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‘Community’ To Wrap Season with ‘Game-Changing’ Episode

BIG FINISH: Look out, "Community" fans — tonight's (5/20) season finale episode "is a real game-changer." So reports the show's Yvette Nicole Brown, who adds, "The study group as we know it may shift next season. What takes place in the last five to seven minutes of the episode will change the dynamic of a lot of relationships. Some will love it, some hate it. Some will go 'Yeah! Yeah!' and some will go 'What?'"

How does the actress feel about it? "I think it's interesting. I don't know that I saw it coming," she says. "It doesn't involve my character so much, so I get to be more like an observer."

Whatever the response to the changes, the Joel McHale series featuring Chevy Chase is assured a return next season. Brown, who's amassing her own following as loopy, advice-dispensing, Baptist divorcee Shirley, feels confident her character will "continue to have her ups and downs, but whatever she goes through, it will be for good reasons. As crazy as our show is, it has a lot of heart."

A Christian herself, Brown says that series creator Dan Harmon has been, and continues to be, respectful of her faith as he writes Shirley. "If he does something with her that creates a crisis of faith, it will be in a good way and nothing that will go against what I believe," she says.

In fact, Harmon has taken some cues from Brown herself when it comes to putting words into her mouth. The effervescent actress admits that friends and family "think I'm playing myself. Maybe a cartoon version of me. I don't think I'm as judgmental as Shirley. My mom is convinced I'm playing her."

And that view has some merit, Brown admits. Like Shirley, she was a divorced single parent "who could be very tough when she felt her babies were threatened. I saw her as sweet, kind of like a Muppet. Shirley also has those two sides."

MULTI-FACETED: Creed Bratton of "The Office" just got two offers for indie film roles to shoot this summer, and he's currently in the midst of figuring out whether he can do both before returning to "The Office" cameras in July — and how all that will fit with his music plans for the summer. It's what you call a quality problem for Bratton, who, as you may be aware, was a member of the hit-making '60s super group, the Grass Roots. Bratton's latest solo album, the eclectic "Bounce Back," has earned well-deserved critical applause.

He's been out playing dates in support of the record — at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, Calif. this Sunday (5/23), for instance. But he admits, "It's hard to book them when I never know exactly when I'm going to be shooting."

As for how he put together an album with tunes that range from catchy folk-pop to drifty psychedelia with a little reggae action in between, he says, "I never consciously sit down and say I'm going to write a song that's hippie trippy or a stoned '80s song or whatever. I'm just basically serving the songs the way it feels like they should be presented."

GIGANTIC: Joe Mantegna couldn't be prouder that his daughter Gia has her own series, "Gigantic," coming up on TeenNick this summer. "There's a chip off the ol' block going on here," notes the nice guy "Criminal Minds" star with a smile.

"She's a very talented girl, in many ways more advanced than I was at that age, from having been around the business all her life," he adds of the 20-year-old. "I think she's ready. She's already done a lot of other things — movies and television. They don't give you these jobs just because you're related to someone, you know."

Mantegna, who heads to D.C. next week to co-host PBS's National Memorial Day Concert with buddy Gary Sinise, has commented in the past about how supportive and loving Gia has been with elder sibling Mia, who is autistic. "That's another reason she's mature for her years, because of growing up with her sister," he tells us now.

He reports that Mia has become the first autistic person to graduate from MUD makeup school and is now involved with Joey Travolta's Inclusion Films, aiming to be a makeup artist. "He's doing great work with kids who have all kinds of disabilities. She's knee-deep in all that and just loves it. I feel very fortunate."

This will be Mantegna's ninth year as host of the National Memorial Day Concert — this year with a bill including Lionel Richie, Brad Paisley, Blythe Danner, Dennis Haysbert, Yolanda Adams and Colin Powell.

He recalls, "The first year I did it, I had to read the words of four New York City firemen who had lost their sons, who were also firemen, in 9/11. It was life-altering for me." Sinise came aboard the always-moving event a few years later. "He was touring Iraq with his Lt. Dan Band, and I called him and said, 'You and your band would be a perfect fit for this event. Why don't you come check it out?' ... When he got in front of 300,000 people and saw how big the whole event was, and how meaningful, he said, 'Joe, look — as long as you want me to be involved in it, I'll do it.' And I said, 'Why don't we host it together from now on?'"

With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster

To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.



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