'Community's' Jim Rash Talks Body-Switching, Cross-Dressing, and the Darkest Timeline

Dave Nemetz
Senior Editor, Yahoo TV
Yahoo! TV
Community - Season 4
"Community" -- "History 101" Episode 401 -- Pictured: Jim Rash as Dean Pelton

The writing on NBC's inspired college comedy "Community" is already pretty great, and just think: They haven't even asked the Oscar-winning writer in their cast to write an episode. Until now.

Yes, co-star Jim Rash (who plays Greendale's cross-dressing Dean Pelton) took home an Academy Award last year for co-writing the George Clooney drama "The Descendants" -- and oh yeah, mocked Angelina Jolie's one-leg pose in front of about a billion viewers. Now Rash is penning his first "Community" episode: this week's "Basic Human Anatomy," in which Troy and Abed magically switch bodies, "Freaky Friday"-style. (Or, if you prefer, "Like Father Like Son"-style.)

Rash chatted with Yahoo! TV over the phone last week about his body-switching homage, the Dean's most ridiculous costumes, and what's in store for the study group as we ramp up to next month's season finale.

[Video: Get Caught Up With Full Episodes of 'Community' Right Here]

Rash admits to being a huge "Freaky Friday" fan (aren't we all?), so he jumped at the chance to bring the body-switching genre to the Greendale campus. "I think for every generation, we were able to mention their body-switching movie," he says, with a hint of pride. "So if you grew up on 'Vice Versa,' there's yours. If you grew up on the 'Freaky Friday' remake, there's yours." (And yes, George Burns fans, even 1988's very forgettable "18 Again!" gets a shout-out.)

Troy and Abed are both clutching a "Freaky Friday" DVD when the switch occurs (helped out by a flickering light switch), just as Troy and Britta are about to celebrate their first anniversary together. That means Troy has to go out on an awkward anniversary date with Britta... while trapped in Abed's body. But it's not all wacky hi-jinks, Rash says. In fact, the body-switching conceit allowed him to dig deep into Troy and Britta's hot-and-cold romance: "It really isn't a spoof. It really is an emotional choice, with those two characters figuring out, 'Why are we here together?'"

The best part of any body-switching story, of course, is getting to see two actors inhabit each other's roles. (See: the immortal Fred Savage and Judge Reinhold combo in "Vice Versa.") And Donald Glover (Troy) and Danny Pudi (Abed) don't disappoint here, with Glover mastering Abed's quirky delivery and Pudi having fun with Troy's dim-witted bravado. "It was amazing to watch them," Rash recalls. "They know each other so well. They recorded themselves doing each other's lines, just to hear how that person would approach the scene, so they take on the cadence." (Though we are a little disappointed that we never hear them sing, "Troy and Abed switching BODIES!" C'mon, guys, that one was a lay-up.)

And that's not the only soul-swapping going on. The Dean also switches bodies with his beloved Jeff (though Jeff doesn't play along), with Rash breaking out a wicked Joel McHale impersonation, even doffing his shirt just like Jeff would. Rash relished the chance to give his co-star a little well-deserved payback. "This is a great comeuppance, because [McHale] did an impersonation of the Dean in [Season 3's 'Documentary Filmmaking: Redux'] which I found offensive. We gave each other s---, saying, 'No, this is exactly how you are.'" 

It's worth noting that Rash didn't write in any crazy costumes for the Dean this week… and that might not be a coincidence. According to Rash, the Dean's getups -- while undeniably hilarious -- are a huge hassle to get in and out of. A weary Rash singles out the black-and-white '50s housewife costume from this season's "Herstory of Dance" as particularly awful: "That was a pain in the ass. I couldn't touch anything, because it was makeup and it would smear. That was probably the most painful." (Now we almost feel bad for laughing so much at that one.)

Check out one of the Dean's infamous costumes in this "Community" clip:

So what else is in store for the Greendale gang this season? Rash hints at an upcoming origins story for the study group: "Abed is able to prove that all of our paths crossed before we got to the pilot." And the May 9 season finale is "a big Jeff-centric story to pay off the possible impending graduation." Plus, prepare yourself for more Evil Abed: Rash promises that "the darkest timeline will make an appearance in that one." But with no word yet on a possible renewal, could that episode end up being the (gulp) series finale as well? Talk about your darkest timelines.

"Community" airs Thursday at 9 PM on NBC.