‘Community’ Star Gillian Jacobs: ‘We’ve Always Been an Underdog’

Gillian Jacobs, a veteran of “Community,” recently sat down to discuss the new look of the cult comedy as well as the possibility of a seventh season. The new “Community” episodes premiere this week on Yahoo.

Did you ever imagine you’d be here?
No, I had no idea! When I signed up for this show it seemed like a normal sitcom to me, centered around classes with some mild hijinks. (Laughs.)

How did you feel when the show was canceled by NBC?
I cried. I was deluding myself into thinking there was no way they could cancel us before that sixth season, that marker we’d invented for ourselves. I thought that like “Parks & Recreation” they would give us a final 13 episodes to wrap up the show. On the other hand, I knew for the last three or four years it had come down to the wire for our renewals. When you’ve cheated death a couple of times, you think you can do it one more time.

How does it feel to be on Yahoo now?
We’ve been filled with so much envy watching other shows get so much support as they’ve launched since we premiered. To finally be on the receiving end of that kind of support and have a marketing plan and a strategy, it’s nice. We’ve always been a freshman show because we’ve always been such an underdog. For all the people who love “Community,” there are still millions that never heard of it. There’s still an untapped audience out there.

How has the show changed? I noticed you were shooting outside.
Once again how pathetic is that that we’re so excited to shoot outside? That’s a pretty low bar for a TV show to be shooting in natural daylight, but for us it’s a pretty big deal. We also went back for one day to L.A. City College, where we shot the pilot in the first season. The setup of this lot allows us to be outside more. These stages are larger so we’ve been able to build more sets. That feels good to not be so cramped. We don’t have to rebuild things all the time.

How hard has it been to lose cast members?
I don’t do well with change, but this show has forced me to get better about it. It’s become a part of our show. If I look around at other shows that have lasted for six years, it’s not that uncommon that you start to lose people and gain new cast members. Sitting around the study room table felt like the core of the show. So to have three of those people not here anymore feels really strange. What last year proved with the loss of Donald (Glover) and this year with the loss of Yvette (Nicole Brown) is the show does go on and it is funny. It just shifts. The structure is fluid enough to allow for that.

How have the new cast members fit in?
They’re awesome! Paget (Brewster) and Keith (David) are hilarious. We’re like, You won’t always know what’s going on, but you’re going to enjoy it along the way. They’re rolling with the punches pretty well. It’s fun for us when you have two reasonable adult figures to bounce off the childish insanity of the group. They’re much more mature adults than the rest of us.

Why have you stayed with the show?
It’s the best writing I get to do all year. This show makes me laugh unlike any other show. Truly the number of jokes per page is astounding. (Showrunner) Dan (Harmon) matches the level of jokes per page that Tina Fey was able to do (with “30 Rock”). We don’t even get all the jokes until we watch it cut together. And we’re like, “Oh, that’s what that was!” We still have excitement about watching the show we’re on. That’s a nice thing, six years in, to want to watch the show we’re on.

Why do you think fans have responded so much to the show?
It’s a show about underdogs, and the show itself is an underdog. I think that it speaks to people who feel like misfits or out of place or misunderstood. Everybody hopes for a friend group like this — that supports you and gives you s–t and has your back no matter what and you get to go on these great adventures with. It’s the ideal vision of friendship.

What have you learned through making the show?
It’s great as an actor because I feel adaptable, resilient, easygoing about the process of it because you have to be. Sometimes you start on Monday and there’s only one scene and you don’t really know what the script’s about. We did one episode where we shot the beginning and they hadn’t written the middle of it, and then we had to shoot the ending. Joel was like, “What do we do? We don’t even know what happens.” And I was like, “We learn something about friendship and we come out on top, so let’s just be happy.” And that’s what it was about. Nothing can really faze us. You just become very adaptable, which is a great skill to have. It’s not precious. And you realize you can do a lot more than you think you could.

Do you think the show can have a seventh season?
I think you would be really stupid to count this show out because it’s survived so many other things. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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