How did you decide upon LeVar Burton and then Luis Guzmán? I mean, I know Luis Guzmán was established beforehand…
Luis Guzmán might have been the moment in the story breaking where we realized it would work, because we came upon…Well, I’ll start with Levar Burton. We portioned out each person’s story. We had to figure out what everyone’s mini story was going to be. And for Troy, we thought it would just be this fun thing that Pierce got him a person to hang out with. I think the first idea was that it would be some really hot girl or something like that, and then somebody mentioned LeVar Burton. His name comes up, and I love “Reading Rainbow,” so I was immediately like, “YES.” That’s a funny thing for Troy to be preoccupied with, hanging out with Levar Burton for the day. It plays into the nice part of Troy still being an eight-year-old kid. So we decided to bring him in, and I think the idea was that he wouldn’t be able to talk around him. But I remember after we’d broken it and they took it home to write the writer’s draft, I was texting Donald and saying, “You don’t have any lines in my upcoming episode, but I think it’s going to be the funniest one I’ve ever seen you do.” LeVar’s honestly great. He was also really excited to do it. He was such a sport on set. He was really funny improvising with the actors and was totally into it, and actually the last line of, “More fish for Kunta,” we’d originally had it, “More fish for LeVar.”
As for Luis Guzmán, that was more of a story thing. We knew we wanted the Dean making this commercial, and we knew we wanted Abed making a documentary about the Dean. That we knew from the very beginning. We didn’t know what would make the Dean kind of go insane. Why he would think that this commercial that he was making was the most important thing that had ever happened. Maybe he loves Greendale so much that he doesn’t want to ruin it. And we stay in that area for a while, but then we realized that the Dean has always been a little bit embarrassed of Greendale. He’s always done things to try to “shine that nickel,” to make it a little bit better. He’s doing things like buying the new judges table for the pool in the first season. Things that don’t actually make the school any better but are all about a facade, I guess. So we’re talking about that and how he’s embarrassed, and how the Luis Guzmán statue is the prime example of him saying, “The best thing you can do at Greendale is get out of here and go be a famous actor in Hollywood. That’s who we love at Greendale: people who are better than us.”…Thankfully one of our directors and executive producer of the show, Joe Russo, he’s worked with Luis Guzmán before, so they were friends, and we talked to him and he knows about the show because we had to get his permission to use that statue, just like the Dean has to in the actual episode. But it was great, and I really want to have him back again for something. The scene of him walking and just looking up at his own statue is just so funny.
Is there anyone you’ve tried to get for the show but just haven’t been able to yet?
Tons. I don’t want to say anybody, but we have a very hard time getting people in scenes. Scenes where we have a very particular person in mind, it doesn’t usually work out. But we’ve also gotten some really amazing people. Like we got Michael K. Williams basically through Twitter. One of our producers, Neil Goldman, tweeted at him, and was like, “Hey, basically none of our people and your people are allowing us to offer to have you on the show, but we would like to have you.” And he was like, “I’m interested.” And so they talked through that, and that’s how we got Michael K. Williams. It’s hard, though. It’s hard with people’s schedules. Also to get people that we love, like John Oliver and Patton Oswalt. We always want to have them. I really want to bring Paul F. Tompkins back, but I don’t how you justify it. But we got John Hodgman this year. We did really well this year.
I can’t wait for more John Goodman and Gus from “Breaking Bad,” too.
Oh, yeah! God, Giancarlo. There are tons of “Breaking Bad” fans on the writing staff. We talk about it all the time and we got Dan into it lately. Usually he doesn’t like it when we talk about other shows, but we were like, “No, but you HAVE to watch ‘Breaking Bad’! This is the one we’re telling you you have to watch.” So he started watching it and loved it. So when we were talking about 322, the one that he’s in, and we started thinking about if we can get him to play this role, everyone just got so excited, and all the writers made a special field trip down to set just to say hi. We formed this almost “cheer line” that he had to go through to say hi to all of us. We were so excited to see him.
Are there any nods to “Breaking Bad” in the episode?
I know of at least one. I haven’t seen that episode fully, and things can get edited out, but there’s a nod or two that people will recognize.