‘Community’ star Yvette Nicole Brown comes to The Texas Union

Jackie Wang

The title assigned to Yvette Nicole Brown’s upcoming event on the UT campus — “Navigating the Business of Success” — threw her off guard.

“That was not my title,” Brown said. “I was surprised as anyone else. It’s going to be a free, fun [and] hopefully joyous evening. It’s not going to be stuffy or like a lecture. We’re going to have time.”

Brown will be speaking as part of a speaker series sponsored by Campus Events + Entertainment on Wednesday night at The Texas Union. She encouraged those who talk to her on Twitter to stay afterward and introduce themselves by their Twitter handles rather than their names. 

The actress has appeared in many different TV shows and movies but is most recently and notably known as Shirley Bennet of Greendale Community College in the TV show “Community.” She promised to speak from the heart and not from notes, foregoing the formal approach the word “lecture” brings to mind.

“Whenever I speak to young people, I get a feel for the room,” Brown said. “I get a feel for where they’re coming from — I may be different than any speaker UT has had. I don’t have bullet points or magical speech plan.”

Brown loves her character Shirley but does not identify with her personality. The biggest similarity between Brown and her conservative, sassy character is their shared religion.

“We’re both Christians,” she said. “But Shirley is a mess — violent and judgmental. A good mess — I love her — and she’s always striving to be better. And we look alike.”

Brown explained “Community”’s following grew from fan-based social media involvement. After NBC canceled the show, Yahoo picked it up — a move Brown felt was appropriate.

“I kind of feel like the way our show has played out — it is a social media show,” Brown said. “It grew from social media and is celebrated by social media and lives and dies by social media. So it’s appropriate to be on Yahoo, since it’s an Internet show.”

Brown tries to stay active on all forms of social media, including Twitter and Facebook. While people familiar with “Community” may read her tweets in Shirley’s sugary voice, her normal speaking voice sounds very different. On the show, she alternates between a high, sweet voice and a deep, commanding tone, depending on Shirley’s mood.  

“I try to give that person their own thing — their own personality,” she said. “It all goes by what the writer writes, and Dan Harmon gave [Shirley] this wonderful duality. But neither one are me.”

But Brown is just as direct and tough as Shirley. When she goes through her Twitter feed, she tries to “destroy rude trolls.”

“I’ve never seen such vile comments and rudeness on Twitter and comment sections in the Internet,” Brown said. “When I see any of these shenanigans, I immediately shut it down. Politely, but to the point. I always speak my mind, and I always try to give teachable lessons.”