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New 'Community' producers Moses Port and David Guarascio preview season 4
On losing Chevy Chase, preparing for senior year and whether, in hindsight, they'd have chosen to succeed Dan Harmon
As an outsider, you can look at “Community” and say, “Alright, this is the show were they do the pop culture pastiche, and we’re going to do an episode that’s a parody of ‘Hunger Games.’” What is it that separates it beyond the level of what a “Community” fan fiction writer could do versus what actually makes it “Community”?
David Guarascio: Well, for starters, we never approach it that way. I understand why it will often look that way like, “Oh, that’s a popular movie; let’s do that this week.” But we never really think of it that way. We’re always thinking about the characters first and what they’re going through. What emotional situations are we putting them in that they might be reacting to in a funny way. All those other things get layered on afterwards, and I think in that sense the trickiest thing about the show is that the show is so self-aware, and when you’re self-aware you can lose your emotional footing. The show manages not to do that, in our view. So it’s threading that needle. It’s being completely self-aware, which is essentially a detached kind of idea and then still feeling like you have real emotional moments. And you’re connecting to the characters because you empathize with them. And it’s just walking on that high wire is the trickiest is part about the shot.
So with the premiere, at what stage did you decide this would be a “Hunger Games” parody?
Moses Port: That was the first thing we thought of. No, I’m kidding.
David Guarascio: Well we knew that we wanted to do an episode that was the first thing was reflective of the outside change in the show. Not that we wanted it to be about that, but we knew that we wanted the fact that there’s a big change going on creatively, should somehow be in the DNA of the episode. And we knew that part of that change is that this is kind of senior year. Which is where change becomes to be an issue for some people.
Moses Port: That would affect Abed.
David Guarascio: Yes.
Moses Port: Considerably.
David Guarascio: And then also how it would affect Jeff, because he wants to be there, but he also knows that he can’t be forever and how he’s trying to walk that line. And also there’s something in the way that the Dean as a character has evolved overtime and become more and more and part of the group. He’s just thinking how everyone's reacting to Jeff leaving. It could be a fracture in the group entirely and a whole thing can fall apart. And for the Dean it’s a very personal relationship that he has with Jeff, and an attachment. And the notion that he would put obstacles in front of this happening, it’s kind of where the notion of the “Hunger Dean” started to come around. You know, it’s funny because at some point after doing it, we're like, “We can stop calling this ‘Hunger Games,’ because it’s really not at all like the ‘Hunger Games’ in many ways.” But the notion that the Dean would latch onto that as a pop-culture reference in his world would explain why he wants everyone competing. And because that would allow him to put pageantry into it, it all made perfect sense as opposed to us wanting to poke fun at ‘The Hunger Games,’ which we really don’t at all in the episode. So it’s, that’s kind of the stew into which it kind of comes about, that it came about.
You’ve talked before about some of the anxiety of coming in, and the leader isn’t there anymore. Obviously, from the outside, there’s been a lot of skepticism. I don’t know if you’re aware of the fake @GuarascioPort Twitter account. What do you think of that?
David Guarascio: Someone told us about it early on and I looked at that and was like, “More power to you; go at it,” and haven’t really thought much about it since. We made a conscious decision early on. Right when the news came out, we did not realize what it, in the universe — in the Communiverse —how big a deal it would be. I mean, we knew it was a big deal but in a digital world everything is a storm the moment it happens. And it was very quickly easy to decide, “You know what? I don't have to read comments about anything.” The other sort of eye-opener, and it seems sort of obvious in hindsight, is that Dan deserves the lion share of credit for what the show is. But the truth is he’s not the person who’s being filmed. There is a bunch of actors who give the dimensionality to these characters’ lives. And not to mention directors, set designers, and the writing staff that’s been with the show for three years, and the ones that came back that have helped make it. And then there’s a little bit of that realization of like right this isn’t just one person in their basement with their clay and their three-dimensional models sitting with the light on above them. This is a hundred people making something together. And so it helped everybody, helped us relax. It was almost like you remind people of that. You actually helped create this character and you were the one who gave it life. You say to Gillian, “When people think of Britta they think of you; they don’t think of anybody else. They don’t think of a writer.” They don’t think about all the writers who contributed over the years, many of them came back this year, who know what the DNA of the show is and who helped inform what it is. There is this sort of Catch-22 of there was a leader who’s gone but there are many other people who are extremely talented who help make the show what it is.