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The Telefile
<i>Community</i>‘s Abed on Directing, Being Awesome and More

Can I gush for a moment about how much I love Community? The writing is tight, the cast is hilarious and the references to pop culture are outstanding. One of the show's top scene-stealers, Danny Pudi, recently took a media call to promote the show as well as a few new Abed-centric webisodes titled "The Spanish Video Assignment." While the shorts are fun and goofy, they're mostly disappointing; but if you're a die-hard Senor Chang or Star-Burns fan (and Lord knows there are many of us), give 'em a look. Below are some highlights from the Q&A with Pudi, who is possibly the world's sweetest actor.

How has your year been? You started it as the butt dialer and quickly became everybody's favorite college student.
Danny Pudi: I think that says it all. I mean, I don't really know what's happened this year. The last eight to nine months of my life have been bizarre and incredible. I was on a flight not too long ago, and the flight attendant came up to me, grabbed me by both of my shoulders, looked me in the eyes, got really close, and yelled "Asperger's!" right in my face. She then proceeded to bring me two drinks that were pretty much pure vodka, sprayed some Binaca in her mouth, kissed me on the lips, and said, "That was for Joel McHale."

So, these are the scenarios that happen now that wouldn't have happened before -- especially since eight months ago, I probably would have been considered a potentially dangerous person on a flight, and now people come up to me and say nice things to me. It's a crazy thing when you look at your refrigerator and you see a Christmas card with Chevy Chase, right next to a Christmas card with Matt O'Grady, right next to a Christmas card with Joel McHale. And last year it would have just been Matt O'Grady and possibly my sister and my cousin. That's a weird thing to accept as real person, and not as a stalker. I didn't steal them!

What's it like working on a show with such a big slate of comedians?
DP: Well, there are a lot of comedians on this show, but what's great about it is that the writing is so rich and balanced, and our ensemble is full of really excellent actors. I think people have overlooked the range that some of these people have; Gillian Jacobs, for instance, has done a lot of drama. When I first met her, I had actually seen her in a movie that was pretty dark, and to be able to see her in the role of Britta is a real testament to the range that people have. And Alison's working on Mad Men this week! These people are incredibly just able to shift from doing comedy to drama, and I think because of that, we're able to adapt and move together as a funny amoeba.

Are you as knowledgeable about pop culture as Abed is?
DP: Absolutely not. Abed's an encyclopedia. He's kind of a genius. I mean, I grew up with a lot of the same movies and music and stuff; even with Star-Burns: El Star Prince [Abed's video project in the webisode], the minute we started working, I just was having flashbacks to Starman back in the day, both the Jeff Bridges movies and the TV show. So a lot of these things I did grow up with, but Abed is a type of guy who didn't just grow up with it, but he also remembers word-for-word every scene/character and what they worked on prior to that/cinematographer/key grip. And not only that, he's also able to apply it to everyday world situations, see where similar situations are taking place, and learn from it.

So the fun, challenging thing about this role is that I'm often given scripts with references that I don't necessarily remember or get, and just to make sure I know what I'm talking about, I google My Bodyguard or go to Blockbuster and rent all these movies. And then there's certain ones I definitely know. For example, I knew the Goodfellas reference [in "Contemporary American Poultry"], as it's definitely one of my favorite movies. Or when we referenced Indiana Jones [in "Social Psychology"]; Indiana Jones is probably one of my top five movies that, no matter where it's on, I have to watch it... even if I'm at Best Buy or Radio Shack and it's playing on a sample TV, I'll sit there and stand until it's over. There's a little bit of Abed in me. But I think he's a more of an encyclopedia.

We know Abed loves directing, but do you have any interest in being behind the camera?
DP: Yeah, I think someday. The more I work on the show, the more I'm fascinated and also just kind of blown away by everyone's talents. I think the really cool thing that people don't realize about a TV show is that they're not all directed by the same person. And so the pilot, and many of the other episodes, were directed by the Russo brothers who are amazing. They did Arrested Development, among other things. And beyond that, we've worked with Justin Lin a few times, who directed Fast and the Furious. And Gail Mancuso and Tristram Shapeero, who directed last week's chicken fingers episode. We've worked just a handful of amazing directors. To be able to work closely with all these people and seeing how they operate differently and how they work with actors as well as their shot composition and that kind of thing, is all new to me because I didn't go to film school. You know, I'm strictly an actor and comedian, but my appreciation for it is growing, and I would love to get into that down the road.

How do you think Abed has evolved as a person over the course of the season?
DP: I think I'm very fortunate, because the writers have given me so much rich, rich stuff to work on and expand on. You never know in a comedy how things are going to roll out in terms of being a side character, but I'm technically one of the ensemble now. And if you look at Abed on the surface, it's easy to think he's just a pop culture bum, but the thing about him is that he uses all these references and in terms of how he views the world. It comes from a real place; it's how he connects things. They're not just gratuitous references for the sake of references; it's because Abed's piecing together something that he's noticed going on around him.

And I think "Contemporary American Poultry" was a great example of that in terms of it being a parody of Goodfellas and other mob movies, but at the end, there was that very heartfelt scene with Joel. It was actually one of my favorite scenes that I've done this season. It's that scene that typifies what's special about our show, because it really gives you a very brief glimpse of what makes these characters tick, and they're very honest about it -- and then we go right back to a Sixteen Candles moment -- but there was something very genuine and sweet about that type of scene, where it's fun for me to be able to play this character who has such a good time in the world. It's very much a video game, in some ways, but he's also a real person on the inside, who's challenged and trying to connect with people. And I think that really resonates, so it makes the comedy that much better.

Where would you like to see your character go in the future?
DP: I don't know, I feel already challenged and fortunate in terms of what I've been given and I'm just thankful that my character is not just a one dimensional character. There's a lot to him, you know. I think times have changed a lot from the days of back in the early '90s, when I was growing up and you had Dhalsim in Street Fighter, Apu on The Simpsons, or magic rocks protecting Indian villages in Indiana Jones. The fact that I get to play a character that's really well rounded and kind of odd and quirky and exploring the world, is just so wonderful. There's a lot of that on NBC right now -- I think each one of the shows on Thursday night has a brown-skin member, and what's great about it is that we're not all playing one dimensional characters. We're playing very interesting roles and, you know, we just happen to be brown which I love. I always feel like every week is going to be a fun, new adventure. I'm excited to see what happens.

Find out why Community co-star Alison Brie describes herself as a "Queen of Copulation."

See how Community gets sexual tension right.

See which classes each Community should be teaching.

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