'Community' cast talks paintball, puppets, and graduation

Community executive producers David Guarascio, Moses Port, Russ Krasnoff and Tristram Shapeero joined several cast members of the NBC comedy at PaleyFest on Tuesday to make an announcement: A puppet episode is coming later this season!

The story finds the study group taking a wild balloon ride that crash lands in the woods and forces them to spend a little time with a friendly mountain man (played by Seinfeld‘s Jason Alexander). The gang gets immortalized as puppets when Dean Pelton encourages them to talk about their adventures.

Also on tap for this season: More paintball fun, a Freaky Friday tribute and, in this Thursday’s ep, the introduction of James Brolin as Jeff’s dad and Adam DeVine (Pitch Perfect) as his brother.

“It is quite intense between Jeff and his dad,” previewed Joel McHale. “Thank God for Gillian [Jacobs] and Adam, who knock it out of the park. It gets pretty heavy.”

As for whether the identity of Jeff’s dad makes him half-brothers with Castle‘s titular writer, whose dad is also played by Brolin, McHale joked, “Let’s just say, if there is a Season 5, we end up on Serenity.”

Panel Video

SWITCHING PLACES | The Oscar-winning writer who brings Dean Pelton to life, Jim Rash, penned “an episode with Troy and Abed that I think is one of the best we’ve ever done,” raved McHale. Added Rash: “It was an awesome and stressful process. … It’s sort of a Freaky Friday homage with a little body switching, and it’s very important” to the boys’ friendship.

HOW IT ALL BEGAN | An upcoming origins episode will reveal how the superhero-like study group “really came to be,” teased Guarascio.

UNLIKELY LOVE | What does the future hold for the odd pairing of Britta and Troy? The romance is “not doomed,” said Guarascio. “A lot of the year is the resurrection of Britta. … Who knows, maybe that will lead to something we’re not quite expecting.”

CRAZY SHIRLEY | “We’re going to see her house in the Thanksgiving episode,” previewed Yvette Nicole Brown. “Shirley likes really weird wallpaper.” Viewers will also “find out why Shirley’s the way she is,” and it has something to do with her in-laws. The actress also offered up this cryptic tease: “There’s something bigger coming than Malcolm-Jamal Warner playing my husband.”

GRADUATION DAY LOOMS | Will the Greendale gang be leaving school behind at the end of this year? Unlikely. “Everyone’s on their own pace as is often the case in community college,” said Guarascio. “So stay tuned.”

MORE COMMUNITY TALES? | Will the beloved, but ratings-challenged comedy be back for a fifth season? “It’s one of things where no one ever lets you know those things in advance,” replied McHale. “Believe me, I hope so.” As for stepping in as showrunners this season following creator Dan Harmon’s exit, Guarascio admitted that it was “hard” for him and Port. But “the cast is just so fantastic and the heart and soul of the show becomes the people who are performing it,” he continued. “We really need to listen to them because they’ve been doing the show the past three years and they know it inside and out.”

Adam DeVine will be playing Jeff Winger’s simple-minded half brother, as Jeff embarks on a quest to get to know his family

“He has a brother, a half brother that he didn’t know about — and he’s like a four-foot grouper fish, which is weird because he’s in a tank,” Joel McHale said. “Doesn’t talk … It’s weird.”

Don’t put a label on what Dean Pelton has with Jeff

“The Dean’s sort of mysterious because I think he goes wherever his body tells him is interesting,” said Jim Rash, who plays the Dean. “Whether it’s dalmatians or choo-choo trains or Jeff. So I don’t think I’d like to decide to label it … But I think he definitely wants to be him — if not with him — but I think he would want a friendship at the core.”

There might be a little paintball yet to come

“But don’t yell at us if it isn’t an entire episode of paintball,” executive producer David Guarascio said. “Twitter just groaned,” Gillian Jacobs responded. (I groaned too. Paintball is my favorite.)

The cast has faith in the show even without creator Dan Harmon

“I mean the good news is that some of the writers from Dan’s time stayed, and that was really important to help guide scripts,” McHale told EW. “Megan Ganz has written some that are just, I think, awesome. And Dan said in a couple interviews, ‘If you listen to Megan things will be okay.’ So I was really happy with some of it. We’ll see what the public thinks.”

Community is about to go all Avenue Q on us

And to the question, “Is the gang going to graduate this season?” the ambiguous answer was: stay tuned.

But what they lacked in spoiler sharing, the cast made up for in major laughs and lots of sarcasm. There was so much genuine gratitude on the part of the cast and crew, who thanked the rabid fan base that has kept them afloat for four seasons.

Other moments up for discussion included: Alison Brie’s recurring alter-ego, Jim Rash and Joel McHale going head to head in a “who does Malcom MacDowell like better, anyway” contest — but only after bumblingly re-creating their tango from the season opener, and the truth about Yvette Nicole Brown’s giant purse. Also: the entire cast did Britta’s pizza dance. It doesn’t get better than that.

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