There are two questions on every Community fan’s mind as the cult comedy’s fifth season (bowing Jan. 2 at 8/7c) draws near: How will Donald Glover‘s beloved study grouper Troy Barnes — who’ll appear in just five of the upcoming 13 episodes — be written off the canvas? And will his send-off be a satisfying one?
TVLine dropped by “Greendale” just days after the actor wrapped production, and while the mood on set was slightly somber (“I really, really, really miss him,” Yvette Nicole Brown confessed), the entire cast was in enthusiastic agreement about just how fitting a farewell his alter ego ultimately receives.
“It’s a great goodbye and it feels organic,” Brown shared. “You wonder what there could be that could break up Troy and Abed or make Troy leave Greendale, but what it is makes sense.”
Agreeing with his co-star, Joel McHale explained that Troy’s exit “is not just sprung on you” in the season’s fifth installment. Instead, “There’s a build up to it, and there’s a really good, really funny reason why he leaves.”
Troy receives “a tantalizing offer” early in the season, Gillian Jacobs added, which causes him to do “some soul-searching and looking inward, trying to figure out who he is and who he wants to be.” And once Troy has come to said realization, he will enjoy “a nice departure that doesn’t make you feel sad about the character; it feels right.
“It’s one of those really bold storytelling moves that you probably would never want to make as a writer, but when it’s forced upon you, it’s a good opportunity to write some epic episodes – which I think they did,” she continued. “We would never want to split Troy and Abed up, but it’s probably good for Abed, to push him to see who he is outside of that friendship… It was kind of a crutch for both of them.”
“It’s not a ‘happy ending,'” per se, McHale agreed. “Abed is losing his best friend and that’s very sad. But within that sad thing happening, [creator] Dan Harmon puts in lightning bolts of jokes and it’s great.”
As for the how the shoot itself went, the Community co-stars were once again on the same page: It was rough.
“That was hard to shoot,” McHale confessed. “As an actor, when you shoot something that’s intense and emotional, you can then go home and have a glass of wine – or four! But with this, Donald was really leaving and it was very sad. I count those years with Donald as a privilege, to both work with him and be with him. Despite being one of the most talented, funny guys, he’s a really great guy — I would hang out with him even if he was talentless! Yeah, I miss him.”
“We shot our final Troy/Abed scene before Donald actually left,” Danny Pudi recalled with a laugh, “so it was weird to be doing that last goodbye and then showing up again later in the makeup trailer… This [departure] is sad because a large part of the show and the experience for me has been this Troy/Abed relationship, and even more so it’s been Donald and Danny hanging out. But I’m excited for him because I know he’s got a lot of things to pursue. The nice thing about [Donald's final episode] is that the writers did a really good job of doing justice to both Troy and Troy and Abed.”
And what of a possible return from Childish Gambino himself somewhere down the line?
“There is a little bit of hope that maybe Donald will come back,” Pudi shared. “There’s always a chance. That’s the thing about our show: I never really believe anything is done anymore. Community has given me the best gift: the perspective that nothing is dead until it’s dead. So, there’s a window — a tiny, tiny window…”Follow @MegMasters