Follow Friday: Rainn Wilson

Jason Gilbert
Yahoo! News
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Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute in The Office

by Jason Gilbert

Welcome to #FollowFriday, a new series on Yahoo! News where we talk to a noteworthy Twitter user whose tweets makes us laugh, smile, cry, delight us, inspire us and generally stir up a wide range of emotions.

This week, we're talking to Rainn Wilson (@RainnWilson), who plays embattled paper salesman/beet entrepreneur Dwight Schrute on NBC's The Office.

Wilson has accumulated over 3.5 million Twitter followers through a regular mix of timely jokes, criticism of Hollywood culture, and gentle mockery of Justin Bieber. On Thursday night, minutes before the penultimate episode of The Office, I talked to Wilson over the phone on a range of subjects: about his opinions on Google Glass, advice for co-star John Krasinski and his fledgling Twitter account and how Elon Musk to promised to trade him a free Tesla in exchange for a bite of a chicken burger.

Oh, and we also talked about the final episode of The Office, obviously, a 75-minute finale airing on Thursday, May 16.

FACT: You can read our interview with Rainn Wilson below. And if you aren't already: Follow Rainn on Twitter right here

Why do you use Twitter now and why are you so active?

I think that Twitter has been useful because people, before Twitter, they just thought of me as Dwight. And they still pretty much think of me as Dwight, but they kinda get to know me as a person, as an actor. And that’s been valuable.

But I also used Twitter to help launch SoulPancake, and you know frankly we couldn’t have launched the website and YouTube channel without my Twitter following and my Twitter fans.

Why don't you talk a little bit about SoulPancake, and what you're trying to do with it?

It started as a website, as a social networking website for exploring life’s big questions, and it was a passion project of mine, and some friends. We started it as a website and it just kept growing. We did an app and a book that was a New York Times bestseller. And now the YouTube channel is what’s really taken off and put us on the map.

We have a mission to uplift and challenge our audiences with a blend of philosophy and spirituality and especially creativity.

What’s your opinion of tweeting out spoilers as a television show is happening live on the East Coast?

I try not to do that. I haven’t done very many live tweets at all and I don’t want to ruin it for my West Coast peeps. Or my East Coast peeps.

Which of your Office castmates is your favorite Twitter follow?

Boy, that’s a good question. My former ones -- Mindy [Kaling] and BJ [Novak] -- are just brilliant on Twitter. And they really know how to use social networking.

[Editor's note: Follow @MindyKaling and @BJNovak here].

John Krasinski has recently joined Twitter and is only somewhat active. What Twitter advice would you give him if you could to up his Twitter game?

I think John is being John on Twitter and I’m glad he’s on it and using it as a force for good. It’s like the Force -- you can use the Dark Side, or the Good Side. And I hope he uses it for good.

I would just say it’s consistency is one thing that Twitter fans have come to expect. They like regular tweets, and you’ve gotta tweet at least every day to kind and keep your presence known.

Also they like to get to know more about you. You know, whether it’s photos or articles you like or what you’re reading or what you’re interested in. Fans of yours are choosing to follow you, they have to press a button to follow you and they can easily unfollow you. So they want to get to know you.

So, let's get to know more about you. What are you reading right now?

I am reading a book called “Farewell Fred Voodoo” about Haiti. I’ve gone to Haiti a bunch of times and I like reading about it.

It’s about the kind of mess that’s Haiti in after the earthquake. I find that interesting, and my wife and I are working on a nonprofit down there. I just find that world interesting, and the writers’ perspective interesting. I don’t necessarily agree with all of it. It’s just good to get different points of view.

What do you think about Google Glass? Have you had a chance to try it? Are you interested in trying it?

I don’t understand how it works or what it is, so I would need to give it a test drive. But it doesn’t make any sense to me at all.

You were almost Gob on “Arrested Development,” which is premiering its fourth season on Netflix in a few weeks. Can you ever see doing a show that premieres on Netflix?

Absolutely! I think that’s the future. I think that the TV landscape is going to look completely different in five or ten years. You’re just going to have various screens. And you’re going to have various ways of getting content on those screens. Some of which you pay for -- you pay for the movie or the show -- and some of which you have a monhtly subscription, some of which you have to sit through some commercials.

It’s kind of like that now. Your TV screen and your phone will get various content providers and I think Netflix is quickly rising to the top of all of those.

You follow Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX on Twitter. Can you see ever taking a ride to Mars? [Musk has stated that SpaceX would like to establish a human community on Mars].

I could never go into outer space. I’m far too terrified. I’m scared when there’s turbulence landing in Burbank. So I’m not a space guy.

What about the Tesla? Are you a fan of his cars?

I love the Tesla! Yeah it’s beautiful. He said in his interview I did with him on SoulPancake that if I gave him a bite of my chicken burger, that he would give me a Tesla but that never happened.

So we can call him out right now.

Absolutely. I demand my Tesla.

If you could give one Follow Friday to one Twitter user whose tweets you really, really enjoy, who would it be? And why?

Oh boy. The guy who has made me laugh the most recently is Julius Sharpe. He’s a writer on Family Guy. And his jokes are so funny. And I know he wrote a a bunch of the jokes that Seth MacFarlane did on the Oscars.

But the thing I love about Twitter is, you can have Julius Sharpe with a really funny joke and then next to it you can have -- I follow Ted Talks, or TED News, and they’ll have the TED talk of the day, which is a really interesting video to kind of tinker with the ideas in your brain pan.

I'm looking forward to the finale of The Office.

I think the last three episodes -- last week’s, this week’s, and next Thursday’s are pretty much as good as it gets. It’s really great, great television.

I think they’re tying up a lot of strings, and the documentary’s airing and a lot of crazy things are going down. They’ve kind of pulled out all the stops on the production, so it’s really funny, and really sad. And there’s a lot of fast-moving stuff. Some people have fallen off from watching The Office, but I think the last season’s great, and especially these last few episodes.


A list of folks from this interview to follow on Twitter:

SoulPancake (@soulpancake)
John Krasinski (@johnkrasinski)
BJ Novak (@bjnovak)
Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling)
Amy Wilentz (@amywilentz)
Elon Musk (@elonmusk)
TED Talks (@TEDTalks)
Julius Sharpe (@JuliusSharpe)

And, of course:

Rainn Wilson (@rainnwilson)

You can also follow @YahooTech right here.