[Warning: Do not read if you have not watched Thursday's episode, "Paranormal Parentage."]
In Greendale, it's never too early to celebrate Halloween.
On Thursday's Community, "Paranormal Parentage," the gang drops by Pierce Hawthorne's (Chevy Chase) mansion on their way to a Halloween costume party after discovering he accidentally locked himself in the panic room. While the group attempts to find Pierce, a "shadowy figure" is seen watching Pierce sleep. Their first thought? Pierce's dead father Cornelius, prompting Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) to go through his own insecurities about his non-relationship with his dad.
As it's revealed in the final minutes, that shadowy figure is Cornelius' former assistant, Gilbert Lawson (Giancarlo Esposito), making a surprise return on the NBC comedy. "May I be of some assistance?" he asks, pushing up his glasses. This after Pierce pulls a fast one on the study group: the whole panic room/haunted house was a prank! Turns out, Gilbert has been living in the mansion -- technically it's his -- paying off Pierce's unpaid bills and fixing up the home for about six weeks. He's been struggling to move on following Cornelius' death.
In a touching moment, Pierce -- roommate-less after Troy (Donald Glover) moved out -- asks Gilbert to move in. In a chat with The Hollywood Reporter, Esposito -- who filmed his appearance in one day -- talks about his return to Community, what a Gilbert-Pierce roommate is most like and his favorite moment from the episode.
The Hollywood Reporter: When you got the call that you were coming back, how did you react and did you have any expectations? (The Revolution star first appeared in season three's video game episode, "Digital Estate Planning.")
Giancarlo Esposito: I got excited and a little bit apprehensive. It's a very different way of working to do this kind of comedy than I'm used to, but I love this cast and the way they play off each other. Everything is a little bit avant garde and a little bit spontaneous. The reaction from the first one I did was so strong from so many viewers. They're interesting and very different kind of fans.
THR: What different was the experience filming this episode compared to your first Community appearance?
Esposito: It was very different because at some point in time during filming, I didn't have Chevy or the cast, I was isolated doing things on my own with a sort of haunted house feel. For some of the stuff, I was literally standing there looking at their photos on a green screen, which was pretty weird and very Halloween-esque. That was an interesting part of this. The first time I filmed [Community], it was a [huge] technology episode with the game, playing the game and then being inside the game. This one was quick and easy and to the point, and I certainly liked the more cultivated, connective, dramatic aspect that behind the loneliness of Pierce and the loneliness of Gilbert comes this pact that "We'll move in together." We both might be relieved of our loneliness and have a connection to each other that grows to be deeper and more fun.
THR: How would you describe Pierce and Gilbert's living arrangement?
Esposito: I certainly like the idea of The Odd Couple coming back again. Certainly Pierce and Gilbert would be very, very odd together.
THR: The fact that Gilbert took Troy's place was a fun twist.
Esposito: Yeah, you're surprised by it. You're not quite expecting it. I think it's pretty terrific.
THR: Do you have a favorite moment from the episode?
Esposito: My favorite moment was the ending with Gilbert hugging Pierce and also the surprise that Gilbert is living in this house with him. It's kind of a outrageous thought. When I open the door and they're all there thinking "What!" The look on their faces were so, so exciting [to see].
THR: Pierce's mansion is pretty crazy. Definitely not your typical home.
Esposito: Very different, very child-like. The indoor playground. I think some of us wish to have a house that could be as fun as that and as weird and strange.
Community airs at 8 p.m. Thursdays on NBC.