The Office Closes Its Doors: Producers and Cast Reflect on American-izing the British Series
The Office | Photo Credits: NBC
A single-camera, mockumentary-style comedy following the employees of a paper company in Scranton, Pa.? When the American adaptation of the critically beloved British series The Office debuted on NBC in March 2005, it was a far stretch from the network's glossy, multi-camera powerhouses, like Friends and Will & Grace. Nine seasons and countless "that's what she saids" later, the Scranton party will stop on Thursday, May 16 at 9/8c on NBC.
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 first in a four-part series.
The U.K. version of The Office was created by Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais, who also starred as the horrible office manager David Brent. The series had yet to make its way across the pond when TV producer Ben Silverman caught the original during a trip to London.
Ben Silverman: I was immediately going, "What is this show? Was it real? Was it a docu-soap? Are they literally making a show about an office?" After about five minutes, I realized what it was and I immediately wanted to track it down.
Silverman set up a meeting with Gervais in London and bought the American rights. He later brought Gervais and Merchant over to America to meet with potential writers, one of which included The Simpsons and King of the Hill scribe Greg Daniels.
Greg Daniels: I just thought it was wonderful, but I didn't meet them at first with the idea that I would adapt it. I met with them pretending that I would, but really just to meet them because I was so impressed and I wanted to figure out how they did it.
Kevin Reilly had an early interest in the project when he was at FX. Reilly then became the head of NBC Entertainment in 2004, and wanted to bring the project with him.
Daniels: I remember being very scared of bringing it to NBC because it didn't feel like it belonged there so I remember really testing Kevin. He would say he really loved the show, and I would say, "Well, alright, I'm not going to change the pilot, OK? You're OK with bringing this tone to NBC?"
With the help of pilot director Ken Kwapis (The Larry Sanders Show, Freaks and Geeks) casting began. There was Jim, the charming everyman, Pam, the shy receptionist, and oddball Assistant (to the) Regional Manager, Dwight.
Silverman: I think we saw John Krasinski on a tape in New York. He was this fresh face right out of Brown. He really struck us immediately as someone bringing a lot of depth and emotion.
Ken Kwapis: I remember when Jenna Fischer came to audition. She was sitting in the waiting room and she looked so shy and so unlike an actress that at first I wondered if she was here mistakenly. That maybe she thought she was here to get a receptionist job.
Rainn Wilson: I auditioned for both Dwight and Michael, and my Michael audition was just the worst. I just did the most derivative imitation of Ricky Gervais — it was just awful. I hope it never sees the light of day. But I did a really good Dwight audition and I just knew from the beginning, this part has to be mine. I knew exactly how to play the role.