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January 02, 2014

'Community': Joel McHale and Jim Rash preview Season 5

 “Community” is a back for an all new season with back-to-back episodes on Thursday, January 2.

In the opener titled "Repilot," a set of circumstances brings the gang back together at Greendale Community College. Everything looks familiar, but things are not the same. Some big changes are ahead. First, show creator Dan Harmon is back as show runner after being ousted in Season 4. Pierce (Chevy Chase) is gone and Troy (Donald Glover) won't be in school for long. (Glover will appear in five episodes and leave the series). Gillian Jacobs, Alison Brie, Yvette Nicole Brown, Danny Pudi, Jim Rash, Ken Jeong, and Joel McHale return.

Jeff (Joel McHale), having graduated last season, returns in a different role -- as a teacher, a job he hates even more than being a student.  New recurring characters will be joining the show and one of them will be played by actor Jonathan Banks. Will the absence of two major cast members and new characters coming aboard effect the dynamic of the show? McHale and Jim Rash (Dean Pelton) weighed in.

"I would say the – both those absences have – and Troy’s departure – only sort of – not so much changed, but sort of – I mean, it’s the same sort of word, but evolved sort of the human – I mean, the study group’s connections," Rash told reporters during a recent press call.  "You know, it’s particularly – you get to figure out what Abed (Danny Pudi) is without Troy. And I think they do a very good job of watching this guy transition into the next chapter of his life without his best friend."

The actor also feels that the series will have to evolve.

"... The same thing with Pierce’s absence and having, you know, other characters complete the study room table. And as the study room table becomes a whole other entity, I think it really speaks to the idea of the evolution of a series, that the rules keep getting changed on us, but – which is very much like reality. And people adjust. And so I feel like, if anything, it always opens up new doors when something happens like the death of someone or the – you know, the departure of someone.
It only helps to sort of explore what happens when that happens to Jeff’s character and, you know, Britta and all these characters? So I feel like that’s always sort of a wealth of great change for a series."

Adjusting is definitely something Jeff must do when he becomes a teacher at the college. He's already a leader and someone the group looks up to. Now he's a faculty member and is seeing the college from the "other side" as he gets to know some of the teachers and has to face some of its responsibilities head on, including one of the his study group pals taking his class. What will Jeff's year be like?

"I would say that this year, Jeff – that my character because of – now he’s a professor, he is once again somewhat destabilized," McHale told reporters. "His immaturities are exposed, a whole new set of them. And I think there was a number of things that kind of got taken care of last year, and those things – they’re not things that just get kind of wrapped up. And they’ve driven – they’re – as people in real life, people do – are able to overcome some things, but they always have to – you know, it’s not something like, “Well, that was done and now I’m fixed.” It’s more like you are constantly finding new kind of things to fix and hopefully make you – hopefully make that person healthier. But Jeff is – you know, he’s got to – he’s had years of selfishness. And a bunch of that, I think, gets – you know, is exposed this year. And it was very fun to play. But there’s no doubt, though, that he loves this study group. And he has to really comes to terms with how he feels about the school ultimately." 

"Community" airs Thursdays on NBC.

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