its sixth season, now on Yahoo Screen after being canceled by NBC, Pelton talked with Variety about what it’s like playing the eccentric Pelton, directing and writing episodes and losing key members of the cast.

How do you enjoy playing Dean Pelton?
It’s just a dream. You get to be this very heightened individual amid a more grounded circle. Whether it’s donning many, many costumes or lovely polyester, it’s been a blast. I only have one pair of shoes. They’re comfortable, yes, but it’s sort of sad. Every character has wardrobe they would want to keep. There’s nothing on my body on a day-to-day basis that I would want to keep.

You and Nat (Faxon) directed two episodes this season.
That was a whole new world. It was both fun and stressful at the same time. You’re trying to be in the scene as the best of yourself as an actor but you’re also thinking of the internal clock, trying to separate the dean brain from the director brain. I love directing here — it’s family. If we mess up something here, they won’t hate us.

Would you ever write an episode?
I wrote one episode in season 4. I loved it. I would do it again if they ever needed it. But I’m more than happy to just act. I’m always impressed by what they do. Do I want to put myself out there again and be tested? No. I did the directing thing. That was enough pressure.

Does the show feel different on Yahoo?
Not in any way that I’ve noticed. On the creative side, showrunner Dan (Harmon) didn’t want to unleash some new version of “Community.” We have a small extra window to have episodes be longer. But I don’t think he wanted to get it to a place where we were overstaying our welcome. It feels like Yahoo is all in for loving the show and whatever absurdity comes our way.

How have the new cast members changed the dynamic?
The study table has become more of an advisory board committee. The Dean brings Paget (Brewster) in as a financial advisor to oversee our constant economic woes and to quell the dean’s constant bad ideas. And we meet Keith (David) because he invented the virtual reality game which is a prominent part of the second episode. He instinctively starts to fall for what the school could mean for him and he enrolls. It’s to the credit of Dan and the writers. They knew those voices right away. You don’t want to add just what was missing. You don’t want to add another Pierce or Troy or Shirley. You want to put another human being that changes the dynamics.

Do you miss the cast members who’ve left?
It’s always hard to lose all of them, one by one. Losing Yvette (Nicole Brown) this year was hard, both as friends and as that character. Shirley’s character is so important to the moral backbone of the group. And Troy is such a huge part of Abed. While it’s hard, Troy’s absence opened up a huge world for Danny’s character to explore and to grow up a little bit more. With each of those things comes an interesting bonus for the writers

Will you stay with the show?
Oh God, yes! Until they kick me out. Until they tell me I’m fired — which could happen at any moment.

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