Gillian Jacobs: Community Service

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Often music, movies or TV shows are thought to be lacking in quality if they aren’t followed by the masses. Gillian Jacobs and her overlooked television program, Community, proves that lower than ideal ratings do not equate to lower quality.

The cult favorite television comedy, Community, has had its troubles attracting a large audience in its three
seasons on the air. However, the relatively small audience it has attracted is among the staunchest in all of television. The hilarious, pop culture referencing, fan friendly sitcom does an excellent job of giving its loyal followers exactly what they want.

Those loyal followers payback the Community team with creative art exhibits that celebrate the program and an online fandom that is sizeable. “Compared to a lot of comedy shows we have a small fan base…but we have a level of devotion from our fans that sci-fi shows usually receive,” Gillian Jacobs says. The fervor the small amount of fans showcase for Community on the internet and at fan conventions is usually reserved for geek magnet programs like Battlestar Galactica or Lost. “We feel very at home at Comic-Con, they get us, and we get them.”

TheStndrd_Issue2-116Gillian Jacobs is the kind of actress the Comic-Con type of audience fully embraces. She is obviously hot, anyone can see that, but more importantly she has an air about her that is both relatable and easy going. She is the kind of girl you wished you could have dated in high school. She is the dream, the prom queen that may have actually sat next to you at lunch and wouldn’t have made fun of your Star Wars lunchbox. That assessment of her appeal may come as a shock to the charming starlet. “I certainly wasn’t very popular in high school.”

That surprising lack of popularity in her teenage years might have had something to do with her connection to her Community fictional counterpart, the often obstinate, Britta Perry. “I totally understand where Britta comes from. In high school I was very much Britta. I had a lot of definite ideas about what was right and what was wrong. I probably pushed people away. People found me to be too serious in high school,” she less than fondly recalls.

The actress grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and was able to nurture her love for performing in the city and state best known for its production of steel and historic professional football team. “There was a lot of theater in Pittsburgh when I was starting out. I was lucky. It was a good time to be a kid who wanted to act in Pittsburgh when I was growing up. I got to do a lot of plays and work in classical theater.”

Theater was very much Jacobs primary passion as a youngster. She focused on it very intensely because it seemed like the only outlet available for her acting aspirations. “I had dreams of doing TV and movies but when you grow up in a smaller city there really isn’t a lot of TV and movie work available. You have to focus on what you can do, so I was primarily focused on theater,” Jacob states.

TheStndrd_Issue2-119She made her way to New York after high school and studied at the legendary The Julliard School. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the prestigious institution before eventually making her way to Hollywood. “I moved to Los Angeles for Community. I had spent periods of time in LA for pilot seasons, but I had never stayed longer than six weeks. To go from visiting LA, to living there, is a big transition.”

The creators of Community always saw Gillian possibly playing the role of Britta Perry. Jacobs auditioned for that role, and that role only. The character of Britta was much more level headed in the earlier episodes of the sitcom but slowly she has become a lot more “unraveled,” Jacobs describes, as the show has progressed over the years.

Britta’s transition can be greatly attributed to the writers and their willingness to push the character in new directions in an attempt to keep her from becoming one-dimensional or boring. “The writing developed and the writers conception of the character also developed.” Jacobs thinks her talented co-stars are also a major reason why her character has become a little zanier. “I trust everyone I work with; if we didn’t have that dynamic, I wouldn’t put myself out there. I’m willing to be really silly and goofy in front of them. The working environment we have allows people to not hold back.”

Much like her small screen alter ego, Gillian has evolved over the years. She has made a concerted effort to not be the same girl who wasn’t very “popular” growing up. “I have tried to loosen up as I’ve gotten older, sometimes successfully, sometimes not so successfully. I try to be less rigid in my thinking about the world.”

TheStndrd_Issue2-115She hopes Britta can also continue to evolve and change as the show moves forward. The changes don’t necessarily have to be the same ones Gillian Jacobs has made, but she hopes the changes Britta does make continue to push the character, and the show, in interesting and comically pleasing ways. “The first two seasons she didn’t really know what she wanted to do. We weren’t quite sure what her goals were. I want her to have goals. I was excited this past season because she had a purpose and a focus to her, which I thought, was great. I never want her to become a perfect person because I think that would be really boring for the show. But, I do want her to keep trying and to keep failing.”

Fans of the program, myself included, will definitely love the idea of Gillian Jacobs pushing herself and her Britta persona. That kind of commitment to her character is very admirable and makes it easy to understand why the half hour farce has such a loyal fan base. The course of Community seems to be more determined by creative choices rather than business ones.

“We have always proceeded like there is nothing we couldn’t do. We don’t really hold back on the content or the creativity when it comes to the show. That may be to our detriment in terms of the ratings but that’s the show we are. I hope we can continue to go for it, no matter what ideas the writers have, I hope we have the opportunity to continue to go for it.”

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