Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Alison Brie Talks "Community," "Mad Men" and Paintball

Brie as Annie Edison in Part 1 of the upcoming Community finale, "A Fistful of Paintballs"

It’s always a little risky to talk to an artist you truly admire. They could be just as kind, gracious and funny as you thought, or they could turn out to be uncooperative or narcissistic. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to Community’s Annie Edison herself, Alison Brie, and I’m happy to report that this charming, funny and talented young actress falls into the former category; she’s just as sweet and bubbly as you would expect from the actress who brings Annie to life. She covered a wide range of topics, including her work on both Community and Mad Men, sharing a scene with Josh Holloway, and her desire for a mermaid-themed episode of Community.

If all of you are excited as I am about the upcoming, sure to be epic Community finale, you’ll be excited to hear Brie’s thoughts on the two-part sequel to last year’s beloved paintball episode. Brie said that getting the script for the second part of the paintball episode contained some of the most shocking twists she had seen in a Community script. “The second part of the finale, there just are twists and turns that I didn’t see coming at all,” said Brie. “There are moments when you’ll read something and look at the writers and say, ‘really? Is this just a joke for the table read?’” Brie even compares the twists in this episode to Jeff and Annie’s unexpected kiss at the very end of last year’s finale, saying “This is two years in a row now that my biggest shock of the season has been the very last episode.”

Brie also teased Annie’s role in the paintball battle, which promises to be much greater than her role in last year’s episode. “Annie got taken out pretty early when we did the original paintball episode, and this time I really have a lot more to do,” said Brie, adding, “She’s practiced since she got taken out so early last year. She doesn’t like to lose.” 

Brie was especially excited about the scenes that Annie shares with Josh Holloway’s mysterious stranger. “He plays a bit of a mysterious character, and I got to do some action scenes with him.” She also got to flirt a bit with the man best known as Lost’s heartthrob Sawyer, and apparently shared quite a bit of chemistry with the guest star. “As we were doing the scene, our writer and director said ‘We’ve got to milk this chemistry’… and I was like, ‘Yes, chemistry with Josh Holloway, nailed it!’” An episode of Community wouldn’t be complete without a few pop-culture references, and having Sawyer himself on the set provided the writers with some opportunities for the meta. “There’s going to be a Sawyer line,” she promised, “so we’ll see if the Lost fan’s pick up on it. I’m sure they will.”

Of course, viewers who have invested two years in Community also want to see what the rest of the study group is going through, particularly given the internal tensions that have threatened the group this season. Brie promises that we’ll see plenty of developments in the group’s relationships. Recently, certain people in the group have been having trouble with other people, and “those feuds really come to a head in a major way in these last two episodes … there is a lot of really emotional stuff going on.” We’ll also see some of the recurring characters make an appearance. “There’s a lot of cute nods to the peripheral characters,” said Brie, “these people that you’ve seen every so often on the show.”

The final two episodes, however, are also action-packed, and the actors were worn out from all the paintball fights. “I clean [my ears] every time I shower, and I still had paint coming out of my ears a week later. It grossed me out!” laughed Brie, who had already suffered a paintball-related injury filming last year’s episode. "Last year I got shot in the boob, and it hurt!" said Brie. "I had a bruise."

Brie was also happy to talk about her hopes for the future of Community and Annie Edison. For all the ‘shippers out there wondering who Annie will end up with, Brie says, “I go back and forth between Troy [Donald Glover] and Jeff.” Like so many of us out here who love the chemistry between Brie and Joel McHale, “a lot of the time Jeff and Annie make sense to me, because Annie has a way of being a voice of reason for Jeff.” However, she also thinks that the pairing of Annie and Troy is a possibility: “They went to school together, they grew up together, they’re the same age, and there was really something in that.” Brie also has some ideas for the show’s third season. “A mermaid episode,” said Brie, “a Splash episode where Annie just shows up naked on a beach, and you realize, “Oh god, she’s a mermaid … I’m going to pitch this.”

While Brie is best known for her work on Community, she also plays a recurring character on a very different critically acclaimed show: Mad Men’s Trudy Campbell. Although Brie admits that she identifies with Annie more because of Annie’s “nerdy sense of humor,” and the fact that Annie is contemporary, while Trudy is a period character, she says there are similarities between herself and Trudy. “It’s very easy for me to connect with the ambitious side of Trudy, her striving for perfection. It’s just that what Trudy values are not the things I value.” She also has some insight into Trudy’s relationship with Vincent Kartheiser’s Pete, one of the show’s more unlikeable characters. “What’s fun about playing Trudy is that she doesn’t bear witness to a lot of Pete’s horrible deeds. She just loves him and wants to be an amazing wife to him, which makes her a quirky character,” said Brie.

Brie is currently in Ann Arbor, Michigan filming the movie Five-Year Engagement, which costars Emily Blunt. Brie said that being in a college town like Ann Arbor has put her more in touch with Community’s fan base. “I just adore our fans. They’re amazing,” said Brie. “They pick up on things right away. They’re so intelligent and they get so excited about the show, and it’s been really cool to be here in Ann Arbor and be able to witness them firsthand more than usual.”

I said earlier that it can be risky to talk to an artist you admire, because you never know what they’re really like. It is equally worrisome to hear about the behind-the-scenes dynamics of an ensemble show like Community, because you never want to hear about tension between cast members. “One of the best things about working on the show has been making some of my best friends,” said Brie, adding, “I’m texting them every day, and they’ve been texting … We love each other.”

Despite the cast’s tight bond, Brie was willing to dish on one hot topic – the question of who was the show’s best paintball player. “I feel like I have to say Joel [McHale], so I don’t get in trouble” laughed Brie, but went on to add, “I have to say that Danny Pudi is very agile … He’s like a jungle cat, so he’s a good stealth man, but Joel is, you know, all muscle.”

Even though most of the talk centered on the upcoming finale, Brie was happy to talk about other episodes – in particular “Paradigms of Human Memory,” the recent clip show that showed viewers glimpses of a number of adventures that didn’t make it on screen. I asked Alison what clip she would like to see expanded into a full episode. “It would definitely be the St. Patrick’s Day adventure,” said Brie. “Especially Abed’s line, because Danny’s such a pro, and the way he delivered that line, ‘The mysterious events that surrounded the exciting conclusion of our St. Patrick’s Day adventure.’” However, after thinking for a moment, Brie added that another favorite clip was “our trip to Mexico where Pierce almost gets shot.”


  1. As promised, I am commenting now since I can get first post.

    I am SO EXCITED for the paintball episode. They should just make next season a paintball season, or possibly make a "Paintball Community" spinoff series featuring Star-Burns, Leonard and the "Pop pop!" guy.

  2. So exciting!!!

    I'm psyched for paintball, and Alison Brie just seems so ridiculously charming.

    Thanks for the scoop!

  3. Have never watched the show but am excited to download last season and catch up! Great article, Alexandra, she seems adorable.