There are three potential outcomes interviewing a celebrity can lead to. Your can learn to hate a star you used to love, you can learn to love a star you used to hate or your adoration for a star can grow bigger, deeper and more verbose because they were such a delight. Yvette Nicole Brown falls into that third category.
She'd already earned a spot on my Tivo thanks to her perky and prickly performance as Shirley Bennett on "Community," but Yvette earned a place in my pop culture loving heart after swinging by my office for a simple chat. During our time together, I was struck by how open she was about her foibles, how grateful she was for the show's success and how downright hilarious she was during our not long enough interview.
I got Yvette's take on "Community's" unexpected season finale, was schooled in the art of pre-stalking and cringed as she recounted one of the most horrific on the job tales I've ever heard. Seriously, you might want to put down that PB&J before continuing.
PopWrap: What's the last year of your life been like?
Yvette Nicole Brown: Amazing. To be amongst all these people that are so brilliant at what they do, you kind of have to believe if you’re standing with them, then you can do it too. I keep telling myself, I wouldn’t be here if I were a schlub, I can hang -- so you take the ride that way.
PW: The show has quickly amassed a very loyal group of fans.
Yvette: Our audience is small but mighty, that’s what I like to say! And they’re rabid, you know, the people who love the show, love the show. And I’m thinking, you can’t do better than that! Remember, “Seinfeld” started small, and then became this huge thing. The ride to pilot, to nine [episodes], then thirteen, then season two has been incredible.
PW: And you got a viral video out of it when your creator filmed giving you guys the news about a second season!
Yvette: Everything you saw in the video, the little comments everyone was making, that’s who we are. I’m thinking, "I’m never going to work again and they’re going to cancel this show" and it’s written all on my face. Then it went from complete terror to total jubilation; it was surreal, like, we really didn’t know that was going to go viral.
PW: Seeing you guys be that excited is kinda representative of what fans love about the show.
Yvette: We’re a ragtag, scrappy bunch! Like the Island of misfit Toys. None of us really fit in any particular situation, but somehow all of our quirkiness, weirdness together makes this perfect mix of crazy.
PW: Looking back, what is your favorite episode?
Yvette: Well, my favorite Shirley-centric episode is the Christmas episode, because I feel like you really get to see how her freak flag flies. She's a bit judgmental, but I think it comes from her naivete. She comes from a place where everyone is Christian. Everything was crazy to her -- not in an “I hate you, you’re horrible” way, but just in a ‘well I only know baby Jesus’ way. So it was so great to have that arc from naive and a bit judgmental, to embracing everybody at the end.
PW: And your favorite episode overall?
Yvette: Modern Warfare (the paintball episode). I hope this comes out the right way, but I watched that as a fan, I stepped out and watched those fools shoot each other up on that campus and it’s like I’m not even in it. Everything about it was perfection. And I’m saying that as a regular, you know, crazy woman. I love that episode. There’s hurt there, there’s cliché there, there’s romance, there’s Ken Jeong in that cream suit .. everything about it is just perfection.
PW: One of the things we learned about Shirley involves her love of gabbing in the ladies room -- can you even go into a bathroom without being approached now?
Yvette: [Laughs] There was actually a man today that said he would walk into the restroom with me anytime. This really has become a phenomenon, because, you know, I’ve done TV, I’ve done commercials, I kind of pop up everywhere. So I had gotten used to meeting strangers on the street who were kind and wonderful. But the frequency of it has grown and the rabid nature of it has grown, and I’m walking down the street and people just yell out “Shirley!” or “that’s nice!” You can feel the whole thing changing, and it’s really cool to realize people really watch and like the show. It’s a gift.
PW: So you don't mind the bathroom buddies?
Yvette: You know, I’ve never understood people who achieve something in any field and are crappy about it. Like, it’s what people dream of. I think it’s a really crappy thing to do to not be grateful. I mean, we all have our down days, but it’s not hard to smile and say thank you. How would you like to have someone walk up to your door and say, “I just love you!” What’s wrong with that?
PW: The season finale threw a lot of people for a loop when Jeff chose Annie over Britta -- thoughts?
Yvette: I was shocked too, but I am Team Britta. I’ve said it everywhere. Apparently there’s a lot of people shooting for the Annie-Jeff pairing. Dan [Harmon, creator] is really into social media, he goes into our sites and all that, so I guess he realized it was a big enough fan base to make it worth it to go down that road. I don’t know how they’re going to do it because there’s a big age difference there. I liked Annie with Troy. I liked the sweetness of her discovering first love with him. And her discovering first love with like a jaded lawyer is going to throw the whole trajectory of her life in that direction. But you know, that’s me as an adult thinking, "she's an 18-year old baby!" It’s that maternal thing coming out in me.
PW: I've read that you love to ask people about their personal love stories, why?
Yvette: Oh, I’ve heard so many. You can learn more about someone by who they love then anything else. People may not like to talk about themselves, but if you ask them about who they love, they open up. It’s a lovely thing.
PW: I've also heard you practice something called "pre-stalking," what is that?
Yvette: Pre-stalking is necessary for a successful stalk. Pre-stalking is when you maybe just check out some activities. Maybe just frequent certain restaurants -- you know, it’s just nice to know where they go. Maybe you know their favorite songs, and you can play it behind them as you walk by, something like that. I always think it’s important to keep tabs on people you find attractive. And I’m good at it.
PW: So who is your ultimate pre-stalk currently?
Yvette: Right now I think I’m pre-stalking Isaiah Mustafa. He’s so cute. I saw him on Oprah -- he is so genuine and kind. And my thing is, I’m not that impressed with talent. It’s great if you’re funny or if you can dance, but if you are kind and decent, it comes out your pores. And he’s sitting there talking and I just thought, that is a really good guy. You know, he has a girlfriend, so I’m happy for her and happy for them together, but I would love for him to be on "Community." I think he would be great as Shirley’s love interest. We’re around the same age, and he just got the deal with NBC. It’s just meant to be, so I’m just going to keep saying something until somebody listens.
PW: Who would he play?
Yvette: Someone said, “what about her ex-husband?” I said, No, Shirley’s not reconciling with her ex-husband, love interest I said. So I’m pre-stalking him.
PW: You've been on a million different TV shows in guest star roles -- which gave you something something no other has?
Yvette: I was working on "House" and up until that point I had mostly done comedy. This was my first drama. The scene I was in was very heavy, not necessarily for me, but for Greg Grunberg from “Heroes. He had to cry every time. He had to find tears every time. All I kept thinking of was, “I don’t want to mess up his take!” I’m goofy and I’m silly, and I didn’t know if my face was going to go all weird. We finished the scene and Hugh Laurie took me aside and said, “I just want to tell you that you did a really good job. I get six or seven scenes every episode to do what I do. You had a minute and a half to create a character and you did a great job. I just want to tell you that.”
PW: That guy is a class act.
Yvette: I thought, “First of all, I don’t even know why you are talking to me, because you are Hugh Laurie, and I’m nobody.” I have a list in my mind and in my heart of actors who have been extraordinarily kind, and Hugh Laurie is near the top. For someone who is having a whirlwind like that to step outside, reach out and say, “Hey, great job.” That’s just beyond.
PW: What about on the flipside -- any workplace horror stories?
Yvette: I was in a commercial for that never aired and it wasn't because of the product -- the product is awesome, it was the circumstances of the commercial. It was a Hyundai ad. I was playing a nurse, Leslie Baker (Stanley from “The Office”) is playing a doctor and this woman is giving birth. The tagline of the commercial is something like, “Hyundai gives you everything for life and everything that comes with life.” So they decided this woman was going to give birth to this baby ... and everything that comes with a baby.
PW: I'm terrified...
Yvette: Oh, it gets worse. She gave birth to the car, she gave birth to the stroller, she gave birth to a teddybear. So me and Leslie, we’re at the end of the situation catching things. The thing that happened next is why I sometimes wake up screaming. They decided that these things were coming into the world too clean, so they got cottage cheese and strawberry jam and smeared it over everything. I looked at Leslie and said “this will never, ever air.” It’s horrible because me and Leslie are supposed to be acting like catching the stuff coming out of this woman is common. Like this happens everyday. But we couldn’t. I can’t even look at strawberry jam now.
Catch a three hour "Community" marathon tonight at 8pm on NBC