Staying Vigilant with "Community's" Danny Pudi

Fri, November 6th, 2009 at 11:28am PST | Updated: November 6th, 2009 at 12:53pm

TV/Film
Jeffrey Renaud, Staff Writer

One of the most critically acclaimed new TV shows of the fall season, "Community" unexpectedly reached out to the ever growing and exceedingly powerful comic community last week with its Halloween episode, entitled, "Introduction to Statistics."

Abed, a pop culture-obsessed college co-ed, played by Danny Pudi, dressed as a Christian Bale-inspired Batman for the entire episode and never left character. Not once. Not even when he was re-filling the Chex Mix bowl at a Day of the Dead party.

Scenes from the episode have gone viral and have been popping up across the blogosphere over the last seven days, while the episode itself received the show's best ratings yet.

CBR News lit the Bat-signal, and who should appear but Danny Pudi to shed some light on TV's darkest night.

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CBR News: So did you tell the writers, "Look I do an awesome Christian Bale - you should write it into the script," or did they approach you say, "You better start working on your Batman voice."

Danny Pudi: I've always been a huge, huge, huge Batman fan. He's my way favorite DC comic book character and my overall favorite comic book character. And he was my favorite superhero as a kid. I did dress up as Batman once as a kid for Halloween back in the day in Chicago. but this was something that they just wrote in there. They asked me one day, two of the writers [Tim Hobert and Jon Pollack] were like, "How is your Batman impersonation?"

Danny Pudi is Abed is Batman

And I said [voice cracks], "It's pretty good." But it wasn't nearly what it was by the time we started shooting. I'm a huge fan of the "Dark Knight" movie and "Batman Begins," a big fan of both of those movies, but "Dark Knight" especially. So I ended up just re-watching that over and over again, just really studying Christian Bale's voice and his character. I just love what he brought to that role.

What do you love about Batman, and what makes him your favorite superhero?

I remember watching the old Adam West "Batman" as a kid, and now watching this Batman, and there's no comparison. They're so different - this Batman is definitely darker, and I love that about him.

I just like a superhero that doesn't have superpowers, someone who has to rely on his training, intellect and his utility belt. Oh, and in my case, lip balm. I added that to my Batman. I figure, I'm not Christian Bale, my legs are tiny and I can do the voice, but ultimately, Batman is still human. And just like anyone of us, his lips might get chapped, so I wanted to make sure that was expressed.

It's cold, and I imagine rainy, in Gotham. That type of weather begs for lip balm.

Totally. And I live in Los Angeles where it's super sunny, so there better be SPF in that lip balm too.

You were stone cold straight during the entire episode. Did it take a lot of takes to maintain a straight face, or were you and the other actors able to keep it together?

There were a lot of takes, but we're pretty good. We're pretty efficient. But when you're talking about baby carrots, and Chex Mix, and all that other stuff in that voice, it's funny the first few times you hear it because it's so unexpected. So there were definitely a few takes where we had to do it over just to make sure we got it good. And I think we did.

And it was such a fun week, too, because everybody was dressed in a character costume and they were extensions of themselves. And for me to be able to play Batman was definitely a lifelong dream. I'm just thankful the writers gave me that opportunity, and after studying [Bale's] voice for a couple of weeks, I was able to kind of find [the voice].

The clip of your final scene where you save Jeff [Joel McHale] and Pierce [Chevy Chase] from a falling desk fort has been making the rounds on YouTube and various blogs and websites all week, generating tons of additional buzz for a show that was already considered one of the best new shows of the season. After this episode had wrapped, did you know you had done something special?

It's neat to be a part of something that's being shared and making waves virally. And it's especially fun for me because I'm contributing to a show that I really love by bringing something that is so much a part of my own personality.

Danny Pudi as Abed on NBC's "Community"

And the last shot is just so amazing. Justin Lin directed that episode. He directed "Fast & the Furious," so he brought in some great specialty shots. The minute I saw [the scene] in the episode where I'm standing on top of the building after the party and I got to save Jeff and Pierce from that tower, I knew it was one of the most amazing things I'd worked on.

And the voiceover, [creator] Dan Harmon and [executive producer] Joe Russo worked with me to improvise that. So, that voiceover at the end, where we're panning through the crowd to reveal me on top of the building, very Batman-like with a cape, that was all improvised. They just had me talk it out a few times to kind of find the Batman in Abed. And there are a lot of similarities, which you'd never [have realized]. Abed not being understood. Batman not being understood. Batman is trying to help people and Abed's trying to help people, but they both kind of have dark pasts [laughs]. And they both have dark family situations. It's been very cool finding those similarities.

Being able to run around with a mask on and taking on a different persona, especially as Abed, that's something [the character] just took and ran with. I love how none of the other characters even question it. Meanwhile, during the episode, I'm talking about the playlist on the laptop, where Annie's like, "Hey Abed, can you hit the music," and I'm like, "Is it under genre or a specific playlist?" Never dropping the voice just shows how Abed really sticks to it. He's just very resilient.

That's the great thing about this show. They're letting us play and letting us find some moments that you can throw out there on the internet. My character, especially, has great pop culture tie-ins, whether it's Batman or specific movies or TV shows. It's great to have that voice, because it appeals to a lot of other people too.

Were you uncomfortable under the cape and cowl all week?

No. It was actually one of the greatest weeks of my life. The week leading up to and that week were just so exciting, because I really wanted to take on the Batman role. There's something about putting on that costume that makes you feel like you could conquer anything.

I re-read Frank Miller's "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns." I loved looking at all the graphic novels and watching "Dark Knight." Part of me was dark. I'd sit there and drink coffee, and I would even drink the coffee like Batman. I'd drink it hard, just black. I didn't take any milk that week. No cream. No sugar. Just completely black. I decided that week, if I was going to go full out, there was going to be no milk in my coffee.

And the costume itself was really interesting because I had that big fake chest. It's really funny, because if you poked my chest, and I don't know if you could see this in the episode, but it takes a good minute to get to my real chest. It was surprisingly comfortable, which is good because I needed to be kind of agile. It was really fun running around in that outfit, especially with the cape. I love fluttering the cape. And I loved the mask. It made me feel like a superhero. I'm not even joking, when I put it on, I was just like, "This feels good." People were respecting me.

And my wife is actually requesting that I wear it more often.

That is too much information.

I know.

"Community" airs on NBC Thursday nights at 8 p.m.

TAGS:  nbc, community, danny pudi, batman

 
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