‘Community’: Paget Brewster Talks Joining the Study Group

Community” out-of-control community college, Greendale, could have always used some taming, and it looks like the school has finally found the person for the job. Paget Brewster joins the show in its sixth season as a no-nonsense adviser, looking to turn the school around. Brewster, who previously starred in “Criminal Minds,” spoke with Variety about joining the tight-knit cast, working with showrunner Dan Harmon and the advice castmember Gillian Jacobs gave her.

How did it feel to join “Community”?
It’s exhilarating. It’s also scary. The cast has had 5 years together. I want to do right by the scripts and make them happy that I’m here. And I’m just hoping the fans accept me. As a fan, I’ve watched shows when I’m like, “Who’s this? I just want my friends. I don’t want this new person.” Hopefully they’ll warm to me if they don’t like me right away. I’m just a ball of fear. Typical actress. (Laughs.)

Why did you want to do comedy?
A long time ago I only did sitcoms. And then I did “Huff.” “Criminal Minds” was very serious. So when I left (“Criminal Minds”) I said I only want to do comedy. This is a really thrilling, hilarious, brilliant show. This is jumping in the deep end of the pool.

How did you get the part?
My agent called and asked if I would join for season 6. I said, “Yes, yes, I would love to. I don’t need to meet with anybody.” And then I never heard what I was playing until the day we did a photo shoot. I found out on Twitter I was playing an efficiency expert.

Tell me about working with Dan.
There aren’t any guys like Dan. He hops on his Segway, scoots from his writers’ offices to the set, and silently watches the rehearsal. And then he will say two or three things that make everything make sense in a way that you didn’t see before. Jimmy Burrows is like that as a director, and it’s gold.

And what about the rest of the cast?
The second episode we shot they were rewriting a lot. I got the script pretty close to shooting, so I didn’t have as much time to memorize as I’d been used to professionally. I thought, “I keep blowing this line, I keep forgetting this word.” And they were like, “You’re all right, don’t worry, we do this all the time.” I had flop sweat, I was going to cry, I was making the day go too long. And they all just laughed through it. They were so supportive and kind, never frustrated. There’s no ego in this cast. It doesn’t exist. They’re ready to run as fast as possible in any direction for their character and their show. That’s remarkable.

How does “Community” compare to other TV shows you’ve worked on?
It’s a single camera comedy with a lot of characters in the room at the same time, so it’s a tough gig. We have long days. You drive home and you go to sleep. You wake up and you drive back. But no one is pissy about it. It’s very important to everyone and to Dan that Dan be heard. So it has to be right. It’s not slapping a show together and saying that it’s good enough. This show really cares about itself. The cast and the crew care about preserving this world that exists comedically and tonally. Everyone’s deeply invested in maintaining this world with a great amount of care and reverence. I haven’t seen that every time.

Was it what you expected?
I’d called Gillian (Jacobs) before I took the part and asked if I should do it. And she said, “Yes, you should do it. The hours are long, but you will love it. You will not be around happier, funnier, kinder people as a whole.” She told me the truth. I have no regrets. I only have that nervy excitement and fear. Please let me be a valuable part of this army. Please let me holding my own, because I value and respect these guys so much. Having watched it from the outside, I’ve always wondered, how do they do it? To now be in it, I just hope I’m pulling it off.

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