On losing Chevy Chase, preparing for senior year and whether, in hindsight, they'd have chosen to succeed Dan Harmon
And the finale was actually shot as the eleventh episode, right?
How and why did that happen?
David Guarascio: You know, it just sometimes you’re just going, we knew what we wanted to do for the finale a little sooner. And we went through some like re-story breaking on one of the episodes.
David Guarascio: Yeah, it was a production thing of…
Moses Port: The 13th.
But given that you filmed the finale first with Chevy and then you had to do other stuff without him, how much did that complicate your lives for those last one or two?
Moses Port: It complicated it a little bit, but not crushingly so. He wasn’t so integral to the story that it affected major changes. So we were able to sort of really keep them intact.
One story we are able to seamlessly take him out and put Ken Jeong
in it. And it worked character-wise for the story.
So it’s not like you have another actor playing Pierce in these or something.
David Guarascio: No.
It’s just Pierce is not in them.
David Guarascio: But he’s also in them because we sort of shot him out in some things even though he was no longer here at some point in time. And it was part of the mutual parting of the ways: we needed stuff from him and we got it.
But you’re already coming into this fraught situation and then on top of that, Chevy leaves. What's your reaction at that point to it?
Moses Port: To seem par for the course.
David Guarascio: Yeah. It seems like it made sense somehow that it would go down that way. I mean everything from the first three years that we weren’t involved with somehow it seems like, of course he and Dan leave both through the same season.
Moses Port: I’ll say this: it was unfortunate, but the work he did, he was great this year. He was really funny. Then we got everything we wanted from him. It was actually, it was…
David Guarascio: For us, he was very easy to work with.
Moses Port: Yeah, he did really well this year.
Let’s start with Pierce then, because I wanted to get your takes both when you started the job and then by the end of the season of what role you feel each of the characters plays on the show. So what was Pierce's role on the show and in the group as far as you were concerned?
David Guarascio: I mean, they’re not that different from fiction and real life, and that’s what Dan really established so well. And always being able to mine what’s going on in the outside reality show and put it into this sort of fictional reality of the show. So there was always something about Pierce and Chevy that feels related to everything else that’s going on. Him and what’s going around. So for that reason it’s kind of like he’s the most modular piece — you could end up not having him in there and not feeling like the chemistry has been changed as much, just because of the way he related to everyone both in real life and the way the character’s written in to the show.
What role did you see Shirley having in here?
David Guarascio: I think that she was already predetermined to be focused on her business. It was tougher, a little more narrow from that perspective. Yvette is a very funny actress and it really is an ensemble in that way, so most scenes even if it’s about one person they all are invested in each other’s stories.
Moses Port: I think maybe because her character also evolved more and matured more. She started with a greater level of maturity than everybody else, and came into this season with more of that. If you think of where the character’s been from the pilot — divorced, lost, no job really — to where she is at the end of season 3 — back together with her husband in a loving relationship, has a small business that’s working. So she’s just more set, and that was the cool way that all the characters evolved at their own pace and mature at their own pace. That allowed her to be a little bit more of a voice of wisdom this year then maybe she could be. She had real evidence behind everything that she said, because her life is working in a way that everyone else has sort of at least realized they wanted to be their goal to be that way as well.
Dan at the end of last season put all the characters in a place where if the show had ended there you would’ve felt, “Okay, well that’s an ending for a lot of them.” And you said it was a challenge with Shirley. Was it tough with any of the others? Troy grew up by the end of season three; he wasn’t like the boy anymore.
David Guarascio: Yes.
So how did you approach writing him this year?
David Guarascio: We were looking that maturation without wanting to really negatively affect the relationship with Abed, because one of the souls of the show is that relationship. It’s so pure and its just joy, so the next step in his evolvement as a man really was to be in a romantic relationship and feel like that. It’s something the shows earned over time. And not feel like we’re just doing it for story’s sake. But there’s someone in the group other than Jeff that can be in a romantic entanglement. And the show had always tapped on that a little bit now and then, so we just found it was time to bring him and Britta to a very clear place. At the end of last year was a little bit like is there something there or isn’t something there?
Moses Port: It felt like he put them in motion though, it felt like we had to address that. I mean, you’re right; they could of ended the series there but there were other things like the search for Jeff’s father, those two being together, that were certain markers that seemed an inevitability for this season.