Earlier this year, on April 1st to be exact, the genre-bending and endlessly delightful sitcom known as Community made its way to Netflix. This has opened the beloved show up to more new viewers than ever before, giving them a chance to enroll in Greendale and laugh along with the study group for the very first time. This means that a whole group of TV fans have now been acquainted with one of network television's hidden treasures, Abed Nadir.
Abed is the heart and soul of Community, played brilliantly on the show by actor Danny Pudi. In the years since the series ended, Pudi has gone on to do plenty of other things, but his turn as Abed is what really launched his career, and its a role that audiences won't ever forget.
Now, half a decade after Community ended, Pudi stars as Huey on Disney's DuckTales, alongside Parks and Recration breakout Ben Schwartz and Saturday Night Live alum Bobby Moynihan. In between, Pudi has starred in a DC Comics TV series (Powerless), voiced a Smurf, and appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Following the arrival of Community, and the premiere of DuckTales Season 3, ComicBook.com spoke with Pudi about his career to this point, and what makes those two series such memorable pieces of pop culture.
Bringing Huey to Life
Huey is quite different from Dewey and Louie, and I want hear your perspective on bringing him to life over the last few years since you've been working on the show.
Well, this was my first animated job in terms of a TV show. I auditioned for it a few times. To actually get the role was thrilling, because it's a show that was personal to me. I watched Disney Afternoons as a kid with my brother and sister. To be able to bring this new version of it to life and be part of it is awesome, with my own kids and just as a fan of the original series. That's pretty special.
In the original series, there wasn't much differentiation between the triplets. It was I think, one voice. And so to be able to differentiate three characters, I think Francisco [Angones] and Matt [Youngberg] and our writers have done such an incredible job about really diving in deeper. Appreciating the original for its scope and its adventures, but also being like, "If we're going to jump into this, let's see what else we can do with it."
I love it. I love it because I get to play a character who is really neurotic. Hubert, the oldest, by seconds. But in some ways, I think he's the most neurotic. He is the one who literally has a book inside of his hat on top of his head at all times, the JWG Guidebook. He loves a good plan. He screams, probably the most. He's frightened very easily, but he also has these fun just little quirks. He loves a good water show. If you put him in front of the Bellagio in Las Vegas, I think he would probably sit there for hours. He would just be in awe of any kind of a good water show. He geeks out at certain things, which is just really fun.
For me, it's like being able to go into a recording booth and be part of the show, which is just really fun and has all these fun layers too of comedy, because the cast is incredible. I haven't met Lin-Manuel [Miranda]. I haven't met Don Cheadle. I haven't met a lot of these people. But I have met Ben Schwartz, and I met Bobby Moynihan through this process, and Kate Micucci and David Tennant too. Just to be able to work with all these people who are just so incredible at what they do, it just feels like the strangest assortment, but also the most beautiful ensemble comedy.
It's so neat to see three unique comedic voices come together as triplets, especially when the characters have traditionally been so similar.
I think that was just fun to be able to be like okay, let's turn this into an ensemble comedy that actually plays off the people who originally watched this show too, because we all were huge fans of the original show too. There is like a spirit of truth there. In some ways, it feels like we're doing basically an ensemble Thursday night half-hour sitcom, even though frequently not in the booth. I think they originally tried putting us in a booth, but we were just too distracting for too long. Ben and I were just harmonizing weird R&B songs, probably a lot of like Toni Braxton or something. And then they were like, "This is a colossal waste of time. Let's figure out how to maximize our time while David Tennant waits for us to finish harmonizing in London."
We enjoy each other's company, that's what it is. We relate to each other.
"Astro B.O.Y.D." and Comparing Huey to Community's Abed
In the newest episode, "Astro B.O.Y.D.", Huey deals a lot with his robotic side and it plays with the idea that he is different than his brothers. It reminded me a lot of Abed in some ways.
It's interesting. In season one, I think a lot of the focus was on Dewey and finding their mom. Season two was much about Louie and figuring out what he wanted to do with his life. And season three seems to be about Hubert, Hubot, whatever you want to call him. His attempts at figuring out himself, but also how to help the family. Right? It's been nice, early on especially.
I think the difference here with Huey is that a lot of people would say that he has these robotic tendencies, but I think he's actually very expressive. So it's quite different than Abed in some ways. He is frequently screaming, panicking, emoting quite a bit. But it's a lot about him managing what's going on internally, including his imagination in the first couple episodes.
In this next episode coming up, which I just love, it is truly about Huey trying to fit in. With Boyd, there is this immediate connection. But I think there is that whole, "What is a real boy, what does definitely a real boy need?" And how does Huey connect? Sometimes Huey connects more to robots and machines than he does to real boys. But there's something really cool about Huey. We've explored him and his attachment to the JWG. He even has this great line, which I don't know if I can say it. But it's coming up in this episode, which he says, "Following the right procedure leads to carefree fun time leisure." And I think that is so Huey. He very much loves a plan, he's methodical. But when things go off the rails, which they frequently do because that's what DuckTales does, it's all about Huey figuring out how he can live without the JWG, without the guidebook. How he can find balance.
This episode specifically, is just such a fun one for me because I get to be a lot with Gearloose and with Fenton. It's with Jim Rash, who is my buddy who now I've been on two shows with, and it was incredible. And with Lin-Manuel. Being with these guys virtually, is pretty special. But I think this episode is a little bit about Huey growing up. I think that's what happens a lot in season three with Huey. You start to see him grow up a little bit.
DuckTales Is Deeper Than Expected
DuckTales is really deceptive, in that because of the connection to the classic Disney characters and because of the animation, it can get written off or thought about as just this show that is specifically for little children. But this feels so much more like Gravity Falls. It really goes so much deeper into things than you think it's going to. The show continues to surprise people in that way.
Yeah, I think that's the sweet spot. It's being able to have these adventures, these globetrotting adventures, which is the spirit of the original show. And I think that's the spirit of these people. I think in season three, it's truly the first time the whole family now is on board together, which is pretty beautiful. But at the same time, there's moments there early on in season three where Huey's having an imaginary conversation or he's having a conversation in his mind, and then it kind of gets out of hand. It's really honest in some ways.
It's about really each of these characters struggling with different things. That to me, feels really cool because we're able to actually touch on very real things. Our relationships with our family, which is really trying to figure out how to work together, even when our mom is back. How to work together with that. And there's all these adjustments, which are very real. Within that, there's also just levels of awesome layered jokes, great Easter eggs to Gravity Falls. Other things too, in the show. That to me feels really cool. We're able to pay homage to the original, but also be like, "Here's how we're going to also keep these stories going forward and see where else we can go with it."
The Community Cast
Four Community alum have ended up making cameos in Marvel films with Joe and Anthony Russo. Is there any running joke or conversation between all of you when about that?
No, I think we were all too paranoid and too scared to say anything. We were too worried that it'll get out, it'll leak. So none of us communicate about it at all until it's already out. I think we're such fans of each other.
It's a joy. I mean, it's been 10 years. We had our 10th year reunion this year. And now that it's on Netflix, it's another special thing to revisit the show. Like I said, we're in touch regularly. I think that's a fun thing that we can continue to hopefully go back to. Hopefully, there's more jobs for me to pop into from all these guys.
The fans of Community really seem to love seeing you all together and keeping up with whatever you're doing now. Like Ken Jeong and Joel McHale's podcast.
Yeah, it's been fun. I popped in a couple of times when they're having the podcast, and it's just been hilarious. It's like we're just hanging out with each other again. That to me, is the biggest thing out of all of it, is that it's been so much time that we don't remember which jokes made it into an episode or didn't. We have so many alts and so many bits that were not part of the script even, and that's pretty special for me. That's a good place to kind of to revisit these days.
What Made Community So Rewarding?
Reading about Community now, it seems like all of you from the show really cling to that experience and to the bonds you shared on set, even though the shoots were often really difficult for a TV series. What made Community so rewarding?
That's a good question. I mean for me, it was my first big, big role. Right? It was my first series regular role on a TV show. And it was in many ways, like a show that as soon as I picked up the script, I was a fan of the show. The material was I thought, just so sharply written and it had had levels to it. The joke writing was one thing, but also just the character development to me was something that was really special and unique.
And so week to week, where your characters were evolving and working with this ensemble comedy where everyone is just so brilliant. I mean, we're sitting around a table here with actors who are so talented. Like Jim Rash popping into our room, who's won an Academy award. It's just the level of talent, of kindness too, just raised everybody's games. So when you work with all those people week to week, every week, it forces you to step up too.
That was one thing. Dan [Harmon]'s writing was so specific. All of our writers did a fantastic job of elevating whatever we were working on. So it never stopped, really. We take one draft of the script, get to the next draft, to the blue draft, to the pink drafts, to the double yellow, whatever it was... and it would continue to get better. And then on set, it would continue to get better. And then there were moments on set that were improvised or alts that were added by writers, and it continued to get better. Actors would bring new perspectives to it, and they would just get better. That was awesome. It was like school in ways for me, like a great comedy school.
I related to Abed in some ways. I just loved the character for so many reasons. I'm not a pop culture expert. Thankfully, I had 10 other pop culture experts around me who could fill in the blanks for me. But I was watching Nicolas Cage movies one week. The next week I was watching clips of Jon Hamm interviews to do a Jon Hamm impression. Or I was watching episodes of Farscape to become an instant expert, or I was learning Dungeons and Dragons again. So every week was like a crash course, and I loved it. That was awesome. But it also meant a lot of work, and I think that's kind of what it was. We spent a lot of hours filming, a lot hours on set, a lot of hours trying to make the show as best as it could be because we always were threatened to be canceled. I guess our mantra was, "If we're going to get canceled, we might as well make this the best show it could be."
"Critical Film Studies"
Looking back, do you have a favorite episode of Community?
Yeah, I do. I think it's the My Dinner with Andre episode, for me. "Critical Film Studies", which I think is the 19th episode of season two.
There's so much that I've forgotten. I've been re-watching, too. Even talking about even when Pierce shows up with these pamphlets about him being a level five laser lotus. There's all these little things there, all these amazing actors. Like watching Kevin Corrigan try to teach a class while I'm doing a Nicolas Cage impression on his desk. There's just so much there.
But that "Critical Film Studies" episode was to me, so special. It was directed by Richard Ayoade, who I am a huge fan of. I just remember that episode. We didn't really even have a script. Dan Harmon brought me up to the writers' room, and I could see that there was really nothing written. I just knew the outline of that episode right before we were filming that episode. They told me to watch My Dinner with Andre. I was terrified because I had never seen the movie, I knew there wasn't a script yet.
It was a Friday, and we were filming on Monday. But at the same time I was like, "What? What a brave show." What a beautiful and brave, courageous show that we could be on, where we know that we're going to make this happen because we have to. The amount of trust they put in me and the amount of trust we had in each other that week, that really stuck out to me. Because I feel like we came out with something that I take is so bizarre and so creative, and I'm just proud to be part of that.
The Community Movie
What are the chances that this Community movie everyone keeps asking for finally gets made?
Better today than it was yesterday.
I'm sure the Netflix debut has really helped that campaign.
You know what? It's funny, because we've all been texting this week. I was talking to Gillian [Jacobs] yesterday. Like I said, I was on Ken and Joel's podcast the other day, I texted with Justin Lin recently about all this, because everyone's been re-watching it again.0comments
It's just fun to see that joy return. It's been a while, but so many of the people have gone on and have done amazing things since then. But we're all connected to this really... I don't know what you want to call it... this little world. We're all connected to Greendale, this little show that somehow managed to get six seasons done. I think will always hold a special place in our hearts. I think yeah, I believe it will happen. I don't know when, but I believe it'll happen.
I think most of us have been thinking more and more fondly of it, especially as the days have gone by. I just think it would be so fun. We just have to figure out, what are we going to do? Is it going to be paintball? Is it going to be a giant blanket fort? Is it going to be, I don't know, a different space bus? Who know? The show went to so many crazy places. I think the challenging part would be, how are we going to make this a movie now?
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