Shirley sadly won’t be returning to Community next season. TV Guide reports that Yvette Nicole Brown – who has played Shirley Bennett since the show’s 2009 premiere – has officially left the cast prior to the filming of its sixth season on Yahoo. According to the report, Brown asked to be released from her contract for personal reasons, and both Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna honored her request.
Brown told TV Guide she decided to leave to take care of her ailing father: “My dad needs daily care and he needs me. The idea of being away 16 hours a day for five months, I couldn’t do it. It was a difficult decision for me to make, but I had to choose my dad.” She also went on to say that Harmon “has been so wonderful about it all. He told me, ‘Yvette, I’m praying for your dad’” and that she’s “totally open to whatever Dan decides” regarding how Community will address Shirley’s absence: “I’m glad it won’t be hard for them to explain where she is. She has three kids, a degree and a business. There are a lot of ways to explain her [departure].”
Community is reportedly casting two new characters following the departure of Brown and Jonathan Banks; one is “a woman who’s brought in as a consultant to help shape up the school,” while the other is described as “a retired salesman who comes to Greendale to reinvent himself.”