‘Office Space’ Star Stephen Root Says Every Time He Joins a New Set, He’s Given a Box of Staplers
Every time Stephen Root shows up for work on a new film or TV project, he finds a bouquet of fresh red staplers waiting for him — presumably because the producers cheaped out on fire insurance.
The Barry star has spent the last 30 years of his career consistently and massively improving comedy projects with his presence. From his time as the playful, micromanaging billionaire Jimmy James on NewsRadio, to a supporting role as a blind radio DJ in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, to dozens of other equally impressive, non-radio-related performances, Root is perhaps comedy’s greatest living character actor. But of all the incredible entries in the Root filmography, none is as searingly funny or as timelessly relatable as Mike Judge’s 1999 corporate comedy masterpiece Office Space.
Root’s portrayal of Milton Waddams, the bespectacled collator-turned-arsonist, remains his most memorable, according to an interview with Root in Vanity Fair’s “Always Great” column. “There are very, very few sets that I haven’t arrived at where in each trailer is a box of staplers,” Root revealed — craft services better save a piece of cake for him as well, unless they feel like catering the burn ward.
Office Space’s enduring appeal continues to come as a surprise to Root, who said, “Every generation, every six or seven years, a new group of people explore and find Office Space. The fact that they’re still discovering that kind of film is amazing to me.” As it turns out, soul-sucking corporate workplaces haven’t changed much since the pre-Y2K years in terms of banality beyond the fact that a handful of them now allow you to write cover sheets for your TPS reports from home — they’ll Slack you the memo.
During the talk, Root took time to recount a few gripes and memories from past projects — on the topic of NewsRadio’s premature cancellation, Root said, “The NBC programmer hated us for reasons we don’t know. We had seven (schedule) moves in all, so it really didn’t have a chance to become a staple like a regular Thursday night NBC show would’ve been able to do.”
Despite taking a short hiatus from comedy auditions following the demise of NewsRadio, Root called his 13 seasons starring as the depressed and endlessly amorous Bill Dauterive on King of the Hill his “balloon,” saying that the regular voice gig and steady paycheck was “a luxury that certainly most of the character actors that I knew at that time did not have.”
Now, Root is ready to wrap up his time on Barry, a show that has earned him nominations at the Primetime Emmys and the Screen Actors’ Guild Awards. An artist as accustomed to supporting roles would naturally yearn for center stage, but Root keeps his ambitions in perspective: “Just to be a working character actor was my goal, and I feel like I’ve done that, and that’s okay. … Would it be nice to have a lead in a film? Sure, and maybe that will come. But I can’t complain.”
If Root ever does experience something worth a serious complaint, he won’t need to tell us in Vanity Fair. We’ll know. We’ll all know.