May 12, 2022
EP. 121.5 — Chapter 1 from “The Office BFFs” Audiobook
Surprise! Jenna and Angela are giving you Chapter 1 from their audiobook, “The Office BFFs: Tales of The Office from Two Best Friends Who Were There”! Take a listen and get excited for the official release on May 17th. Thank you for being an “Office Ladies” fan!
121.5 — Chapter 1 from “The Office BFFs” Audiobook
Jenna [00:00:03] I’m Jenna Fischer.
Angela [00:00:04] And I’m Angela Kinsey.
Jenna [00:00:06] We were on The Office together.
Angela [00:00:07] And we’re best friends.
Jenna [00:00:08] And now we’re doing the ultimate Office rewatch podcast just for you.
Angela [00:00:12] Each week, we will break down an episode of The Office and give exclusive behind the scenes stories that only two people who were there can tell you.
Jenna [00:00:19] We’re the Office Ladies. Surprise! It’s Friday. It’s not Wednesday. We’re hitting your feed.
Angela [00:00:29] On a Friday!
Jenna [00:00:31] On a Friday.
Angela [00:00:32] TGIF.
Jenna [00:00:33] We have a way to celebrate. We hope you like it. We are going to play for you the entire first chapter of our audio book of the Office BFFs.
Angela [00:00:44] So happy Friday. Hang out with us for a little bit, and we hope you have a great weekend.
Jenna [00:00:55] Chapter one. Job opening. Office work.
Angela [00:01:02] In 2003, a group of strangers had one very big thing in common. We had all just been cast on a new TV comedy pilot called The Office. After years of living as struggling artists, we were all very happy to be employed and doing what we loved. We could never have predicted the impact it would have on the rest of our lives.
Jenna [00:01:25] I have an old photo from my first day of work on The Office. It was taken when Steve Carell, John Krasinski, Rainn Wilson, B.J. Novak, David Denman, Phyllis Smith and I met with the Producers, network executives, showrunner Greg Daniels and director Ken Kwapis to do a table read of the pilot script for the very first time. Allison Jones, our casting director, came to the table read armed with a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies and a Polaroid camera. I desperately wanted a picture to commemorate the day, and this was before everyone had cameras on their phones. So I was excited when she told us all to gather together for a photo. I asked if she would take one for me, too. She said sure, took a second picture, and handed me the Polaroid and a cookie. I remember standing and munching the cookie while watching the photo slowly develop before my eyes. To let you know how special this whole moment was, let me share a little about my back story. I grew up in Saint Louis, Missouri. From the time I was seven years old, I knew I wanted to be an actor. I can’t say why exactly, but I barely remember a time when this wasn’t my goal. At age nine, I considered becoming a veterinarian, but when I learned I would have to do surgeries on animals, I went back to my original plan of actor. My parents were very supportive, but also refused to let me act professionally as a child. And it’s not like there were a ton of opportunities in St Louis, to be honest. They told me I had to graduate from high school and college before moving to Los Angeles. So I auditioned for every school play and joined every drama club. I spent most of high school in the dancing chorus until my senior year when I was cast as the Fiddler in the Fiddler on the Roof. I had no lines, but extra solo dancing. I went to college at a small liberal arts school in rural Missouri called Truman State University and majored in theatre. I learned a lot about acting technique, and my love of performing was solidified. After graduation, I packed up my Mazda 323 hatchback and drove across the country to Los Angeles, ready to give it a go in Hollywood. I ended up spending years in various odd jobs trying to pay off my defaulted credit card and make my rent. Thanks to a mandatory typing class in high school, most of the jobs I found were working as- wait for it- a receptionist. In the meantime, I was going on hundreds of auditions and performing commedia dell’arte with a local theater company. I earned my Screen Actors Guild card doing background work, experience that would come in handy later, as you will learn in this book. And each year I seem to do a little better than the year before. I booked some guest appearances on television shows, a couple of independent films, and a pilot called Rubbing Charlie. Yes, you heard that right. It was a comedy starring a stressed out doctor named Charlie, played by Scott Wolf, who gets life lessons from his massage therapist; me. I actually rubbed Charlie. It was a really sweet and funny show. I was convinced it would be my big break. So when it didn’t make it past the pilot stage, I was crushed. I told my manager I wanted to quit, the years of rejection having taken their toll, and my new plan was to apply to vet technician, school, animal care with no surgeries. She told me to keep at it, that the right role would find me if I just didn’t give up. I had my doubts. At that point, I’d been plugging away in Los Angeles for nearly eight years. But I decided to take her advice and give it one more year. As fate would have it, the following pilot season, I was asked to audition for the American remake of a BBC show called The Office. The role was for the receptionist, Pam, a worn down yet still hopeful young woman with artistic dreams beyond her depressing day job. In other words, me. After we snapped the shot, Steve Carell said, “One day this photo will be worth money, especially after they fire me and replace me with a new actor for episode two. You’ll all look at this and say, Aw, remember Steve what’s his name? He was sweet. I wonder what he’s up to now.” Before The Office, Steve had the most experience of all of us. He wasn’t a household name by any means, but he had been a correspondent on The Daily Show. He’d been a regular on the Dana Carvey Show. And he’d had a scene stealing role opposite Jim Carrey in the movie Bruce Almighty. He had also been rejected by Saturday Night Live and been cast in more than one failed pilot. He knew better than all of us how rough and random our business could be. Rainn Wilson had been knocking around for about ten years, traveling the country, doing Shakespeare, and most recently worked as a recurring character on Six Feet Under. Phyllis had spent the previous 19 years working in casting, including eight as a casting associate for Allison Jones. When we all came in to audition for The Office, Phyllis was our reader. Ken Kwapis was so taken with her, he told showrunner Greg Daniels he thought she should play a role on the show. John Krasinski had done some commercials, and like me, his last pilot was not picked up. B.J. Novak had been doing standup comedy when Gregg discovered him. David Denman was like Steve. He’d been an employed, yet mostly unknown actor for years, having appeared in a number of studio films and miniseries. He’d also done four pilots, none of which ever made it to series. We all laughed at Steve’s joke, but the truth is, we were all also secretly wondering if we’d get to episode two. Also there are that day where the creators of the original version of The Office, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. I had watched every episode of the British series and naturally was a huge fan. I was in awe of Lucy Davis’s portrayal of Dawn, Pam’s British counterpart. She could communicate so much with just a glance. I hoped that I could bring as much heart and depth to Pam as Lucy did to Dawn. As I sat with the creators of this masterpiece, I remember thinking, If I lose this job tomorrow, at least I got to sit in the same room as Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. After the read, Rick and Stephen gave us ideas for how to best Americanize the show. This had been the subject of a lot of discussion amongst the creative team. In England, they do much shorter television seasons. The original Office series was only 12 episodes long in total, with one Christmas special. American networks expect a lot more than that. A typical American television show makes 24 episodes per season. Ricky noted that if we hoped to make 100 episodes, we should be sure people didn’t become too frustrated by Michael’s incompetence. He suggested we make him a buffoon, but still good at his job. That way, American viewers would find something to admire in Michael amidst all the annoyance. Stephen Merchant then said that the Jim and Pam relationship was another way to balance Michael’s obnoxious behavior. He said, Always remember, Jim and Pam are the heart of the show. Gulp. No pressure.
Angela [00:09:03] I did not grow up in Los Angeles either. I grew up in Indonesia by way of Louisiana and Texas. My dad was a drilling engineer and we moved around for his job. I always knew I wanted to be a performer. My mom loves to tell the story about when she asked me and my older sisters what we wanted to be when we grew up. All my sisters had funny responses, but mine, she said, was the most puzzling. My sister Billie said she wanted to be, quote, the boss. Janet wanted to be a truck driver like our Uncle Carl, Tina, a gymnast. And I wanted to be Carol Burnett. I was four. My dad had shown me the Carol Burnett Show, and all I wanted to do for the rest of my life was be a comedian. My first big break was getting cast as Mary in the Christmas play at school. Not a lot of jokes were written for Mary, but hey, it was a lead role. During college, I would write stand up bits and try them out for my friends. I had grown up watching David Letterman’s monologues and would even memorize some of his routines. I was desperate to learn more about comedy writing, and after four years at Baylor University and a bachelor’s degree, I headed to New York City to intern for Late Night with Conan O’Brien. When I interviewed for my position on Conan, I was told only two interns were ever on the stage during rehearsals and tapings; the writer’s intern and the band’s intern. All the other interns were up in the offices. I was determined to have access to those rehearsals. That’s where Conan and Andy Richter and the writers would work out his stand up routine and sketches. Well, the writer’s intern position had already been filled, so I told them I wanted to be the band’s intern. They asked me if I knew anything about music. I lied and said, Of course, music is my life! I got the job and learned that if you make a friend at SIR, Studio Instrument Rentals, you can fake it until you make it as a music intern. I spent my weekdays watching Conan and my weekends taking acting classes. A friend of mine had given me Uta Hagen’s book, A Challenge for the Actor, and I was lucky enough to take a workshop from Carol Rosenfeld at the Acting School started by Uta Hagen herself, HB Studio. Watching Conan and studying at HB Studio boosted my confidence, and I decided to move to Los Angeles to try to be a television actor. At this point, I was working two jobs and auditioning constantly. I had had a string of national commercials, most notably for Buick, Chrysler and Lay’s WOW chips with Olestra. Yes, the chips that gave everyone abdominal cramping, diarrhea and anal leakage. Between auditions, I was an operator at 1-800-DENTIST, and ran the intern program at the IOWest Comedy Club. I had been performing improv three nights a week for a decade. You know that annoying friend who was constantly handing you a flier for their show? That was me. During this time, I was married to Warren Lieberstein and related by marriage to Greg Daniels. Greg and his wife Suzanne, Warren’s sister, were always very supportive and came to several of my shows. In the summer of 2003, Suzanne invited us over for a swim. I coveted these afternoon swims because our tiny apartment had only one AC window unit and summers were rough. I had wedged myself into one of their daughter’s brightly colored floaties and was trying to paddle to the steps of the pool when Greg sat down to chat. He told us he was going to be remaking the BBC version of The Office. I remember trying to suppress a “uh oh” look on my face. A few other major networks tried to bring BBC shows to the United States and failed. The sensibility and tone of a show for a British audience had not transferred well to an American audience. I loved the BBC version of The Office and was worried that making it for an American audience would be a disaster. But I also felt that if anyone could pull it off, it would be Greg. He had been writing and producing on hit television shows for years and had won several awards for Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons and a show he co-created, King of the Hill. Greg is one of the most brilliantly funny people you will ever meet, on a set or off. He suggested I come in and audition because he thought that my improv background would lend itself to the mockumentary style of the show. Plus, he wanted to use as many unknown actors as he could. Greg felt that the world of a small paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania would feel more organic if there were no big Hollywood names in the mix. I was definitely not a big Hollywood name. Unless Lays WOW potato chip lady counted. I was very excited for the opportunity, but also incredibly nervous. Greg told me he would put my name on the list to audition, but with one caveat: no one could know that we were related. Greg felt strongly that letting this information get out to the network would only hurt my chances. We decided that we would not acknowledge each other at the audition. He could get me in the room, but I had to win the room over on my own. I later learned that this ruse was Allison Jones’s idea. She was a big champion of mine and had told Greg this was the best plan. Thank you, Allison! On November 17th, 2003, I auditioned for the role of… Pam. Yep. Fact. I signed in to the audition at 2:40 p.m. and was the 16th person that day to read for the role of our favorite receptionist. I know this not because I have an amazing memory, but because the incredible Allison Jones saved my audition sign in sheet. When the series wrapped nine years later, she gave it to me as a farewell gift. I ugly cried, of course. I treasure owning this piece of my life history. So many amazing people were there on that same day. Every female comedian I knew went in for the role of Pam. I remember my audition very clearly. It’s weird how the brain captures the biggest moments of your life and slows them down. Every single detail is stuck in my brain. I wore a pink sweater and a black pencil skirt. I had worked really hard to prepare my scenes. I waited in a very small room before my audition. Kathryn Hahn was sitting on a sofa in the corner. We smiled at each other and said hello. She is a doll and so talented. I tried my best not to get anxious. I am not sweaty by nature. I usually run cold no matter the temperature. But as it got closer to my turn, I really began to sweat. I actually went into the bathroom and dabbed toilet paper in my armpits. Sorry for the overshare, but that’s how nervous I was. When it was finally my time, I walked into a roomful of producers. There was a camera on a tripod, and sitting beside the camera was the casting associate, Phyllis. My Future Party Planning Committee rival. I was to read with her. Greg was sitting in the very back of the room and neither of us made eye contact. My agent told me they were having everyone read two scenes, but if they liked you, they asked you to do a third. Phyllis and I read my first two scenes and everyone was laughing! It felt great! Then I was asked to do a third. I worked hard to contain my excitement. Phyllis and I began the final scene, the one where Michael fake fires Pam in front of Ryan, the temp. To jog your memory, in the scene, Michael wants to prank Pam by pretending to fire her for stealing Post-it notes. The fake firing goes terribly wrong and Pam is very upset. She starts to cry and calls Michael a jerk. The scene was going well. Phyllis was killing it as Michael. Imagine someone with Phyllis’ sweet face smugly telling you that you’ve been Punk’d. When we got to the part where I was supposed to tear up and call Michael a jerk, I really let Michael’s slash Phyllis have it. Now, there are three times you can tell I am from Texas: when I am tired, tipsy, or pissed off. So I definitely slipped into a southern drawl as I growled, “jerk!” The room of producers burst out laughing, and I remember thinking, hmm, I’m not so sure I’m supposed to get a laugh at this point, but okay. And that was it. Allison thanked me for coming in. Greg discreetly smiled from the back row and gave me a thumbs up, and I walked out of there on cloud nine. I just knew I had that part. The next day, I got a call from Allison. I did not get that part. She told me they really liked me, but thought I was a little too feisty for Pam. I was disappointed, of course, but I felt good about my audition and I was thankful for the opportunity. So I let it go and I moved on. That’s just what you have to do as an actor. Plus, I had another audition that week for an improv pilot that I was really excited about. It was about a group of people working at a hair salon in New York City for the Oxygen Network. The working title was Salon Royale. I auditioned for the role of the promiscuous receptionist. Feisty was no problem here, and I was cast. The producers of that show flew me out to New York City first class. I had never flown first class for work, and it felt so fancy. The cast was full of amazing improvisers- Ian Roberts, Beth Cahill, Dave Razowsky- and the show was written and directed by Emmy Laybourne. Emmy’s mom, Geraldine, was the president of Oxygen at the time, so I thought we had a good shot at making it to series. But alas, we didn’t get picked up. So back to Los Angeles I went. After back to back rejections, I was feeling pretty discouraged about acting. I decided to concentrate my energy on writing and put acting on hold for a while. Several weeks went by and I was feeling good about my decision to lean into writing. And then I got a call that changed everything. I was working the box office at iOWest when I got a call on my flip phone. Remember those? It was a number I didn’t recognize, so I let it go to voicemail. As it turns out, it was from Allison Jones’s office. The producers of The Office wanted to see me again for a new role, the prickly lady in accounting. Allison told me the creative team thought I was right for the world of Dunder-Mifflin, just not quite right for Pam. This time, there was no big room full of producers. It was just the director, Ken Kwapis, Phyllis, and the tripod. I was told to come in wearing something drab, my hair plain and with little to no makeup. Apparently the prickly lady in accounting was no fashion plate. I wore a light blue turtleneck sweater with a gray cardigan and black pants, pulled my hair back in a low ponytail and left my face bare. I channeled all my sass and I got the part! And I was pretty sure that the prickly accountant would be an easier role for my mom to talk about at her ladies Bible study than the lustful salon receptionist. So everything worked out. I am so grateful to Greg for getting me in that room on November 17th. That moment changed my life forever. And little did I know the gal that was cast in the role of Pam would become my best friend forever.
Jenna [00:20:29] Before we started taping the first episode, Ken Kwapis suggested we all personalize our desks. I loved this idea. Because of my real life office experience, I had very strong feelings about the types of supplies a receptionist should have on their desk. The invitation to personalize my workspace made me very excited. Ken also suggested John Krasinski and I spend some time getting to know each other outside of work. Have lunch, have coffee, create a rapport, was the suggestion, as it will translate on screen. This is common for actors who are cast in a new project together. It’s key to try and get to know the people you’re going to be pretending to be in a relationship with so you don’t seem like total strangers on screen. For example, during rehearsals for my job on ABC’s Splitting Up Together, Oliver Hudson and I spent two days hanging out with the three children who would play our kids on the show. Like real parents, we sat reading each other bits of news articles off our phones while the kids wrestled. When I did the movie Hall Pass, I had drinks with Owen Wilson, who was playing my husband. Incidentally, I did not meet up with Scott Wolf before rubbing Charlie, and, well, you already know how that worked out. Note: Scott Wolf is a delightful human being and I adore him. It is not our fault the show didn’t go. We were fantastic. And I couldn’t forget what Stephen Merchant had said; that John and I, virtual strangers, were to be the heart of the show. So one night after rehearsals, we decided to kill two birds with one stone. John Krasinski and I went to a nearby office supply store and shopped for things to decorate our desks. I got a label maker, message pad, message sorter, daily calendar, file folders, multicolored sticky notes. The list goes on and on. I left with two bags of supplies. I think John got a tape dispenser and maybe some Post-it notes. The whole time we were shopping, we just kept talking about how excited we were to start shooting. We wanted to do everything we could to go from pilot to series. John also shared about moving from New York and the adjustment to living in Los Angeles. I was happy to learn that we were both pretty boring people. In a good way. He felt stable. He had a good work ethic. And he was funny. We laughed a lot. I could tell he was going to be a good acting partner.
Angela [00:23:02] Greg had encouraged us to think about our characters and their backstories. So when it came to my desk area, I tried to imagine what a stuffy lady in accounting might bring to the office. I brought in a photo of my grandmother, Lena, and me. In the picture, my eyes are closed, but I am smiling. It makes me laugh that Angela Martin would choose to frame a photo where her eyes are closed. Like, perhaps that was just the best one of the bunch? I also brought in a day planner. I felt like Angela Martin would have an appointment book and it would be very comprehensive. The set dressers put a blue ceramic cat paperclip holder on my desk. The cat’s left ear was slightly chipped, and I loved that little detail. It looked like a knickknack you would get from a garage sale in a small town. That cat paperclip holder did a lot to inform who Angela Martin was. It was clear to me that she must love cats and that she didn’t need fancy new things to make her happy. She was too humble for fancy. In a judgmental way, of course. People ask us all the time what we took from the set the day we wrapped the series, and I took that cat paperclip holder. It sits on my desk at home to this day.
Jenna [00:24:13] Walking onto the set for our first day of shooting, I was so nervous. I’d left my house at 5 a.m. for what was a 45 minute commute. I made myself a song mix I affectionately titled Songs of Scranton. I drank coffee and bounced along the freeway. I tried to imagine I was driving to my real job at a real paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania. When I arrived, I was taken to wardrobe. There were a lot of very quick introductions to various other cast members who were coming and going between wardrobe, hair and makeup. It was then that I first met Leslie David Baker, who would soon be known to many as Stanley Hudson. He was so warm, friendly and open that watching him switch over to Stanley, the checked out grump, was hilarious. Our director had requested that everyone be on set and at our desks at 7:30 a.m. sharp. He asked us all to pretend to work while the film crew recorded us. He wanted to capture us like real documentarians would, because this was the convention of the show. We were real office workers being filmed by a documentary film crew. When we were all in place, the set was cleared of all crew members except for the camera operator, boom operator, and director. They started rolling and it all felt so real. It was very quiet at first. Then Phyllis and Leslie started improvising fake sales calls. I started to answer the phone and transfer calls. A lot of the shots you see in the opening credits of the show are from that very first morning.
Angela [00:25:54] I was also a bundle of nerves that first day. My call time to set was 4:30 a.m., so I didn’t get much sleep the night before. We were filming in an empty office building in Culver City, California. The building was only two stories, and we filmed on the second floor. There was an empty soundstage next to the main building where the hair and makeup team was set up. It was cold and dark when I arrived, with only one small space heater in that big, drafty room. We huddled around it and waited our turn. Our director had instructed the hair and makeup departments to keep our looks very simple. I was given a loose French braid and some powder and lip balm. That’s all. The wardrobe department asked me to bring the clothes and shoes I had worn to my audition for Angela Martin, so I actually wore my own clothes in the pilot. With barely any hair and makeup and no wardrobe fitting, it didn’t take much time for me to get ready. I walked onto the set early and realized I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to sit. Ken Kwapis must have seen me looking around, sort of lost. He came over to me and told me I’d be sitting in the corner in what would become the accounting department. He walked me over to introduce me to my desk mates. There I found seated at the desk right next to me, Oscar Nunez! I had known Oscar for years! We first met at the Groundlings and then went on to perform together in a sketch comedy show called Hot Towel. I played a horny Boy Scout and Oscar, a crazy professor. I was so thrilled to see my old friend that I yelled out, Holy crap, Oscar! Neither of us knew that the other had been cast. This was in the antiquated times before everything everyone is doing and saying was posted online. You could still be surprised by things. Imagine that. One of the very first photos I took on The Office set was of the accounting department. We took the photo in character and it cracks me up that even in the first week, Oscar, Kevin and Angela were clearly formed people. We already knew who we were in the world of the show. I think it speaks to how amazing the writing was on The Office and also to Allison Jones and her gift for assembling acting ensembles.
Jenna [00:28:06] I’ll never forget seeing Angela pop her head up over the partition between our desks to introduce herself. Her face barely made it over the edge as she said hello in her bubbly Texas twang. She was instantly funny, upbeat and kind. I liked her immediately. She was clearly nothing like her character, Angela Martin, which shows what a great actress she is. In addition to our chats over the partition, Angela would talk my ear off in the hair and makeup room, and she would keep talking as we walked to the snack table and then to set. I often joke that I had no choice but to become friends with Angela because she wouldn’t stop talking to me. I was so grateful for her. I was nervous and she was an instant comfort.
Angela [00:28:53] My first memory of Jenna is hearing a little dainty sneeze come from behind the partition next to my desk. It reminded me of my neighbor’s peekapoo sneezing. It was adorable. She sat directly behind me and was physically the closest gal to me on set. Jenna seemed shy. But then again, I am super chatty and I probably scared her. I can do that to people. Every day that first week, I’d get up on my tippy toes and pop my head over and chat. Those desk partition chats became our daily habit for the next nine years.
Jenna [00:29:27] The whole week seemed to speed by so fast. Before we knew it, the pilot was done and we all went home to wait the almost three months it took to learn if our show would make it to series. Shortly after we’d filmed the pilot, I went to London for a friend’s wedding. While I was there, I reached out to Ricky and Stephen to see if they were able to meet. I don’t know where I got the courage to call, but since I’d basically been unemployed since shooting the pilot for The Office, this was the one potentially exciting thing I had in my life. I wanted to milk it for all it was worth. They agreed to host me for lunch at the exclusive Groucho Club. The Groucho is a famed private club for comedians, and I couldn’t believe I was there. I don’t like to think too much about that lunch because I’m certain I sounded like a raving idiot going on and on and praising their genius nonstop. They must have taken pity on me because they even agreed to pose for a photo afterward. After the lunch, I was sitting on the tube reading a discarded UK TV Guide. Inside was an article about the casting of the American version of The Office. How crazy is that? The article was not positive. It said, “The chances of NBC actually matching wits with the original are about as good as finding a designated driver at a Wembley football match.” It included photos of the original cast members alongside photos of each of us from the American version. The article basically went on to break down how we were ill suited for the roles and would ruin the show. It ended by predicting our show would be as palatable as, quote, a plate of mushy peas. End quote. Huh. How did I feel about this? I’ll tell you. My photo was in a magazine! I was blown away! It was the first time I’d ever been in a magazine. I tore out the article and tucked it into my purse. For years, I saved every press clipping about our show, even if I wasn’t mentioned at all. I can’t explain it exactly, but from the very beginning, this show felt special. It felt different from the rest. I wanted to keep a record of every moment. Even the ones where we were compared to mushy peas. About two months later, Greg called and said he’d finished editing the pilot episode and sent it off to the network. He wanted to share it with the cast. If the folks at U.K. TV Guide were right, it would be the only episode of the American version of The Office ever produced. So we wanted to celebrate. I offered to host a viewing party. It’s something that would become an ongoing tradition when the show was on the air. We’d switch houses each week, watching it together. But this was the first. Everyone gathered at my house. I moved the furniture around in an effort to accommodate everyone, but there were so many people that folks were sitting on the floor, including Steve Carell. We ordered pizza and got set to watch.
Angela [00:32:35] At first, you couldn’t get your DVD player to work.
Jenna [00:32:38] Yes. I was mortified. Everyone was in my house, sitting on my floor, waiting to see the show that we’d worked so hard on. It was so much pressure.
Angela [00:32:48] After some colorful language and trying a few different plugs, you changed the batteries in your remote and got it working! Night saved!
Jenna [00:32:57] And if I remember correctly, we watched it twice. We all told Greg how much we loved it, and we did. We felt good about what we had created. Greg told us he had no idea which way the network was leaning and that we’d have to wait another month to find out. A month? How in the world was I going to fill the next 30 days without going out of my mind? I decided to stalk more original Office cast members. My manager, Naomi Odenkirk, had a client who was shooting a pilot with Lucy Davis. I went to the taping and met her afterward. She was bubbly and smiley. She told me how The Office had changed her life and wished me all the same success. I asked for a photo, of course. Then I went home and waited. And waited. And waited.
Angela [00:33:49] During our month wait, I went home to visit my family’s farm in Texas. It’s about 300 acres in the middle of nowhere. My dad would wake me up early in the morning to feed the cows. When I wasn’t helping my dad, I was helping my mom and grandmother shell pecans. Hollywood felt very far away and I was thankful for the distraction. While I was there, I got the news that NBC had picked up five more episodes of The Office. We were officially a series! My whole family was so excited. They knew what a long journey this had been for me. Mom said we should celebrate so she put on a pot roast. A pot roast and homemade rolls. Birdie Jo- that’s my mom’s name- was going all out. Some meals you remember for your whole life, and that was one of them for me. Good news and a good pot roast. A celebration, indeed.
Jenna [00:34:42] When I got the call that the show was getting picked up, I screamed. My very pragmatic agents congratulated me and then, I guess, to temper my expectations, told me that five episodes was a very small order and it indicated very little confidence in the show. They were basically saying, Have fun, but don’t spend all your money in one place. In fact, my agents continued to send me other pilot scripts while we were shooting season one of The Office. A recurring theme of our early years was people explaining to us how our show would never really make it. I told them I was simply excited to be employed for now. I couldn’t wait to get back to work with everyone again. Our pilot had been a direct adaptation of the British pilot script, but the network wanted the next five episodes to be original. Greg assembled a staff of writers to start breaking down stories for the first all original episodes. That group was Mindy Kaling, Mike Schur and B.J. Novak, plus three consultants; Paul Lieberstein, Larry Wilmore, and Lester Lewis. One of the first stories they came up with was based on a real life experience of their writers assistant, Tom Huang. When Tom was in college, he took a class in which they did an exercise where they had to put notecards on their foreheads with different ethnicities, and then they had to go around and regard one another as that ethnicity using stereotypes. This turned into Diversity Day. B.J. Novak, who was only 25 years old at the time, was tasked with writing the episode, which the writing staff nicknamed, “the pilot after the pilot”. It would establish what the audience could expect from the American version of The Office moving forward. Good thing for us, B.J. nailed it.
Angela [00:36:34] The morning we filmed Michael Scott’s Diversity Day Seminar, the props department handed us our note cards and showed us how to place them on our foreheads. They were taped to our foreheads at 7:30 a.m. and we wore those cards for 12 hours. We only took them off at lunchtime. Hours went by and we forgot all about them. Mine said Jamaica. I wish I had taken a picture of us on our snack break. Imagine seeing the cast eating nachos with these ridiculous cards on their foreheads. Standing by the salsa bar was Jenna with Jewish taped to her forehead, talking to Brian with Italian taped to his. By the end of the day, the double stick tape had left skinny, rectangular bald spots on our foreheads, but it was worth it. The cast was completely in sync. All our reactions, every moment felt perfect. I remember looking around that conference room and thinking, Oh my God, if we can just get people to watch the show, we’re going to be a hit. From the very beginning, it felt like the cast of The Office had a group mind. Bear with me, but this group mind idea is from the improv world, and I always relate back to that. By group mind I mean we had this shared comedic collective consciousness. When you were performing improv as a group, no single person leads. The goal is to find your way together, listening, reacting and being in the moment. I felt like our cast had this kind of comedic mind meld. The magic came from a combination of great writing and smart casting, but I think it was also due to the fact that the original cast shared a lot of history with one another. You already know that I knew Greg by marriage and as a result, Paul as well. And that I had performed with Oscar in sketch comedy shows. But I also knew Kate Flannery, our saucy Meredith. For years, Kate and I performed improv together at iO West. But wait, there’s more. Jenna and I had been living a few blocks apart as a struggling artists, using the same grocery store, but never met. Jenna, Phyllis, and director Ken Kwapis are all from Saint Louis. Brian Baumgartner and Rainn Wilson had done regional theater together. Then there’s the fact that B.J. Novak and John Krasinski were childhood friends in Newton, Massachusetts, and even played in the same Little League baseball division. Do you see what I mean here? For the most part, we were a group of strangers. Yet somehow it felt like destiny that we would all come together on this show. You take these people whose lives have been crisscrossing for years and you put them in a tiny little office, write them amazing scripts, and it was comedic lightning in a bottle.
Jenna [00:39:20] It’s impossible to predict if a television show or movie project will be a success. And with The Office, we spent the first two seasons believing we could be canceled at any moment. No one looked at this group of people and said, Bingo, we’ve got a hit television show on our hands. But what you did feel standing on that set all together was magic. You could feel the chemistry of these people that Greg had so masterfully gathered together. And that includes our writers, directors, and crew. Every person on set was essential. It’s just as Angela said; it was as if we’d been criss crossing one another our whole lives up until that point, just for this purpose. Every role we hadn’t gotten, every show before that didn’t go made it so we were now together for this one. We had no idea if fans would like the show or how long the magic would last. We were all just grateful to be there creating something together.
Angela [00:40:24] Thanks so much for listening to a little bit of our audio book, The Office BFFs. You can buy the audiobook anywhere you buy audiobooks.
Jenna [00:40:32] And on the audio book we have some really fun friends who pop in for- I don’t know, what would you call it? Surprise audio tidbits?
Angela [00:40:41] I just want to say, Ed Helms plays the banjo.
Jenna [00:40:43] And Creed Bratton wrote a special song that kicks off the whole audiobook. Rainn Wilson, he wrote and recorded a foreword just for the audiobook.
Angela [00:40:53] Yeah, it’s not in the hardback. Kate Flannery sings us a little jingle, and then we have all of these great moments with Steve Carell, Brian Baumgartner, Oscar Nunez…
Jenna [00:41:03] Ellie Kemper and Jennifer Garner.
Angela [00:41:06] Thanks so much for listening, you guys. We hope you have a great day.
Jenna [00:41:10] Bye.
Angela [00:41:10] Bye.
Jenna [00:41:17] Thank you for listening to Office Ladies. Office Ladies is produced by Earwolf, Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey. Our show is executive produced by Codi Fischer. Our producer is Cassi Jerkins. Our sound engineer is Sam Kieffer and our associate producer is Aynsley Bubbico.
Angela [00:41:34] Our theme song is Rubber Tree by Creed Bratton. For Ad free versions of Office Ladies, go to Stitcher Premium dot com. For a free one month trial of Stitcher Premium, use code: Office.
Recent EpisodesSee All
May 30, 2023
EP. 167 — Garden Party with Josh Groban
Guest Josh Groban
This week we’re breaking down “Garden Party” and the ladies are joined by multi-platinum singer, songwriter, actor Josh Groban who played Andy’s brother, Walter Jr.
May 23, 2023
EP. 166 — Lotto with Mark Proksch
Guest Mark Proksch
This week we’re breaking down “Lotto” and the ladies are joined by Mark Proksch (“What We Do in the Shadows”, “Better Call Saul”) who played Nate on “The Office”!
May 16, 2023
EP. 165 — The Incentive
This week we’re breaking down “The Incentive”.