Gillian Jacobs Talks Community's Second Season, Foot Fetishes
Gillian Jacobs plays bombshell feminist Britta on NBC’s Community, which kicked off its second season last week. She’s joined by a stellar ensemble cast which includes the likes of comedy maestros Chevy Chase and Joel McHale as well as promising young actors Donald Glover and Alison Brie, to name only a few.
Paste caught up with Jacobs to talk about Community’s sophomore season (which continues tonight on NBC at 8 p.m. ET), what it was like working with Betty White and about a certain internet community that appreciates her, um, work.
Paste: How is it working with Betty White?
Jacobs: It is delightful. I don’t have a bad word to say about the woman. She was sweet and obviously incredibly talented and so willing to do whatever they asked her to do. She’s a delightful presence. We loved having her.
Paste: Is she going to be back on the show at all this season?
Jacobs: I’ve heard rumors but I don’t know if I can confirm anything. I did hear something about another episode but I don’t know what that could be.
Paste: Working with a lot of heavyweights like Chevy Chase, Betty White and Drew Carey coming up in this week’s episode—were these any people that you watched when you were younger?
Jacobs: Definitely all those people. I’ve seen I don’t know how many episodes of The Drew Carey Show and I’ve always loved Who’s Line is it Anyway?, that improv show that he hosted. I was huge fan of that show as well. And of course Chevy’s a huge icon. It’s definitely a real experience being on the same show with these people that you’ve watched for years.
Paste: Do you think Chevy ever tries out any of the @oldwhitemansays lines in real life?
Jacobs: Well, that’s Pierce. That’s a character created for him and I think it’s so amazing that they are integrating online media like Twitter heavily into the show in such a smart way that really seems to excite and invigorate our audience. They can follow the characters on Twitter. Like they did a Twittersode last week leading up to our season premiere where all the characters were Twittering each other about what was about to happen in the episode. It’s amazing to me [that] it goes from being a story plot point to being a real thing in the world. And I follow @oldwhitemansays on Twitter, so you know.
Paste: Ten minutes before this interview, Joel McHale tweeted something about a bunch of puppies and monkeys on the set right now. And he asked “cutest episode ever or terribly disturbing lunch?” What’s your take on that?
Jacobs: Well, we love animals at Community. We had a goat on our show last year. You know we had the famous monkey, Annie’s Boobs, that was heavily featured in our chicken fingers episode. And we love them. We love babies and dogs and all kinds of animals you could ever name. I hope that’s not what they’re serving for lunch today.
Paste: Last season, Glee took a few jabs from you guys. Do you plan on getting back on the Glee wagon or are you guys going to find a new target?
Jacobs: Well, I think you could definitely perceive @oldwhitemansays as a jab at a certain freshman sitcom, but I think that we’re a pop culture-heavy show so we’re talking about things that are actually on TV right now. It’s not like Abed (Danny Pudi) especially isn’t watching what’s on TV right now, so if it’s appropriate and it comes up, then yeah, sure, we’ll be talking about various new shows. I mean, we don’t have a grudge against Glee. I think, more than anything, we’re just jealous of their ratings. Any jabs we take at them—we’re just the feisty little underdog wishing that we could have the sort of huge, incredible success that Glee has had. There’s no real animosity towards their show.
Paste: Which leads into your Emmy snub. How do you guys feel about that?
Jacobs: I don’t think that we were expecting or feeling like anything was necessarily going to happen in that category. It certainly would have been nice but I also understand that sometimes it takes a show a season to build and find an audience and I feel like a lot of people discovered us over the second half of our season last year. So, maybe this year there will be a nomination in store for us and maybe not. There’re a lot of great shows that don’t get nominated for any reason.
Paste: I’ve read that you and Joel McHale have quite the height difference so you have to wear high heels. What’s the average height that you have to wear?
Jacobs: Well, I’m staring at my wedge boots right now. I’d say at least two inches. He’s a good foot taller than me. I’m never going to really bridge the gap in our height. My poor, problematic feet don’t let me wear anything much over a three- or four-inch heel. I don’t wear stilettos, but I definitely feel it at the end of the day and I curse his freakish Nordic height.
Paste: What’s wrong your feet?
Jacobs: They just hurt, you know? Some girls say they don’t feel comfortable in flats, they only feel comfortable in heels; I am not one of those girls. If it weren’t for the show, I would not wear heels on a daily basis. I never wear them in real life, but if that’s a sacrifice I have to make for Community, then I’m willing to do it.
Paste: Researching this interview, I found that you are apparently a hot commodity in the foot-fetish community. Did you know that?
Jacobs: Are you kidding me? No!
Paste: Yeah. What do you think about that?
Jacobs: Um…flattered? Very unexpected. I didn’t know. Well, thank you, I guess, thank you.
Paste: You better take care of your feet when you’re wearing those platforms. Wouldn’t want to lose those fans.
Jacobs: You’re right. I’m glad that they’re closed-toe shoes on the show. Otherwise I’d be very concerned about alienating my fans. Yeah, I gotta get on that. Better schedule a pedicure as soon as I get off the phone with you.
Paste: Can we expect Britta to join in with any of the Abed/Troy songs at the end of the show this season?
Jacobs: I don’t think the fans really want that duo messed with. Unless there’s some sort of Facebook campaign to put Britta in the tags, I don’t know if I’m going to be in them.
Paste: Who are some of the other guests this season?
Jacobs: In addition to Drew Carey in this week’s episode, we have Rob Corddry, who’s incredible. We have Hillary Duff in an episode we just finished shooting. I’m trying to think of who else Hopefully the return of John Oliver, who we adore. And I think we’re going to use Patton Oswalt, who played our school nurse last year.
Paste: Who would be your ideal guest?
Jacobs: Britney Spears. See? That’s the Glee jealousy again. I would like Amy Sedaris to play my mom because I think she’s one of the funniest people alive. And I think her comic sensibility would match really well to our show. So there.
Paste: If any of the cast has a medical problem, do they go to Ken [Jeong, who plays Señor Chang] because he was a doctor before he became an actor?
Jacobs: Definitely. The other day Joel and Donald dared Danny to drink this concoction of hot sauce and maple syrup and all sort of horrible things. And Ken was standing by very worriedly and mending Danny’s tongue periodically throughout the rest of the night. It’s funny because when he flips into doctor mode, he becomes completely serious and totally humorless. He’s not joking around anymore and he gets a look of worry over his face that you never ever see any other time. Anytime we have any sort of medical issues, problems or questions, we always run to Ken.
Paste: Do you pull a lot of pranks on the set?
Jacobs: Not really. I would say that our atmosphere is more like goofing around and joking and people doing bits and characters than practical jokes, necessarily. Donald keeps us pretty entertained in between takes with his various characters. One of whom is Joe, making his debut this year at ComicCon at our panel.
Paste: What sort of characters do you resort to when you’re goofing around with other cast members?
Jacobs: Oh, I’m usually just standing and laughing. They’re a lot funnier than I am. I just enjoy their humor. I’m not at their level so I don’t really have too many characters. I just get goofy and the more tired I get, the goofier I get.
Paste: Can we expect Britta to come up with any other mispronounced words like bag-el?
Jacobs: Oh God, probably. I’d imagine that’s not the only thing she’s saying incorrectly. That one came straight from our creator Dan Harmon. He says bag-el and gets made fun of a lot. He turned his pain into the nation’s joy by writing it into the show. I don’t know. Maybe I should be quizzing Dan Harmon about how he says every single word in the English language to find another one.
Paste: Are there any words that you mispronounce?
Jacobs: Yeah. I say the word “N-U-C-L-E-R” the same way that George W. Bush says it. I’m not going to say that word out loud for you because I have a hard time with that. I was also told pretty recently that I was pronouncing the word “realtor” wrong, that I was saying “real-a-tor.” Every so often I’m informed about words I’ve been mispronouncing my entire life.
Paste: What are you most excited about with this season you’re shooting right now?
Jacobs: Our Halloween episode is going to be a stop-motion animation episode, like the famous Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, those Christmas specials and all those terrific stop-motion animation specials. We did the voices for it but I haven’t seen any of it. That I think will be really exciting to watch for the first time, to see the whole world that they’ve created.
Paste: Does Britta dress up like a different woodland creature this year?
Jacobs: Not a woodland creature. No. I will say, once again, the costume was my idea, and it is something that I dress up as as a child. And that is all I’m at liberty to say.
Paste: The classroom kiss that Britta shared with Jeff in last week’s episode was so awkward. Was it more uncomfortable to shoot than a normal kiss?
Jacobs: It was some kind of gross and disgusting. It was so hilarious. As opposed to trying to make a kiss look romantic or sweet or passionate, it’s kind of fun to just have the freedom to make it look weird, goofy and awkward. I thought it was really fun and I now know the feeling of Joel’s tongue. It definitely broke some rules about the way you’re supposed to kiss someone on screen. There’s an unspoken actor rule that tongues aren’t really ever supposed to enter the picture. So that was definitely a first for me, that kiss we had there.
Paste: Abed drew a parallel between Jeff and Britta with Ross and Rachel. Do you see a lot of similarities there? Or draw any inspiration from that?
Jacobs: Not really. No, no. I feel like our show is very much its own thing and they way we play out TV relationships is very different from I think just about any other show. We kind of take all the rules of television and throw them out the window. Dan Harmon had our characters kiss in either the second or the third episode of the entire show, which is breaking a huge rule in TV romance. You’re supposed to draw it out over several seasons, otherwise you’re gonna destroy the show. And you can’t have the characters sleep together and not start dating and we did that. I told him I loved him and maybe I didn’t even really mean it; you certainly never see people doing that. I feel like we’ve broken every rule that’s ever been created for TV romance. We’re blazing our own trail of awkward, dysfunctional relationships.
Paste: You started off with super serious roles like with Shakespeare and grimier stuff like Gardens of the Night and you made the leap from that to comedy.What’s next? Do you see yourself leaping anywhere else extreme? Like all the Glee references hint, perhaps?
Jacobs: Oh, are you hinting at some sort of musical theatre career for me? Um, I don’t know about that one. I don’t know if I have the talents to back that one up. But I’ve certainly made it clear that I’m willing to make a fool out of myself so if someone wants me to sing publicly, I’ll go for it. I’ll embarrass myself.