Community's Jim Rash on the Dean's Hollywood Moment -- and that Seal Duet With Joel McHale!

What’s Dean got to do with it? In the case of this Thursday’s Community (8/7c, NBC), Greendale’s hairless fearless leader has everything to do with it.

Dean Pelton will soon be thrust into the spotlight when his attempts to revamp the college’s local commercial go terribly awry, and Abed is (once again) on hand to document the travesty (à la Apocalypse Now‘s true-to-life companion piece Hearts of Darkness).

Here is what Dean’s portrayer Jim Rash tells TVLine about his well-meaning character’s star-making moment, last week’s memorable Seal duet and much more. (Note: This interview was conducted before news broke about Community‘s unplanned midseason hiatus, just in case you’re wondering why we didn’t go there with Rash.)

TVLINE | So, what is going on with Dean Pelton this week? We hear he’s involved in a production of sorts.
Dean Pelton has his mind set on updating Greendale’s current commercial to help promote the school. He becomes very obsessed with it being the perfect ad, especially when he finds out actor Luis Guzman (Oz) is going to be a part of it. He starts losing his mind, thinking it has to be better than the best. There’s pretty much a descension into madness. [Laughs] There’s a documentary aspect, too, in that Abed is shooting it à la Hearts of Darkness, the documentary shot about Apocalypse Now. I wouldn’t say it’s a spoof [of that movie] by any means, but it is an homage. And obviously, we will see the dated version of Greendale’s commercial.

TVLINE | How does Dean convince the study group to take part?
Basically, they’re the most culturally diverse group in school — which Dean says to convince them to become involved. It’s not a blackmail situation like last week [with Jeff and the shopping mall]. The group actually gets into the project at first and then watches as it falls apart.

TVLINE | You have to talk about the pictures floating around of Jeff dressed up as Dean Pelton.
Oh, yeah. [Laughs] Dean casts Jeff in the commercial as himself, of course. It’s fun to watch Joel [McHale] as Jeff imitating me as Dean Pelton. Every now and then [while we were shooting] I would think, “Wow, is that really how you see me?!” [Laughs] We’ll get to watch Jeff grow tired of Dean pushing him to perform it correctly as the episode progresses.

TVLINE | Please tell me we’ll actually see the finished product!
In a way. In typical Community style, it’s something that doesn’t go well. This episode has a nice tone that gets into the emotional core for the characters, which is what this season has been about. It’s an opportunity to get to know Dean a bit differently, which is nice. Personally, that’s why I enjoyed the episode so much.

TVLINE | Can we look forward to any of Pelton’s signature wacky costumes in the coming weeks?
I really hit the ground running with outfits this season! I think all of the crazy ones have aired already, but the season is still young. Dean definitely dresses up for Christmas, it’s just not as crazy as normal. But it isn’t pretty. [Laughs]

TVLINE | Do we get any background info on what ignited Greendale’s rivalry with both City College and the air conditioning school?
We haven’t shot anything about that yet, but we’re definitely building to it. John Goodman started the season [interacting] with Dean and has now approached Troy about joining the air conditioning annex. We are currently shooting an episode where John Goodman is back and continuing on the promise he made last time around that it isn’t over with Troy. So, it’s safe to speculate that we’re working our way toward some background reveal, just not of yet.

TVLINE | Lastly, how much fun was it shooting that “Kiss from a Rose” duet between you and Joel in “Studies in Modern Movement”?
We had such a good time! It was fun to be quarantined with one other character and for it to just be the two of you. We sang that song over and over again — at one point we even tried to do the part of the song where it becomes a round, though I don’t think that translated on screen. [Laughs] It’s always fun to work with Joel because he’s up for anything. Not to make this a big lovefest, but we all really do love working with each other.

Take a look at Abed’s production of the Dean’s production in the Community clip below, and then hit the comments with your love of all things Pelton!