The Office Closes Its Doors: The Cast Talks Lucky Breaks and the "Endless" Jim and Pam Debate
John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer | Photo Credits: Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Phot Bank/Getty Images
In the second part of our goodbye to NBC's The Office (which airs its finale Thursday at 9/8c), the cast and producers discuss the show's impressive reversal of fortunes in Season 2. In just 22 episodes, the comedy went from NBC's almost canceled list to certified hit thanks to Steve Carell's newfound movie stardom, a little program called iTunes and the evolution of one of TV's most beloved romances, Jim and Pam.
TVGuide.com spoke to stars Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute), Jenna Fischer (Pam Beesly-Halpert), Angela Kinsey (Angela Martin), Oscar Nunez (Oscar Martinez), Kate Flannery (Meredith Palmer), Ellie Kemper (Erin Hannon), Jake Lacy (Pete Campbell), producer and director Ken Kwapis, and executive producers Greg Daniels, Ben Silverman and Mike Schur about The Office's long, strange trip from British underground hit to America's favorite workplace. This is the second in a four-part series. (Read Part 1 here).
Office star Steve Carell went out and became a bona fide movie star, thanks to the success of The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
Ben Silverman: I begged the head of marketing at Universal at the time and coordinated with NBC to let us tag [Virgin's] movie campaign with spots for The Office on the radio. We did this late campaign that really connected the two.
Mike Schur: It's a word that gets wildly overused in TV and movies, but the dictionary definition of "likable" is Steve Carell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
Greg Daniels: It made Steve a huge star and it also gave us a little bit of insight into how to write him differently — how he could be appealing as the lead.
Kate Flannery: The writers found a new way to utilize all his talents. He didn't have to just be this bleak guy. We could really kind of exploit his ability to have his heart in the wrong place.
Schur: The Christmas episode was another big step [for Michael] because his singular goal for the entire episode was just to throw his co-workers a nice Christmas party, which is a very lovely idea. He really became a guy who cared very deeply. ... That [and "The Client"] were always ones I remember as us kind of figuring out the right formula for how to make a good episode.
The day of the Christmas episode, NBC announced that episodes of the show would be available for purchase on iTunes.
Schur: The plot of the episode was that it was a Secret Santa and you weren't supposed to spend more than $20 on your gift. Then Michael, because he's desperate to be loved, bought Ryan a $400 video iPod. There was no tie-in to Apple. We had to get clearance to show the product, but totally and completely unbeknownst to us, NBC was making a deal with Apple to sell their shows on iTunes. The next day, it was like, now you can download The Office on iTunes and I think that year everybody and their brother bought video iPods as Christmas gifts.
Rainn Wilson: All of a sudden we would look on iTunes and our show was No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 on the most downloaded TV show chart. We were like, "Wow, this is really taking off in a weird way."
Schur:. Over that December and January, everybody watched at least one episode of the show who might not have seen it otherwise because of iTunes. ... We got really, really lucky in 50 different ways.
Members of the cast began communicating directly with fans.
Jenna Fischer: We started very early on with the blogging back when MySpace was all the rage, before Facebook and Twitter. I knew early on that we had this small core group of just really enthusiastic diehard fans because we would talk to them on MySpace.
Daniels: For [the Season 2 finale], I needed extra time and I mentioned it in one interview with the Chicago Tribune and the fans made this giant petition. After every episode aired, there were hundreds of fans' comments debating what the future would be so you definitely knew it was striking a chord with people.
Oscar Nunez: The Office has a lot of young people watching it, and I think it kind of spread through ... social media, which is a lot faster and accesses a lot more people. So I think that had a lot to do with it.
Wilson: The Office is a very popular show with young people and it always has been for some reason. Even though it's about a bunch of people in their 30s and 40s in an office.