So is at least one cast member, actress Alison Brie. Because the filming of Season 4’s 13 episodes wrapped last fall, she’s having a hard time remembering exactly what comes next for one of TV’s most talented comic ensembles.
“I’m excited to see them,” Alison told me during our interview at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where she appeared as part of the cast of the new indie film “Toy’s House.” (We’ll be posting a story on that film in the near future as well). “Normally, we get to sort of watch some of the season’s episodes while we’re still shooting. It kind of puts me in the same position as the fans—I’m not quite sure how it’s going to turn out, and by now, I’ve forgotten half the stuff we’ve shot.”
Despite her stardom, Brie is grounded and certainly no diva. She is bright, personable and very accommodating to writers who want to visit with her. As an example, on the day of our interview, she passed up a chance to hang with her fellow “Toy’s House” cast members on a beautiful, sunny Park City afternoon to meet separately with me and just one other interviewer—and she was in no rush to finish either interview.
Alison knows that it’s because of “Community’s” loyal fan base that Season 4 is happening at all. Though the show has been critically acclaimed since its beginning, it’s languished in NBC’s Thursday night slate of great, but unfortunately poorly rated, TV sitcoms (“30 Rock” and “Parks and Recreation,” two other great shows, have suffered the same fate). Twice, “Community” has faced the NBC executive chopping block, and twice, loud and vocal support from both viewers and critics has kept the show alive. This season, the show was slated to return in the late fall, but network executives kept pushing its debut back until this week. It will fill the time slot vacated by “30 Rock,” which aired its series finale on January 31.
Her character on “Community,” sweet and innocent student Annie Edison, is more-or-less the voice of reason amongst a cast of fellow students that include great comic/actors Chevy Chase, Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Donald Glover, Yvette Nicole Brown, Ken Jeong and Jim Rash. That’s not to say Annie isn’t manic at times…with good reason.
“I do love doing our more action-style parodies,” Alison says. “I’ve got to say that the two-part paintball finale in Season 2 was one of my favorites. I had a large part to play in those episodes, and it was really fun to run around and dodge paintballs and play a tough character.”
She also loves the fact that “Community’s” characters constantly change and evolve.
“Just when you think they are going to be almost totally different people, they regress,” she says with a smile. “You never know which way they’re going to go—they’re like two steps forward and three steps backwards! Our crew and our writers are amazing. There’s not as much adlibbing as you might think, but we certainly play it fast and loose in that as actors, we’ve developed our own idiosyncrasies in four years as we’ve been shooting the show. And we’ve tried our damnedest to get them into the shows. So we play these games amongst ourselves that I think add energy to the show.”
Her acting career had already taken flight long before she enrolled at Greendale C.C. Alison started on TV in 2006, playing a novice hairdresser on an episode of “Hannah Montana.” She later was a member of the cast of “Mad Men” that won a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in 2009. Alison appeared alongside Jason Segel and Emily Blunt in last year’s theatrical release, “The Five Year Engagement.” “Toy’s House” is her 11th film, and she came to Sundance in 2012 as a co-star of another fan favorite, “Save the Date.”
What is most impressive about Alison is her passion for the craft. Evident by her work in small-budget independent films, she loves the freedom they provide for her as an actor. Though the future of “Community” is obviously uncertain, since its newest season is just beginning, Alison isn’t sure what she’ll be working on next. She just knows she loves acting, including in independent films.
“It’s a much more singular vision,” she says. “Because it’s smaller, it sort of feels like it’s just ‘your part,’ as it is more intimate and special. You have the freedom to tell these stories in new and different ways and kind of push the boundaries of film. You’re really doing it because you like the project—it’s about the work. It’s not about status or money. I’ve always wanted to be successful, but just as importantly, I’ve always loved acting since I was a kid. And working on a small indie allows you the time to find little nuances and variations, and that’s exciting. It brings you back to why you started acting in the first place.”
Armed with that passion, her talent and her focus, it’s certain that we’ll be seeing Alison Brie on both movie and TV screens for many years to come. She’s someone that anyone would love to have as a neighbor or friend in their “Community.”