Shirley, Community fans are going to be disappointed with this news. But alas, it's true: Yvette Nicole Brown is departing the fan favorite comedy after five seasons.
Brown — who has played Shirley Bennett since the 2009 launch of Community — confirms to TV Guide Magazine that she has asked to be released from her contract for personal reasons. Sony Pictures TV and executive producers Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna have honored her request.
The actress says the change was necessary in order to take care of her ailing father. "My dad needs daily care and he needs me," Brown says. "The idea of being away 16 hours a day for five months, I couldn't do it. It was a difficult decision for me to make, but I had to choose my dad."
That means Brown won't be a part of the group that makes the transition from NBC to Yahoo! Screen for Season 6. "Yvette was an integral part of Community and is irreplaceable. We are sad to see her go and wish her the very best," Harmon and McKenna said in a joint statement.
Brown says Harmon "has been so wonderful about it all. He told me, 'Yvette, I'm praying for your dad.'" The actress also thanked Sony for allowing her to take a recurring role on CBS' midseason reboot of The Odd Couple.
That show is a multi-camera sitcom, which comes with a more flexible schedule than a single-camera half-hour like Community. "A multi-camera sitcom is a better fit for the life I have now," she says. "I can't say enough how much I respect Sony and Dan for how they handled this profound change in my life."
As for Shirley, it's unclear yet how her departure will be addressed. Brown leaves on solid terms and has left the door open for the possibility of making a guest appearance. "I am totally open to whatever Dan decides," she says. "I'm glad it won't be hard for them to explain where she is. She has three kids, a degree and a business. There are a lot of ways to explain her [departure]."
With the exit of Brown and Jonathan Banks (who's committed to AMC's Better Call Saul), the producers are now casting for two new characters. One is described as a woman who's brought in as a consultant to help shape up the school. The other is a retired salesman who comes to Greendale to reinvent himself.
Besides The Odd Couple, Brown will next be seen in a recurring role on USA Network's upcoming comedy Benched.
Cast members set to return for Season 6 include Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Alison Brie, Jim Rash and Ken Jeong. Writing is already underway, and the production has found a new home (having been displaced from its longtime stage on the Paramount lot): The CBS Studio Center in Studio City, Calif.
"I'm still Community's biggest fan and I'll still live Tweet episodes," Brown says. "It's very bittersweet. I can take care of my dad but won't be with my TV family. I don't want the fans to worry; it's going to be fine. Greendale is the heart of the show, not any particular character. Even if characters come and go, the heart of Greendale remains."
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