Danny Pudi From COMMUNITY Interview

Danny Pudi as Abed

Danny Pudi as Abed

Last week, Danny Pudi who played Abed on the NBC hit series Community took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to a group of reporters about the show, the special NBC only webisodes he participated in, Twitter and the impressions he has done on the show. (Note: The following is an edited version of the interview)

Are you as knowledgeable about pop culture as Abed is?

Danny Pudi: Abed’s an encyclopedia. He’s kind of a genius. I mean I grew up with a lot of this – a lot of the same movies and music and stuff. Even like the like the Starburns: El Star Prince was the minute we started working on that I just was having flashbacks to Starman back in the day; Jeff Bridges and the TV show.

So a lot of these things I did grow up with, but Abed is a type of guy who he didn’t just grow up with it but he remembers word for word every scene, character, what they worked on prior to that, cinematographer, he gripped. And not only that, he’s able to apply it to everyday world situations and see, you know, where I guess similar situations are taking place and learn from it.

So it’s kind of the fun, challenging thing about this role is that I’m often given scripts with references that I don’t necessarily remember or get until then the next thing you know, you’ll see me Googling My Bodyguard for instance and being like what was this movie about? Or going to Blockbuster and renting all these movies just to make sure I know what I’m talking about.

And then there’s certain ones I definitely know because like Goodfellas last week, that was you know, it’s definitely one of my favorite movies or like when we referenced Indiana Jones. Indiana Jones is probably one of my top five movies that no matter where it’s on, I have to watch it.

So even if I’m at Best Buy or Radio Shack and it’s playing on a sample TV, I’ll sit there and stand until it’s over. There’s a little bit of that in me. But I think Abed’s a little bit – he’s a little bit more of an encyclopedia.

Could you sum up your entire year going from the butt dialer to everybody’s favorite college student?

Danny Pudi: I think that says it all. I mean it’s – I don’t really know what’s happened this year. It’s been so bizarre. You know the last eight to nine months of my life have been really kind of been an incredible time where, you know – I was on a flight not too long ago and the flight attendant came up to me and grabbed me both of my shoulders and looked me in the eyes, got really close to me and said Asperger’s. She yelled it in my face and that’s all she said. And then she proceeded to bring me two like drinks that were pretty much pure vodka.

After that she sprayed some Binaca in her mouth, kissed me on the lips and said that was for Joel McHale. So these are the scenarios that happen now that like eight months ago, that wouldn’t have happened.

Now, you know, eight months I would probably have been considered maybe a potentially dangerous person on a flight and now people come up to me and say nice things to me and, you know, it’s crazy. You know. It’s a crazy thing working – when you look at your refrigerator and you see a Christmas card with Chevy Chase right next to a Christmas card with (Matt O’Grady), right next to a Christmas card with Joel McHale.

And last year it would have just been (Matt O’Grady) and possibly my sister and my cousin but now I have like those two Christmas cards on my fridge. That’s a weird thing to accept as real and not as a stocker. I didn’t steal them.

Why do you think it is that they chose to pair up Senior Chang and Abed for these Webisodes?

Danny Pudi: You know I think that this was kind of the perfect – the perfect pairing in many ways. A couple of episodes back we had movie night in Abed’s dorm room and Senior Chang was there and we’re Netflix buddies, we briefly mentioned that, and I just think it’s kind of a perfect thing where Senior Chang is all about drama.

He loves – he’s like (TMP). He loves drama and Starburns is just such an interesting character that’s become kind of his fan favorite so I think pairing these characters who are a little bit off their kilter, you know, slightly off but also kind of these like kind of cultish pairs. You kind of want to just see how they’d react in terms of these films.

And obviously Senior Chang would want to be involved in anything that’s a little bit crazy. So to me it just made perfect sense.

How do you think Abed has evolved as a person?

Danny Pudi: You know I think I’m very fortunate, because I think the writers have given me so much rich, rich stuff to work on and expand on. And I think, you know, it’s – you kind of never know in a comedy, you know, how things are going to kind of roll out in terms of like being a side character, you know.

Because I’m technically kind of one of the ensemble, you know. And to be given all these great, rich kind of things to work on and I think if you just look at it and think like, oh he’s a pop culture (bum) and that kind of thing. But the thing about Abed is that he uses all these pop culture references and in terms of – it comes from a real place because it’s how he views the world and it’s how he connects things.

So they’re not just gratuitous references for the sake of references. It’s because he piecing together something that he’s noticed going on around him. And I think last week’s episode was very – a great example of that in terms of it being a parity of Goodfellas and some of the mob movies but at the end, I think there was a very heartfelt scene with Joel and I which actually was one of my favorite scenes that I’ve done this season.

Why do you think Twitter is such an important aspect for you to be able to connect with your fans and for the promotion of the show?

Danny Pudi: It’s a fun thing, you know. I mean I think that, you know, technology – it’s one of those things where technology has come a long way, you know and for me, as an artist, it’s just another outlet for creative expression. And to be able to kind of, you know, walk around and notice things and be like wow! That was weird. You know, I just saw a sign for – this was a (unintelligible) for a while back. I just saw a sign that said $3 and it didn’t say $3 for what.

And you know to be able to just take that picture, send it out and be like, isn’t this weird and then comment on it. It’s kind of a fun way to really develop your point of view and also really work on, as a comedian, as an artist, being concise about a joke or about something you notice because you only have, I don’t know how many characters; 140 or something on that.

So it’s kind of a great little exercise too to be able to be like, okay, how concise can I do this. How many times do I have to backspace in order to make sense of this statement, you know.

On top of that, it’s just a great way to stay connected with people in the world about your show and about what’s going on, you know. And our cast, who is incredibly busy and talented, it’s a nice way for me to know what everybody’s doing and be like oh, Joel’s in Las Vegas or (Dell)’s in Chicago. Or Alison’s episode of Mad Men’s airing now. Or Gillian just did this show. It’s a heck of a show. Or, you know, I love it for that reason too.

What’s been your favorite part about playing Abed?

Danny Pudi: You know, it’s – this is – it’s one of those things where I feel so fortunate because every week I feel like I get to work on something new and different, you know. And I think that is so – it’s so rare in terms of any kind of project, you know.

I feel like I’m in an acting class every week because I’m given like in this episode, oh my goodness, I have to master a Christian Bale impersonation. And in the next episode I have to – after that I have to work on doing an African American police chief impersonation.

Yeah. And that was super fun for me because I grew up with all those movies; Beverly Hills Cops and Axel Foley, get your ass in here. I mean that every once in a while, like when I see Cops, that just pops into my head.

But beyond that, you know, I get to do things like in actually last week’s episode, which is one of my favorite scenes of the season, was when I was with Joel’s character, Jeff and making tater tots and it was like a really heartfelt scene at the end of the parity episode about chicken fingers; talking about why, you know, I guess how power really can kind of take over both of our characters.

And so there’s – the nice thing about this show is I’m able to do really like honest, earnest scenes and then, on top of that, do some crazy things like playing an African American police chief and then in an episode I might be tap dancing on a stage.

And so I’m constantly working on a wide variety of things which definitely keeps me challenged and fresh and that to me is the most exciting thing is I get to really just work on so many different things and improve. And then also just learn from all the amazing artists around me who are all I think smarter than me and funnier than me.

Where would you like your character to end up?

Danny Pudi: I don’t know. And it’s hard for me to – I’m really open about this. I feel so already challenged and fortunate in terms of what I’ve been given and I’m just thankful that my character is not just a one dimensional character. There’s a lot to him, you know.

I think times have changed a lot from the days of, you know, of back in the early 90s when I was growing up and you had (Mel Siemen) Street Fighter or Abu on the Simpsons or, you know, magic rocks protecting Indian villages in Indiana Jones. And the fact that I get to play a character that’s really well rounded and kind of odd and quirky and exploring the world, it’s just so wonderful because I always feel like every week is going to be a fun, new adventure.

So I’m excited to see what happens. You know I think one of the cool things that we’ve been exploring is Abed’s progression as a film maker, including these Webisodes. And in the episode, I don’t know if you recall, the Valentine’s Day episode where I help Joel’s character, Jeff Winger, make a really, a really believable drunk (dial) to Britta and I think you get to see a little bit more of Abed’s directing skills there.

So I’m excited to see more of that, you know, and to see kind of where that takes him. That’s always a – that’s a fun thing for me to explore. And also because I didn’t go to school for film, I feel like I really

Are you interested in every directing an episode as Danny Pudi?

Danny Pudi: Yeah. I think someday yeah. More and more. I mean the more I work on – the more and more I work on the show, the more I’m fascinated and also just kind of blown away by everyone’s talents. I mean this – these Webisodes are written and directed by (David Sieger). He directed it and (Tom Kauffman) co-wrote it with him. And (David)’s incredibly talented.

And just watching more and more of these directors come through, I think that’s the really cool thing that people don’t realize about a TV show is that they’re not all directed by the same person. And so like the pilot and many of the other episodes were directed by the Russo Brothers who are amazing. They did Arrested Development among other things. And, you know, beyond that, we’ve worked with Justin Lynne a few times who directed Fast and the Furious. He did our Halloween episode. He’s also the one who directed our episode that airs next which I think is going to probably be my favorite episode of the season.

And, you know, we’ve worked just a handful of amazing directors. You know, Gail Mancuso and (Trishton Shapiro) who directed last week’s chicken fingers episode; a British director. And to be able to kind of like, you know, be working closely with all these people and seeing how they operate differently and how they work with, you know, actors as well as kind of their – in terms of shot composition and that kind of thing. This is all – that’s all new to me because I didn’t go to film school.

You know, I’m strictly an actor and comedian but it’s something that I’m definitely – my appreciation for it is growing and I could definitely see – I would love to get into that down the road

What would you say are the main similarities and differences between you and Abed?

Danny Pudi: I think Abed speaks a little bit more quickly and has a little bit more of an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture than I do definitely.

He tends to remember things and put pieces – he doesn’t miss much. Abed is very observant.

There was an episode – I don’t remember how long ago back but where some bagels fell off a table and it was a quick jump but I loved it where we mixed on Britta’s character for saying (begel). And we say “You say that funny.” but she drops the bag and I just say 13 because I was able to count those bagels so quickly, you know.

And I think that’s very Abed; like to be so observant and also to not let anything go by without acknowledging it.

I tend to miss things a little bit more. I think I’m a little bit more aloof than Abed. What else. I’m married and Abed isn’t married yet. Who knows, maybe in Season 2 that will happen? And you know I think those are kind of the I guess similarities/differences. I think as the season goes on, both of us tend to kind of merge together as the writers incorporate more from our personal lives into these characters which is equally frightening and exhilarating.