Danny Pudi Interview: ‘Powerless,’ Insurance, and Superheroes

Danny Pudi and Vanessa Hudgens in Powerless
Danny Pudi as Teddy, Vanessa Hudgens as Emily, and Christina Kirk as Jackie in ‘Powerless’ (Photo by Chris Large/NBC)

Danny Pudi called upon his real life work in insurance prior to landing a role on Community for his character in NBC’s new series, Powerless. The half-hour comedy is set in a world in which superheroes are accepted as the norm, and Pudi’s character Teddy has to deal with insurance claims caused by the damage done during superhero rescues and fights. The series, which is the first comedy involving the DC Comics universe, is slotted as a midseason replacement and also stars Vanessa Hudgens, Alan Tudyk, Christina Kirk, and Ron Funches.

During the 2016 San Diego Comic Con, the cast not only took part in a Q&A about the series but also sat down for roundtable interviews to further discuss the world of Powerless.

Danny Pudi Interview:

Can you talk about your character?

Danny Pudi: “So, I play Teddy. Much like Teddy Ruxpin, he is friendly – the friendly little bear. […]He is Emily Locke’s best friend. He has no powers…yet. He’s looking for the powers within himself. Teddy is used to this fun-loving boy playfulness in the office and I think Emily inspires him in the pilot to start looking within himself to see what other things he can do. I think he’s got a lot of talents; none of them are really applicable to his job.”

Where do you get to go with this role as opposed to other roles you’ve played?

Danny Pudi: “I think the first thing that excited me about this role was it’s similar to things in my real life. My job before I booked Community – I actually still haven’t quit – I was an actuarial recruiter for insurance companies in Chicago. I would fly in actuaries and all of our clients were insurance companies or consulting firms, banks, and so I dealt a lot with insurance – property casualty insurance. And so it’s fun to actually be in that world in a way. I worked in an office. I was really good at happy hours but wasn’t really good at my job. So, to me, this is a chance to tap into that world a little bit more.”

Were there a lot of comedic opportunities with that sort of insurance?

Danny Pudi: “Strangely enough, I was in charge of doing our Christmas talent show. I would do dance stuff. I got in trouble because I would be talking to people too long in the kitchen. Things like that. So this is a chance for me to tap into that. Also, I’m at a place in my life where I’m a dad. I have kids and I’m sort of like forced to be a grownup at home with the kids, but at the same time my job is this. So it’s like a nice way to sort of blend those worlds where Teddy’s also trying to be a grownup but he still has this really playful, childishness to him.”

It seems like a world where Abed would have been right at home. What did you have to do to distinguish Teddy from Abed?

Danny Pudi: “Well, I think in many ways Abed is much smarter. Abed is very bright and he has very set rules to his world. I think for me Teddy’s a little bit more my level. Abed knows what to say or what to do in many instances. He will just know what to do. I think one of my favorite scenes in this show in the pilot – and one of the things that I was drawn to – is there’s a moment where Teddy doesn’t really know what to say other than just be there for Emily. It’s a small moment but it’s a very clear moment of humanity that I think is very different from Abed. But it’s also just different on the whole of a character I’ve played. I’ve never played someone who just sees everything around him and just feels helpless and just doesn’t really know what to say, and doesn’t have any specific ability to talk his way out of it, to help anybody. He’s just kind of there. That weakness, I guess, was really exciting to play.”

How does he view the world that he lives in with these superheroes?

Danny Pudi: “I think he’s used to it. I wouldn’t say it’s ho-hum. I think he’s used to it. He doesn’t know how things are going to affect him. But I think Teddy is excited about certain things. It’s nice to play someone who’s excited about the world around him. He’s excited about what happens with Emily when she stands up for herself at the office. It inspires him to be like, ‘What else can I do?’

I think in terms of the superheroes, I think he’s kind of like, ‘How does it impact me? I still have to figure out where to go to lunch today.’ You know what I mean? He’s like, ‘That’s my job. I’m on lunch duty and we only have one hour for break. Hopefully my favorite coffee shop isn’t impacted by the fallen rubble.’ I think that’s how Teddy looks at it. I think he’s a little bit tired of Aquaman, tired of people who are constantly showing him what he doesn’t have and what he can’t do. But at the same time, he still has to do a job because he’s got to pay his rent.”

Watch the full Danny Pudi interview: