'The Office': 5 Wild Revelations From The Sitcom's New Oral History Book
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Nearly a decade after the last installment of The Office aired on NBC back in 2013, it seems we haven't been able to stop thinking about what, exactly, made the series so special. A topic that has inspired podcasts and interviews, with the show's cast and crew sharing new behind-the-scenes stories what feels like every single day since the series finale, the sentiment of why The Office had – and continues to have -- such a stronghold on our pop culture zeitgeist is the driving question behind Welcome to Dunder Mifflin: The Ultimate Oral History of The Office, a new book penned by Brian Baumgartner – a.k.a the actor behind Kevin Malone.
Hitting shelves on November 16, the book is based on a series of conversations Baumgartner conducted with nearly everyone involved in the development, writing, and production of The Office, sharing a variety of new stories aimed at understanding why the series was so exceptional.
“To me, art on every level — from theater, film, television, whatever — is infinitely more interesting when it’s about a question as opposed to an answer, right? If I just tell you why this is great, that’s not so interesting,” Baumgartner recently told the Washington Post of his approach to chronicling one of the most beloved sitcoms in history. “So let’s explore what happened and why now it’s popular.”
From John Krasinski narrowly saving Jim from cheating on his wife, Pam, to the star-studded pool of actors auditioning for Michael Scott, here are four mind-boggling revelations from Baumgartner's book.
Screenwriter Greg Daniels Sent Cash To The Entire Crew During the 2007/2008 Writers Strike
Even with its astronomical success, The Office, like any production, faced a handful of bumps in the road, one of which was the impact of the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike. Although the strike meant that production was on hiatus, producer Greg Daniels seemingly made sure the crew was taken care of during the 100-day strike, sending $1,000 checks to everyone who worked behind the scenes on The Office, according to makeup artist Laverne Caracuzzi-Milazzo.
"...Every crew member got a check out of Greg Daniels' personal checking account," she explained. “Greg Daniels went into his personal checking account and wrote the crew each an individual check because we were going to be out of work."
Yet according to Kevin Ferry, who served as a hairstylist on this show, this gesture was more than financial, leaving an emotional impact on the crew, who had long been out of work. “I went to the mail that day, and people were sending Christmas cards and stuff,” Ferry recalled of receiving his check. "I looked at the cards and I saw this card from Greg Daniels. I'm going, 'Oh, isn't that nice? He thought of us.' I opened it up and I saw this check and I didn't really look at it really clearly at first. I thought it was $100. And then I started counting the zeros and I could not believe it,"
This tidbit came as a surprise to Baumgartner, who described it as one of the books “most beautiful, touching moments.” “I had no idea. I’d never heard that,” he told the Washington Post of the interview. “No one ever told me that.”
Paul Rudd Nearly Talked Steve Carell Out of Auditioning For The Office
Ahh, Paul Rudd. Star of the original step-sibling love story, 1995's Clueless, People magazine's reigning sexiest man alive, and a potentially an ageless vampire. Yet long before he hit the big screen in Knocked Up, Our Idiot Brother, and appeared as everyone's favorite (non-George Costanza) shrinking star in Marvel's Ant-Man, the actor had some serious qualms about an American iteration of The Office, concerns Rudd shared with his Anchorman co-star, Steve Carell, upon learning he was auditioning for the sitcom.
“I remember, before I auditioned, I was talking to Paul Rudd. I’d never seen the original one and he asked what I was up to," Carell explained. “This was right after Anchorman. I told him I was going to audition for the American version of The Office,” he continued. Although the audition would ultimately cement Carell in sitcom history, Rudd wasn't so sure The Office would become a hit, attempting to dissuade the star from trying out for the series.
“… he said, ‘Ugh, don’t do it. Bad, bad move. I mean, it’s never going to be as good,’” Carell recalled, noting Rudd wasn't a lone naysayer, as “everybody was saying” similar warnings about an American take on The Office. Unfortunately, for Rudd – and fortunately for all of us – Carell wasn't swayed, ignoring his pal and forging ahead in the audition process.
Steve Carell Had Some Serious Competition For The Role Of Michael Scott
The disapproval of the Sexiest Man Alive – and apparently all of Hollywood -- wasn't the only hurdle Carell faced in landing the coveted role of Michael Scott. The comedian also faced some stiff competition for the part, with a cornucopia of comic legends, including Paul Giamatti, Philp Seymour Hoffman, Louis C.K., Adam Scott, and even Patton Oswalt all gunning for the role.
Even with this star-studded casting call, the part ultimately came down to two actors – Carrell and Bob Odenkirk, according to the show's executive producer, Ben Silverman. Considering Carell and Odenkirk's respective set of impressive and unique comic chops, selecting which star would portray Michael Scott seemingly posed quite the challenge.
“We still had Bob as somebody we were in love with as a comedic performer,” Silverman recalled. “But Steve, even though he’s from the Northeast, had such a Midwestern-accessible, lovable comedic energy, like the great primetime sitcom stars of the fifties and sixties. He had that thing. There was something about us that wanted to soften the character," he continued.
Despite their respective strong suits, it seems Odenkirk was just too sharp for the role – like, literally. “Bob has hard edges, like he has angularity to him,” Silverman explained. “He’s brilliant, but he literally has angularity,” Silverman said of choosing Carell.
Considering Breaking Bad would hit the small screen roughly three years later in the midst of The Office's fourth season, it seems this casting was ultimately for the best. Any world without Odenkirk's Saul Goodman isn't one worth living in.
Kristen Wiig Almost Played Pam Beesly
Michael Scott wasn't the only character coveted by a whole host of Hollywood stars. The part of Pam Beesly, Dunder Mifflin's beloved receptionist and ½ of the show's cutest couple, almost went to Saturday Night Live alum, Kristen Wiig rather than Jenna Fischer, who ultimately brought the character to life on the small screen.
“We tested other Pams, but I think Jenna was sort of the high bar,” Allison Jones, the show's casting director, recalled. "Kristen Wiig auditioned for the part and she was terrific. But for some reason I didn't bring her back for Greg," she continued, adding that she feels “embarrassed” that she didn't give Wiig a callback for the part.
Yet as Mashable noted, fans can still catch a glimpse at the Pam that almost was in an SNL sketch dating back to February 2007 starring Rainn Wilson – a.k.a. Dwight Schrute – with Wiig appearing as Beesly.
Jim Nearly Cheated On Pam
Jim and Pam may be the most adorable couple on The Office – if not all of sitcom history – yet it seems the Halperts weren't always destined for domestic bliss. During the show's eighth season, some of the writers apparently contemplated throwing a wrench into the pair's picture-perfect relationship, introducing a plotline in which Jim cheats on Pam, escalating the tension between him and Cathy Simms into a full-blown makeout sesh during their Florida business trip.
While undoubtedly fodder for an extra juicy, albeit heartbreaking, installment of The Office, actor John Krasinski ultimately vetoed the concept, refusing to partake in the makeout session in what he says is the “only time" he remembers "putting my foot down” while working on the show.
“I remember saying things that I never thought I'd say before, like, 'I'm not going to shoot it,'” he recalled of learning his character was set to smooch a Dunder Mifflin employee that was notably not Pam. “I remember Paul Lieberstein was in the room, who I think was very much into it. He was like, 'No, you'll do it.' Not in an aggressive way, but it was like, he saw the benefit of doing it.”
Despite the urging of his costar and the show's creative team, Krasinski stuck to his guns, refusing to do the scene. “I remember saying to Greg, 'My feeling is there is a threshold with which you can push our audience. They are so dedicated. We have shown such great respect to them. But there's a moment where if you push them too far, they'll never come back. And I think that if you show Jim cheating, they'll never come back,'” he explained, an argument that apparently resonated with the writer's room.
However, this wasn't the only change Jim and Pam's relationship faced throughout the series. According to Baumgartner, the U.S. iteration of The Office was the first to treat the pair's romance as a subplot.
“One of the most interesting conversations, which also came from Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais, really had to do with the fact that they did something that had never been done before, which was they inverted the love story between Jim and Pam ," Baumgartner told the Washington Post. “As opposed to it being central — which it is on every other television show — they inverted that into the background. Yet, that is an iconic love story that people are still talking about today,” he added.
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