There’s no summer school for “Community” star Gillian Jacobs, but she does have a summer job in “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.”
Jacobs passes notes with PopcornBiz about the cult fave sitcom as it heads into a fourth season, playing an ecstasy-tripping waitress who lip-locks Steve Carell to mark the apocalypse, and her own end-of-days philosophy.
Critics and fans are so passionate about 'Community,' even if the mass audience, and sometime even the network, seems to not be – and here you are on the verge of a fourth season. What are your thoughts on being a part of this singular television comedy?
I started to think about it like this: how often as an actor do you get to be a part of something that is meaningful to fans, is important to them and that they feel so passionate about? I think that's a real privilege and I'm just lucky to be a part of something that people care so much about. The fact that I love it and respect it, too, is just cake. That's all you can really ask for as an actor, in terms of the challenges of doing the show and the creativity. I really feel like I've grown as a performer from being on it.
How are you and the cast preparing for the changes behind the scenes that are going to happen in Season Four, now that Dan Harmon has left the show?
We have not gone back to work yet. I think we were really sad to see Dan Harmon go. As an actor you don't get a lot of choice or power in any of these events, and so obviously that was not our desire. But we're also so grateful that we've gotten a fourth season. We're really excited about that. I feel like we've kind of crossed a marker, a threshold for a critically acclaimed, under-watched show, to make it to a fourth season, so the fact that we're still on the air is something that we don't take for granted as a cast. I hope that we make 13 really awesome episodes.
Britta has evolved in surprising comedic directions since the beginning of the show, maybe more so than the rest of the characters. What's it been like to have ended up where you were at the end of the third season?
I feel really lucky for the material that I've been given by the writers. I feel like as I sort of grew as a performer their material for me got more and more exciting. I just felt lucky that I got to do all the things that they had me doing in the third season. I think that's kind of the nature of a long running television show, that certain characters are going to change and morph and it'll be a mutation between the writers and the actor.
What do you hope for the next season of 'Community' for Britta – something you haven't gotten to do yet? Maybe the potential Britta/Troy romance expanded?
I feel like it's such a delicate balance on a TV show, because as much as you want to see it go forward then it kind of puts you into the category of a relationship/couple show, and I feel like we exist on this whole other plane on 'Community.' So I think that's maybe why they've never really paired anyone off, because it's so fun to have the possibility go in every single direction with all of the characters. You see a lot of almost pairings or the fans will latch on to little moments and be rooting for a Britta and Abed moment or an Annie and Britta moment or an Annie and Abed moment. The fans sort of want everything simultaneously. I loved how bad of a psychology major Britta was, and then there were moments of actual insight. I feel like she did inadvertently help people, so that was fun to have as a major. I feel lucky that I don't bear the responsibility of writing where the show is going to go. I leave that to more capable hands. I just look forward to more really great material coming my way.
Did you set out to be able to be as silly as you get to on 'Community' and in the film “Seeking a Friend at the End of the World?”
I was really lucky on this movie because I know Lorene Scafaria, who wrote and directed the film, and she sent me the script and said, 'Would you please play this part?' I was really excited that she wanted me to be a part of it and picked me to do it. Then, yes, it was really fun to get to be super silly, wacky and out there and not have to do any of the heavy lifting on the film, like Keira Knightley or Steve Carell had to do. It was very fun to get to play with T.J. Miller and just be a whack job.
When you first discovered your passion for acting were you more inclined to want to cry in a scene and be dramatic or did you always lean towards the funny stuff?
Certainly as a kid, when I started acting, I was not doing a lot of comedy. It was a lot of Shakespeare and Chekhov and musicals, but no real comedy. Then I went to Julliard and Julliard does not do comedy, so it was just more serious, classical, dramatic theater and serious contemporary plays. It wasn't really until 'Community' that I got a chance to enter into the world of comedy, but it was something that I'd been longing to do because you can only play so many drug-addicted prostitutes before you get really tired of them. So I was really excited to get to jump into the comedy world.
When you work with great comedians, like Steve Carell, Joel McHale and Chevy Chase, what do you pick up for your own comedy skill set?
I feel like all those people have something in common, in that they think incredibly quickly on their feet. The sharpness of their minds and the sharpness of their wit is something that I aspire to. I also feel like I've learned a lot from people like Jim Rash and Donald Glover and Danny Pudi and everyone else on 'Community,' to really just go with the silliest, weirdest instinct that I have and to just give myself permission to sort of do whatever comes to me spontaneously in a moment. I really feel like I try not to over-think things too much. I feel like I've learned that from them, to be in the moment and be really present and something unexpected will happen.
And you’re in another film with Steve Carell coming up?
Yes, that's true. I'm in this movie 'Burt Wonderstone' that stars Steve Carell and Jim Carrey and Olivia Wilde and Steve Buscemi. All my scenes were with Steve Carell, and so it was really fun to get to work with him again. He's such a lovely, sweet guy that I really relished the opportunity to work with him. He's wildly different from who he plays in ‘Seeking a Friend…’ I'm probably more similar in both films, and I end up kissing him in 'Burt Wonderstone.' So, I'm two-for-two now. I have a running tally.
There's lots of drugs and open sex for a few of the characters in “Seeking a Friend” who are expecting the end of the world. That's not the worst plan, maybe.
No. I kind of admire that. That's not my personality type, but I should aspire to that kind of response.
Do you have an endgame for the end of the world if it does come about?
You know what, I should take a lesson from this movie and really just have fun on the way out because I'm too much of a worrier in my day-to-day life. If an asteroid is really coming there's not really much you can do, so why not just have a really good time.?