How Working With Community's Cast Prepared The Russo Brothers For Infinity War

After making two of the most successful superhero movies of all time, Anthony and Joseph Russo tried something different. Recently, the duo released "The Gray Man" for the world to stream on Netflix, with a sequel and a spinoff on the way. Their work on the film involved juggling a large cast of talented actors, but that is nothing new to the Russo brothers. The directors had learned how to work with ensembles not only from their time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but even earlier in their careers, before they became a household name with 2014's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." It was on the set of the NBC sitcom "Community" that the Russos learned the art of balancing multiple characters.

"Community" tells the story of a group of outcasts who all find kinship with each other at Greendale Community College. Initially starting as a Spanish study group in season 1, the assembly evolved with each passing season. The show's later seasons introduced new relationships and character dynamics as characters like Jeff (Joel McHale), Annie (Alison Brie), Abed (Danny Pudi), and Troy (Donald Glover) continued to grow with their time at Greendale. This character development needed to be carefully balanced throughout the show's six seasons (and a movie). The Russos, who were involved with the show for the first three seasons, had to learn how to manage so many characters simultaneously. The delicate balancing would pay off in their future filmmaking endeavors.

A fistful of paintballs

While breaking down scenes from their filmography for Vanity Fair, the Russos talked about how their time on "Community" helped develop their skills when dealing with ensembles in a production. Anthony Russo said:

"... What was amazing about 'Community' is the amount of characters. Those episodes were mostly 22 minutes long, but if you count up here the amount of characters that were lead or recurring, that were important to the story. And this one, I mean, it was crazy. The scale of the ensemble we would have to juggle from episode to episode, make sure each character got their moment. And I think this is really where our pension for handling 'Infinity War' and 'Endgame' began. You can trace the roots directly to this ridiculous shot from 'Community.'"

The "ridiculous shot" in reference is one of the final moments of "A Fistful of Paintballs," the season 2 finale of "Community," which featured the students of Greendale in a school-wide paintball match with the fate of Greendale dependent on who would be the last one standing. Featuring almost every Greendale student at that point, the episode was the Russos dipping their toes in the action genre. The homage to Westerns and "Star Wars" paved the way for their work on "Endgame" and "Infinity War," two massive "Avengers" movies that would require an extensive amount of work to balance every character. Luckily, the Russos already had plenty of practice before that, thanks to the students at Greendale.