As of now, there are no paintball wars or zombiepocalypses to speak of in Community‘s third season (premiering this Thursday at 8/7c). But showrunner Dan Harmon and the cast of the innovative NBC comedy tell TVLine, and thus viewers, that there’s no cause for concern.
“It’s not ‘Chicken Fingers’ [a la the Season 1 episode ‘Contemporary American Poultry’], but this season is the most ambitious that we’ve ever done,” Joel McHale says candidly. Adds Yvette Nicole Brown, “It’s not as big episode-wise, but more intense character-wise. It’s much more ensemble-driven.”
Speaking of the winning ensemble, we enlisted the help of the Community crew to break down everything Greendale fans can expect from each character during their third year. Here’s what we came up with:
JEFF | Besides loving up on Annie, Jeff is finally going to have to face those daddy issues we’ve often heard about. “Jeff’s going to be encountering his dad for the first time since he was a kid,” Harmon reveals. “We’ll meet [the elder Winger] later this season because I want to approach it correctly. We’ve only just begun to read the scripts in which Jeff starts to go down that road, which is one that he has to voluntarily go down.” The showrunner adds that while Season 3 is full of funny, it’s also the most serious. “As unappealing as it may sound, the third chapter in this four-chapter story needs to be the most painful. For Jeff Winger, it’s going to be about the cost of loving the group. Jeff’s always going to be a scoundrel and a narcissist, but the fact is he loves this group and it’s his family.”
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ANNIE | Annie’s boobs are all the rage in Season 3 — and according to Alison Brie, that’s not a reference to the monkey. The Season 3 premiere finds Greendale’s good girl taking part in a musical number in which choreography-induced wardrobe malfunctions aplenty occur (“Everyone saw everything!” she tells us playfully.) And of course, who can forget Brie’s fun reveal about Jeff and Annie stepping up their romantic game?
ABED | In addition to becoming slightly difficult to deal with, Abed will channel his inner Donna Reed this season. “Troy and Abed throw a housewarming party and wouldn’t you know it, Abed has studied how to throw one successfully,” Danny Pudi reveals. “It’s really kind of peculiar.” At said party, you get to see how the big move effects Abed’s friendship with Troy.” The walking, talking pop-culture encyclopedia will also get a little action this season. As Brie notes, “If you really go back and look, Abed may have impregnated a girl, he made out with Joe Biden’s security guard, Abed and Annie kissed in the finale…. He’s had more hookup moments than most of us, and they continue this year.”
BRITTA | Gillian Jacobs says of Greendale’s resident buzzkill, “Britta has her new psychology major and she’s obsessed with it. She thinks she’s going to be really great — though no one else does. I call her a baby therapist — not a therapist for babies, but a junior therapist.” Tight-lipped as ever, the actress teases with a laugh, “At one point in Season 3 Britta jumps on a table. She is also in a dog crate. Another time there’s blood…. I’m just giving you little images.”
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SHIRLEY | While we won’t really see Shirley’s newborn (or her other two kids for that matter), Brown says that all is well with the study group’s maternal figure. “Shirley and Andre are definitely still together,” she tells us. “We’re only a few episodes back and we haven’t seen Malcolm [Jamal Warner] yet, but of course I love him and hope we do. I’m sure we will.” Harmon adds that Shirley is now “a changed woman,” explaining: “She’s been at Greendale for a few years, so she’s not just going to slip back into her domestic role. She’s going to become something of an assertive force, which is an identity she thought she’d left behind.”
TROY | “Troy is growing up, and unlike Abed, he’s a connected, emotive, sincere force,” teases Harmon. “And now that he’s growing up — as we saw on his 21st birthday — he’s in a direct line with Jeff to become the man of the group. And Troy is growing into that role naturally.” Translation: Troy wants to be the Big Man on Campus.
PIERCE | “We address Pierce’s exit [from the group] in the first episode,” reveals Harmon, “and then get things back to the family dynamic.” However, McHale says that it’s definitely not smooth sailing when he does return. “He’s not just accepted back like nothing ever happened. Jeff does not like Pierce at all, but he does something that actually makes Jeff realize that he might be a worse guy than Pierce.”
CHANG | “Chang’s joining the [campus] security team, and there’s a film-noir storyline that Ken should be nominated for,” McHale gushes of co-star Ken Jeong. “As far as the Jeff/Chang dynamic, there is a thing that happens in the premiere that Jeff is really upset about and it gets him into huge physical trouble. You’ve seen the photo of me with an ax I assume? That is direct result of something Chang does to me.” Harmon adds that Chang is going to “continue to do horrible things, but he will be certainly more self-assured” in Season 3.
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VICE DEAN LAYBOURNE and DEAN PELTON | Adding John Goodman as the Vice Dean of the college’s air conditioning school “was pretty traditional in that we created a character that we knew would be good for so-called ‘stunt casting,’ and we started making lists of names,” Harmon explains. “Of course, John’s quickly rose to the top.” At first, the Roseanne alum will only interact with his rival, Dean Pelton (Jim Rash), but McHale tells us that “he will soon affect the entire school.”
PROFESSOR KANE | Michael K. Williams is also new to Greendale this season, and his casting is strictly the result of Dan Harmon’s love of The Wire. “When we decided to introduce a new teacher, we also decided to think outside the box and not bring in another crazy character,” he says with a laugh. “This teacher is completely sane, completely grounded — and then we started talking about Omar from The Wire, who is the least sitcommy actor from the least sitcommy show in recent TV history.”
PROFESSOR DUNCAN | McHale tells us that while John Oliver hasn’t yet returned to to the set for Season 3, “I know they’re talking to him about it. He’s just so busy on The Daily Show, which he’s OK on, I guess.”
Are you excited to see the Greendale gang back in action?