Eye on Emmy: Danny Pudi on the Art of Abed and Community's Award Hopes: 'We'll Never Give Up'

If you’re the type who adores Community and treasures your collection of past Comic-Con badges, you’ve probably been a fan of Danny Pudi for some time now. The rest of the world may not be as familiar with the 33-year-old Chicago native, but that’s likely to change soon. Three seasons of playing Abed Nadir, the innovative NBC comedy’s emotionally stunted pop culture fiend, has put Pudi at the forefront of the cult hit. And whether or not the Community crew brings home Emmy gold this year, Pudi good-naturedly tells TVLine he’ll continue to enjoy being part of a series “that has such purpose and meaning.”

TVLINE | Abed is one of the most unique characters on TV. How much of Abed is your creation? And how much was creator Dan Harmon’s?
I auditioned for Abed about four times and I was excited about this role because it felt so fresh. I was in a work session early on and [the executive producers] said, ‘Just do whatever you want.’ I remember pulling out some lip balm — not because I thought it would be perfect for Abed, but because I was nervous and needed some comfort [Laughs] — and they went, ‘We love that!’ It felt natural to speak at a clipped, fast pattern, and the more I did it, the more things started to make sense.

RELATED | Community, Breaking Bad, Parks and Rec, Mad Men, Girls Lead Critics’ Choice Nominations

TVLINE | Was there anything you attempted to do but decided it wasn’t ‘Abed’ enough?
The first time Abed was trying to connect with the group, the monologue had him breaking down about his DVD collection melting in the sun… I was actually crying in the scene and having an outwardly emotional display. We never used that [take]… and I’m glad we didn’t. It was more fun for us to play with the idea of him being vague and introspective.

TVLINE | One of the great things about Abed is that he often gets to break character and play someone vastly different. Do you relish those moments?
I do look forward to them, because he gets to act out things that may not be part of his nature — like [when he was Star Wars‘] Han Solo. At the same time, the hard part is riding that line where it’s still Abed being Han Solo. Abed doesn’t just take on characters; it’s usually for a reason… Those weeks on set I’m pretty nervous because I really want to perfect it and make sure I’m not just doing a goofy impersonation. I want to make sure it’s Abed being the best Han Solo he can be. [Laughs]

TVLINE | Sounds like a lot of work.
The responsibility of getting a Dan Harmon script that is so rich and full of good stuff requires all the focus you have even if just for a little moment, like when Abed had to be [Mad Men’s] Don Draper in Season 1. Between every take, I was behind a wall with my tape recorder listening to Don Draper’s voice and making sure that I was in that mode.

TVLINE | This was a heavier, darker season for you in that it delved into Abed’s version of emotions.
It was heavier. This the first time Abed’s made these types of close-knit relationships, and this season we really explored what it would be like if you pulled that away from him or shook it up. Maybe he’s not changing, but you can see that he’s still very affected by what’s going on around him.

TVLINE | Talk a little about how the Abed-Troy bromance developed.
Initially [the producers] saw Troy and [Chevy Chase’s] Pierce as being weird buddies, but things changed. Donald [Glover, who plays Troy] and I just got each other and it fit. [The Season 1 episode-ending rap] “La Biblioteca” spawned from an interview the two of us did. Dan Harmon saw it, spun it into a Spanish rap and put it at the end of the show. From then on we were doing a tag at the end of every episode — which was awesome because my secret desire to be on Saturday Night Live as a kid is fulfilled in 30-second spots each week. We get to have our own sketch show, almost.

RELATED | Community Shake-Up: Dan Harmon Replaced as Showrunner

TVLINE | While always a critical darling, Community has never garnered much love during awards season. That said, are you all still optimistic?
Do I think we deserve some Emmys? Of course! [Laughs] This show deserves a ton of Emmys. Will it get them? I don’t know. We’ll never give up, but we’re very much aware that we might not get acknowledged – and that’s OK. Still, I’ll be really happy if we do.

This story first appeared in the pages of TVLine’s print sibling Awards|Line. The specialty Awards|Line editions canvass various facets of the Emmy and motion pictures awards season including deep coverage, analysis and interviews with the leading contenders and industry players.

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  1. austen says:

    I want to be him.

    • justin121 says:

      1- He’s phoning-it-in as Abed this season

      2- Troy and Abed only good in small doses (look we’re weird yaaay — they actually said this once this season — reminded me of 30 Rock’s Jena and Tracy)

      They stopped giving Troy storylines or even interactions with others of the group. Abed is becoming long in the tooth and its showing in his performance. Tone down the weirdness of both. Go back to season 1 storytelling.

  2. Ava says:

    which episode is that picture from? I feel like I should remember Abed dressing up as Flavor Flav.

  3. John says:

    Troy and Abed deserve Emmyyyyys!

  4. Drew says:

    Y’know what? For Community, Fringe and a slew of other shows out there, I am campaigning for them to never get Emmy nominations or awards. Never a Golden Globe.


    Because some shows are better than the awards. The award shows aren’t about the quality of work, or originality. They’re about stuffy old people giving junky looking trophies to whichever studio happens to put the most money into their press campaign. They’re about awarding shows which make them feel smart without ever actually having to think. They’re about politics, not the work. And some shows are above the level of those stupid awards. If they ever get down to the level of an Emmy, it will probably be time to end.

    • fede says:

      truer words have never been spoken

    • Ava says:

      To quote the great Ron Swanson: “Awards are stupid…but they’d be less stupid if they went to the right people.” At some point all of those elderly people who vote for 2.5 Men to win Emmys will die off and then actual quality entertainment may be rewarded.

      • Drew says:

        See, I think that we, the fans, should reject the awards. Campaign AGAINST our shows getting awards. Instead of begging them to give our shows awards, let them beg us to accept them for a change.

        Six seasons, a movie and NO AWARDS!

    • Britta Unfiltered says:

      Your tangent kind of reminds me of the episode of South Park where Stan has contracted Cynical A-hole Disease. This is a disease we should be having benefit shows to raise money to fight against. Good shows winning awards could help extend their life and help talented, creative people keep their jobs. So I see nothing wrong with them. To say a show shouldn’t win awards because it’s really good or that if did win an award would make it not a good show anymore is extremely snobby. Also, I believe sometimes the Emmy voters do get it right. Not all the time, but sometimes they actually do reward people who deserve the rewards and that helps give them career boosts that they probably need to keep working.

      • Drew says:

        The award shows are pointless. The voters don’t even watch all of the submissions. They watch the ones that they decide they’ll like and ignore the ones that they decide they won’t without ever watching them? I have an old Buffy Emmy submission tape that reminds me of this fact all the time. Still in a nice plastic wrapper and never opened. Would have been nominated if they had watched? Probably not. But the fact remains, they made the decision without ever sampling the goods. They judged the book by its cover.
        It’s all politics. It’s about who knows who and how much the studio pumps into their award campaign that year. It has nothing to do with talent. It has nothing to do with quality. You might call me an a-hole for having this opinion, but the truth is the truth. Look at the list of Emmy nominees on any given year and tell me that those people were the best of the best.

        • Mitholas says:

          Drew has an old Buffy Emmy submission tape? Hm.

          That show deserved an Emmy for every few episodes that were ever made, let’s just put that message out there. It isn’t said enough. So much talent on that show, it’s not even funny. Just look at the recent Cabin in the Woods (written by ex-Buffy colleagues). Excellent stuff.

  5. Dory says:

    Community should win all of the awards.

  6. Mag says:

    Danny is my favorite person ever! He seems so cool and really nice.

  7. Sam says:

    The thought of Community not getting an Emmy nom for this season causes me severe anxiety. I just don’t understand if it doesn’t. Remedial Chaos Theory was seriously one of the best if not the best of comedy television this year.

  8. Brent says:

    Troy and Abed in the mooooooorning!

  9. Leah says:

    Danny Pudi, FTW! I wonder what is wrong with Emmy voters that they continually ignore this fantastic show and cast…Serious question: Are the Emmy voters stuffy old guys?

  10. Bee says:

    Danny is supremely talented. What a gem to have him on our screens weekly with the other amazing actors, especially Donald & Allison.

  11. Raksha says:

    this guy is the epitome of…cool cool cool cool cool.

  12. Britta Unfiltered says:

    Hi Danny. Good luck to you. At the risk of sounding like a total dork, you are the coolest person alive.

  13. Angela says:

    He’s so convincing as Abed, I just kept hearing Abed’s voice during the whole interview. I know. Weird :p.
    He seems like a really sweet guy. I loved hearing about the little details behind some of the notable moments with him (love the story of how the “Biblioteca” rap came about, and the Don Draper thing-well, that explains why that worked so well, then). Very talented-here’s hoping he and the rest of the “Community” cast get their proper recognition this year.

  14. nerdiest says:

    Pudi on SNL? Make this happen, world!

  15. Andrew Falconer says:

    Having just one writer of the entire show might be warping the Abed character.

    One thing that they have been doing for scenes with Abed is adding the strings music that plays during tense moments just before commercial brakes which sounds just like the music from the show “FRINGE”.

    Donald Glover and Jim Rash are excellent comedy writers, so if Dan Harmon is not a big voice on the show those two can still make Community work.