A fired showrunner, leaked voicemails of an angry Chevy Chase and a move to Friday night — it's all been taken in stride by the cast of Community, including East Cleveland native Yvette Nicole Brown. The actress plays Shirley on the quirky NBC sitcom about a diverse group of adults attending community college, which is set to begin its fourth season this fall (Community returns Oct. 19 at 8:30 p.m.). Brown checked in with us to talk about her character, her hometown and her love of Sandra Bullock.
Q. As you prepare to kick off the new season, are you still amazed at how passionate the fans are about this show?
A. Yeah, I remain shocked by that. I don't know that I've seen a fan base like this. We've been completely humbled and shocked by the way the fans have rallied around us. They're just insane, and it's just wonderful.
Q. And yet the show's overall viewership remains fairly low? Why hasn't the cult following spread to a larger audience?
A. The kids show I did, Drake & Josh, would get 7 million viewers for the little TV movies and stuff, so I know what a rabid fan base is. But I get recognized for Community way more than anything else that I do, which tells me that there are more people watching than we know. I think the people that are watching Community, they're watching in groups, they're watching it online — they're not necessarily sitting around a family table with a Nielsen box. So I think it's unfortunate that the love of this show is not being counted.
Q. Is this the highest the show's profile has been during its run?
A. I think so, primarily because we've been on for three years already, but also because of all the stuff that happened with the change in showrunner, replacing Dan Harmon. We were in the press a lot, maybe not for the things that we had hoped to be in the press for, but I do think it's a higher profile going into this season.
Q. Any insight into what we can expect from Shirley this year?
A. No, I don't know anything. I think she is going to continue her sandwich shop with Pierce [Chevy Chase], which should be fun because I think me and Chevy together are funny on the show.
Q. It's such a multi-talented cast. Joel McHale hosts The Soup, Donald Glover has his music career, Jim Rash won an Oscar for his writing on The Descendents. What's it like going to work every day?
A. It's really a fun set to be on. That's why it's so frustrating when we hear all these rumors about dissension and craziness. Anybody that visits will leave understanding the love that we all have for each other. We have a great time together. We're a family.
Q. You work with so many interesting people, but if you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would you pick?
A. You know what, this may be a shallow answer, but I think it would be Sandra Bullock. I really love her and I've never met her, and I keep hearing that she's a very, very kind person. I know that's not like, you know, I didn't say like Martin Luther King, and I'd like to eat with Martin too, but off the top of my head, I'd pick Sandra Bullock.
Q. Do you make it back home to Cleveland much?
A. I do. My dad and most of my cousins and aunts are still there. I try to get back at least two or three times a year. I just don't come when the snow is there.