Betty White Betty White

It's the casting coup of the new season: Red-hot Betty White will guest-star in the Sept. 23 season premiere of NBC's smart sophomore sitcom Community as a nutty anthropology professor. Creator Dan Harmon spoke to TV Guide Magazine exclusively about the news:

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TV Guide Magazine: Which came first — the idea of trying to get Betty White, or the idea of the character, then discovering she'd be perfect for it?
Harmon: It was somewhat simultaneous. The role was going to exist. But trying to get her was first and custom-fitting the role to fit her came second. The nice thing about our show is, we can have so many interesting people coming through the world. And they can either stay or just drift through, because it's a community college.

TV Guide Magazine: How did you convince her to sign on?
Harmon: We described the idea to her. Hopefully, it's a little cooler for her than just straight-up being profane. I hope she sparked to it because it's funny for her in a way to build on what she was doing in the Snickers commercial, not just reciting stuff that she's not supposed to say. I've been a fan for a long time, so I wrote to capitalize on the stuff she's brought to the table for a long time.

TV Guide Magazine: What more can you say about her character?
Harmon:
She's sort of my version of Joseph Campbell if he wasn't interested in being polite. She has a great deal of knowledge, she's a student of humanity and therefore knows there's a very blurry line between man and animal. She has a primal practical wisdom — she's eccentric but quite the opposite of insane. She's very lucid, to the point of maybe being scary. She's an impersonal cosmic force.

TV Guide Magazine: Could she become a recurring character? 
Harmon: Absolutely. The role is specifically designed so that if she enjoys doing it, we'd love to have her back.

TV Guide Magazine: How important is this episode in terms of taking on the premiere of CBS' The Big Bang Theory in its new Thursday at 8/7c time slot?
Harmon: Everything we do is important in those terms, but that's something I can't really concern myself with. If I write to compete with them, then I'm not writing Community — I'm playing a chess game with production decisions. As a Midwesterner, there's a pit in my stomach about going toe to toe with such a tried-and-true success. But I'm also excited about Thursday nights lighting up again. I'm not doing anything specifically to compete with those guys.

TV Guide Magazine: She's won four Emmys and is nominated for another, while you guys got snubbed. Will you hit her up for advice on cozying up with the TV Academy?
Harmon: I'll probably get as much free advice from her as I can. But if you have to cozy up to people to win awards, I'm screwed. Hopefully, her advice will be just to keep doing what I'm doing, which is try to make myself laugh. But if she knows how to do stuff that wins awards, maybe we'll send her out to do our bidding for us.

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