Why Are There So Many “Community” Actors in the MCU?

Picture: NBC

Today we answer another fan letter about the wonderful world of comics! Join us as we explore one of the coolest crossovers in comics history!

Dear Marvelous Movies,
Today on my fifth COVID rewatch of the Infinity Saga, I noticed a little gem in Captain America: Civil War. Danny Pudi, the actor who portrayed Abed on my favorite TV show, Community, was featured as Com Tech #1, the S.H.I.E.L.D. tech who let Captain America and his crew into the Triskelion to take down H.Y.D.R.A. How cool is that?? I watched even further and noticed that main cast members Yvette Nicole Brown, Ken Jeong, Donald Glover, and even Jim Rash also had cameos across several movies! Why are so many actors from the most meta TV show ever also in the greatest film franchise ever? Is it just a coincidence of greatness or is there something deeper going on?
Excelsior,
Dale Verde of Unspecified Township, CO

Hi Dale! Thanks for writing in with such a great question! There are basically two answers to this question–a long one and an improbably long conspiracy theory. Let’s explore both below:

The Russo Brothers

Picture: Gage Skidmore

Joe and Anthony Russo are utter geniuses, so much so that they directed many episodes of Community and replaced Joss Whedon as the directors of the Avengers films. They remain close friends with many of their old pals from Community and cast four main cast members as well as several guest and recurring actors in the MCU. Abed may have forgotten that cute and quirky coat check girl from season 4, but she also forgot herself in the breakout hit, Captain Marvel. Most fans see these crossovers as mere nepotism on the part of the Russo Brothers. Others of us see the groundwork being laid for #sixseasonsandamovie set in the MCU.

The Darkest Timeline

Picture: Marvel Studios

It all starts with Abed. One of the major lessons Community taught us in its six-season run was that when we are presented with a situation requiring different choices, we split the timeline by the number of choices. Danny Pudi, in his role as Com Tech #1, split the timeline in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Toward the end of the movie, he is confronted with two choices: get out of Cap’s way or try to stop him. Predictably, Com Tech #1 sides with Cap, and the Prime Timeline remains mostly free and democratic.

However, by virtue of facing two different choices, it becomes clear that Com Tech #1 split the timeline, creating the Darkest Timeline in the process. In this timeline, Com Tech #1 improbably stops or delays Cap, and H.Y.D.R.A. takes over the world and unleashes the evil versions of our favorite community college students. While the Infinity Saga gave us the Prime Timeline, #Sixseasonsandamarvelmovie will most likely present us with the Darkest Timeline.

Dean Pelton

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Photo: Marvel Studios

Dean Pelton has been introduced as an employee of M.I.T. in Captain America: Civil War. Not much background was revealed on his MCU character, but Dean Pelton remains just another college employee. There’s no character development. There’s no life progression. There’s just an infinite amount of time making meaningless and desperate campus-wide announcements and Dean-related puns year after year after year. What does that do to a man? What (literal) skeletons are now in his infamous closet? It’s Dean-gerous even to speculate.

Shirley

Picture: Marvel Studios

The Shirley of the MCU is a suspicious busybody who narcs on Captain America and Iron Man in Avengers: Endgame as they try to infiltrate a S.H.I.E.L.D. base containing an Infinity Stone. It’s highly likely that the Shirley we saw in Endgame is, in fact, Evil Shirley trying to ensure that the future is a bleak and oppressive H.Y.D.R.A. dystopia where she can officially judge people to her heart’s content. Also, considering Evil Shirley’s complete lack of marksmanship skills from the Community episode “Advanced Introduction to Finality,” she’s likely to become the MCU’s equivalent of a stormtrooper.

Chang

Picture: Marvel Studios

Some security guards just want to watch the world burn. Sure, that’s a rip-off of a line from an obscure DC film no one watched, but this is Benjamin Franklin Chang we’re talking about here. The man is quite capable of Changhaiing the H.Y.D.R.A. leadership and making a legitimate bid for absolute power. And that’s just the Prime Timeline Chang. What will evil Chang be capable of? Unleashing a worldwide pandemic of Monkey Bite Fever? Turning Spanish into the sort of language few Americans can understand? Ensuring that Phase 4 of the MCU’s next saga to be a complete and total gas leak? The possibilities are endless.

Troy

Of all the Community stars, Troy is the one with the most substantive MCU role to date. In Spider-Man: Homecoming, he played the complicated character of Aaron Davis, a sometime-villain and the uncle of alternate universe Spider-Man Miles Morales. If Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is any indicator, Evil Troy can be expected to gun down numerous beloved characters. So, hide yo Chris Pines and hide yo Uncle Bens, ‘cuz Evil Troy be creating numerous tragic backstories up in here!

Jeff and Annie

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Photo: DC Universe

When it comes to the whole superhero gig, Jeff has pulled a classic Winger by refusing to go along with the rest of the study group. Instead of joining the MCU like the rest of his friends and doing something absolutely and utterly cool, he of course makes the morally repulsive decision to join the Dismal Community and appears in the Arrowverse show Stargirl (yes, the show’s status in the Arrowverse may be disputed, but the characters of the show were featured in Crisis on Infinite Earths, and yes, we know it’s not called the Arrowverse anymore.

Picture: Warner Brothers Studios

Speaking of characters playing to type, Annie follows Jeff down his anti-Marvel adventure and recently starred in both Lego Movies as Princess Unikitty, a Batman sidekick. Annie’s perfectionist nature and sparkly personality drive Batman up the wall and ensure that he has the stablest sidekick in his 80-year history. Also, she was voted least likely sidekick to die a horribly gruesome death.

These are obviously the Prime Timeline Jeff and Annie. What are their evil counterparts capable of? It would likely include enhanced paintball guns and a plot to drag our favorite heroes to the Darkest Comics storyline. For the entirety of recorded comic book history (the worthwhile recorded history anyway, which means all of history since the founding of Marvel Comics), the Dismal Company has been trying iterations of this plan with only minimal success.

Britta

Photo: Image Comics
Photo: NBC

Britta…well, Britta’d the whole superhero thing. She began by rebelling against the notion that she had to join either DC or Marvel and instead joined Invincible, an obscure franchise that few people have ever heard of. Adding insult to injury, Invincible is to be an animated show on Amazon Prime, so Britta won’t even appear in her own franchise, but…power to the people and screw conventional life or superhero choices! Or something like that. At any rate, we can confidently deny Some Worries by fans that DC and Marvel are gettin’ rid of Britta.

Pierce

Photo by: Vivian Zink/NBC

Pierce’s story arc is the most predictable. He gets elected President. I think we can all agree that the Darkest Timeline is one where the President of the United States is an old, rich, promiscuous, racist white man.

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