“Community” actor Danny Pudi makes directorial debut with 30 for 30 short film

In “Untucked,” former Marquette basketball star Bo Ellis holds one of the team jerseys he designed. (ESPN)

You might be used to seeing actor Danny Pudi as “Abed” on NBC’s “Community,” but last week he made his directorial debut with Untucked a documentary that is part of ESPN Films’ 30 for 30 Shorts series.

Untucked,” which can be viewed on Grantland, tells the story of the Marquette University men’s basketball team’s most iconic uniform, the untucked jersey worn in 1977 when Marquette won its first and only national championship.

Editor’s note: Pudi was a recent guest on Olbermann.

Pudi spoke with Front Row about why he chose the topic and how directing compares to acting.

This is your directorial debut. Did you find it more challenging than acting?
It was a different type of challenge. With acting most of my decisions are internal. For instance, if I wiggle my eyebrows right now, am I being true to the scene and character? With directing, I had to make many external decisions like storyboarding, camera angles, visual effects, etc. which affect the overall story. It was tough because I didn’t go to film school and I’m typically more comfortable making decisions that only affect my eyebrows. I learned so much though, and am excited to direct again because I was able to tell a story I was passionate about.

Why did you choose to explore this story for the short film?
There are many reasons I love this story. 1) There’s this!

1a) I grew up a sports obsessed kid in Chicago and I went to Marquette University, so this story was personal to me. I was familiar with Al McGuire and Marquette’s basketball tradition but I didn’t know much about the history of their jerseys and how much they were a reflection of their identity. When I learned that Bo Ellis, the captain of Marquette’s national championship team in 1977, studied fashion design at a nearby women’s college, and then helped design their uniform, I thought it was such a fun way to explore the spirit of that team, that era and the championship season. To me, this story is about a funky jersey, but it’s also about the importance of individual expression, the power of collaboration and how one little thing can contribute to something much bigger.

We heard you’re a fan of the 30 for 30 series. Do you have any favorites?
The 30 for 30 series is full of incredible storytelling. I’ve said it before, but few things affect me more than sad sports stories, so thanks to ESPN I’ve been crying a lot more lately. The Two Escobars is one of the most powerful documentaries I’ve ever seen; June 17, 1994 was super creative; and the short Jake is so good!

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