Dan Harmon originally wanted Annie to be played by an Asian or Latina actress. He eventually cast a white actress, Alison Brie in the role, but later created a character named Annie Kim played by Irene Choi, who is Asian, as a nod to his original idea.
The Pierce Hawthorne character is supposed to have made his fortune with a moist-towelette company called "Hawthorne Wipes." Chevy Chase, the actor who plays Hawthorne, in real life also has a family fortune derived from a personal sanitation product. Chase, whose real name is Cornelius Crane Chase, is the grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt Crane, who was heir to the Crane Plumbing company, which manufactures and distributes plumbing fixtures and products (most notably, toilets for home and commercial markets) in North America.
The show was based on Dan Harmon's life at community college, attempting to reconcile with his girlfriend in Spanish courses. He has also stated the characters are loosely based on the people he hang around with and has nothing to with his film and television career.
In 2009, Donald Glover told The New York Daily News that one of his inspirations for his "Community" character, Troy Barnes, was the character of Brian "Smash" Williams in the TV show "Friday Night Lights." Glover said, "When you think of the former high school football star, you think 6-foot-2, white, meathead as the model for that kind of character. Since I'm not 6-foot-2 or white, I just thought about what I could bring to it. I thought about Smash Williams from 'Friday Night Lights,' like the cocky quarterback, and played around with that."