July 25, 2023
This week’s episode is “Christmas Wishes” and the ladies chat with Ameenah Kaplan who played Val. Determined to make this the best holiday party at Dunder Mifflin, Andy tries to make everyone’s Christmas wishes come true. Erin deals with meeting Andy’s new girlfriend, Jessica, and Val shows up overdressed to the holiday party thanks to Darryl. Ameenah talks about being a professional drummer, Angela loves when people go all out in a holiday party outfit and Jenna shares some porcupine facts. So walk up to this episode laughing and you’ll fit right in.
*This episode was recorded May 26th, 2023.
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173 — Christmas Wishes with Ameenah Kaplan
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 [00:00:08] 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. Hello!
Angela [00:00:25] Ho, ho, ho!
Jenna [00:00:28] Are you ready for some Christmas Wishes?
Angela [00:00:31] Boy am I!
Jenna [00:00:33] This is season eight, episode ten. It was written by Mindy Kaling. This was her third Christmas episode, Angela.
Angela [00:00:41] I did not realize she was the go to Christmas writer until we started this rewatch.
Jenna [00:00:46] Apparently so. She also wrote Diwali. She’s like our… I guess if it’s a holiday, give it to Mindy.
Angela [00:00:54] Yeah.
Jenna [00:00:54] This episode was also directed by Ed Helms. This was his directorial debut.
Angela [00:00:59] So I would do this thing when we had a cast member who directed for the first time. I would get everyone to sign the script and give it to them as a gift.
Jenna [00:01:08] Awww
Angela [00:01:08] Yeah. And I gave it to Ed and he was like, Ange, I love this!
Jenna [00:01:12] Well, I was not in this episode. I was at home with my new baby, so I did not get to participate in any of the fun stuff that happened. And oh my gosh, this episode has a lot. Here’s your summary: Determined to make this the best office Christmas party ever, Andy promises to make each employee’s holiday wish come true. Meanwhile, Dwight and Jim are pranking one another, and someone has complained.
Angela [00:01:40] Mmhmm. Someone in their desk clump.
Jenna [00:01:42] Yes. And Andy gives them an ultimatum.
Angela [00:01:46] Yes, he does. He says, The two of you need to stop pranking each other or I’m going to give your Christmas bonuses to the other person.
Jenna [00:01:54] Mm hmm. Meanwhile, Robert California tries to forget his divorce woes by doing shots with Erin, who gets very, very drunk at this party.
Angela [00:02:05] Maybe more drunk than Meredith? Maybe. Debatable.
Jenna [00:02:10] It’s saying a lot if you get more drunk than Meredith at a holiday party.
Angela [00:02:14] I mean, Meredith was on the floor by the end of the night, so she might have still kept her record as the most drunk at the party.
Jenna [00:02:21] This is true. Good point. Well, listen, everyone, we are going to kick off this episode of Office Ladies with an interview with the one and only Ameenah Kaplan. You know, she appeared as Val in 14 episodes of The Office, including Christmas Wishes. Ameenah attended Tisch School of the Arts in New York, and she has won theater awards for choreography. And she can play the drums.
Angela [00:02:44] Can she play the drums? She’s like a professional drummer and now a director!
Jenna [00:02:50] We can’t wait for you to hear this interview. We love her.
Angela [00:02:53] Yes.
Jenna [00:02:54] So without further ado, here you go.
Angela [00:02:59] Ameenah, hi!
Jenna [00:02:59] Hello!
Ameenah Kaplan [00:03:00] Woot woot! Hey, everybody. What’s up? How y’all doing?
Angela [00:03:05] So good!
Jenna [00:03:05] Oh, we’re good!
Angela [00:03:05] So good to see you.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:03:08] It’s good to see you, too. It’s been a while. It’s been a hot minute, in fact. It’s been a long time.
Angela [00:03:12] It sure has. And we’re Zooming with you today. You’re in New Orleans?
Ameenah Kaplan [00:03:15] I am. This is my first time in New Orleans. It’s awesome down here. It’s awesome.
Angela [00:03:19] It’s a special place to me. I was born in Louisiana, and then-
Ameenah Kaplan [00:03:22] What?
Angela [00:03:22] Yeah, I was born in Lafayette, and I did two movies in New Orleans, and my family would come and visit. And so I’m gonna email you a few spots that you’ve got to check out.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:03:32] I would love that because I have the rest of my afternoon, like after 4:00, I’m going to be free. So that’s all I’m going to do is just go around to spots in New Orleans. So because we’re working hard here, so we have like this full schedule, although I took this hour out to hang out with you guys.
Angela [00:03:46] Thank you!
Jenna [00:03:47] Aw, we love that
Ameenah Kaplan [00:03:48] It’s my pleasure.
Angela [00:03:48] Thanks so much.
Jenna [00:03:49] Well, we’ll jump right in then.
Angela [00:03:51] Yeah.
Jenna [00:03:51] We’re going to ask you the question that we ask every guest to kick things off, which is how did you get your job on The Office?
Ameenah Kaplan [00:03:58] Ah ha. Awesome casting director Alison Jones cast me. I was literally just an actor in L.A., just doing my thing. And it literally just came through as a regular audition. There it was. Just like, boom, there’s a character on a TV show. You’re right for it. You’re going to go in for that job. And it turned out to be serendipitous and special in that I was acquainted with Craig Robinson before I went into my audition. I did not know he was going to be at the callback. I didn’t actually see him. He saw me. If you ask Craig, Craig would be like, You don’t even know, like, how much I got you on that show. So I’m like, All right, Craig, whatever. I owe it to you. So I give him the credit. Like, I think Craig really was like, Oh, snap, that’s Ameenah. I know Ameenah. And, you know, we’re both musicians, and so we kind of knew each other from the music scene.
Jenna [00:04:47] Yeah. You play drums, right?
Ameenah Kaplan [00:04:49] That’s right. Yeah. I’m a drummer. I honestly feel like that’s kind of the only real thing that I am. I’m a hack with everything else, because looking back at it at this age, I’m like, Yeah, drumming, that’s the thing that I did when I was nine years old. I just was beating on stuff. I was like hitting things and making rhythms and making beats on desktops and stuff. When I was 12, a guy taught me how to play Bullet the Blue Sky by U2 on the drum set, and I was like, okay. And I was terrible for years and years and years because I had no training and my family was like, What do you think you’re doing playing drums? And I was like, I’m doing this. But yeah, I’m a drummer and have been, this’ll be a long time. Like this year will be 40 years of playing once I, like later this year. And so yeah, it is the only thing that I really am. Yeah. And Craig’s a musician and we were in a band full of actors, so if anybody got a gig, nobody was worried. It was like, Oh, okay, whatever. I booked the thing, okay, whatever. And Craig was friends with the guys in the band and they used to hang out. And being the girl in the band, I never really hung out with them, but we were around the same scene, so, yeah.
Angela [00:05:48] Right. Yeah. Oh, in my heart right now, if there ever is an Office reunion, Val’s got to play the drums. Val’s got to boot Kevin out of the band and play the drums.
Jenna [00:05:58] I know! Was it killing you when you had to sit and listen to them play and you’re like, I could be the drummer in Kevin and the Zits.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:06:06] I’m not even going to mince words. The answer is yes. I was. I was standing there and I was like, You’ve got to be kidding me right now. They are playing drums like two feet in front of me. This is crazy! Like, why am I standing here and why is Val not on the drums? Why is she not the secret killer? And, you know, it’s just one of those things. I was the new kid. It was Brian’s moment, and it was awesome. We had the drummers at the wrong band. It was just heaven. That day was that episode was just heaven for me. And totally frustrating that I didn’t speak up about being a drummer. I kind of kept those worlds separate. Because when I got to L.A., it was weird, like coming from New York where you could be a triple threat, as they called it, or whatever. Coming to L.A., it was like, Well, what are you? Are you an actor or are you a drummer? Or are you a dancer? So I never told anybody that I did the other thing. I did the other thing to keep from waiting tables, you know? And so but I never told anybody that I played drums. If you knew I was a drummer, you knew. So I didn’t come in to my acting auditions like, I’m a drummer or anything. You know, trying to book a job is like a young mom or something. So I didn’t come waving my rock and roll flag.
Angela [00:07:11] It is so interesting because during that time we were all auditioning around the same time back then, and it really was kind of like, stay in your lane, you know, you’re an actor. But I feel like now people really share. I think social media has helped that, that you can share all the things you do and people learn, Oh, you’re this, this and this and that’s great.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:07:31] Yeah. You know what? I’m going to say we did that. We pioneered that. Because I was doing it before social media. I’m from the nineties where everybody on this podcast, we’re from the nineties, let’s get our credit, Gen X. Let’s get our credit. Because I gotta- We were, we were doing it in the cut. Like I’m saying, I just didn’t tell anybody.
Angela [00:07:47] Right, Right.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:07:48] And if people did find out, I actually got made fun of one time because somebody was like, Oh really? You think you’re all like, Oh, so you’re an actor AND you’re a musician? You know, nobody was encouraging this little chocolate drop to get into this business. So I took precautions. I didn’t brag. I wasn’t around telling people that I played with Rihanna or that I had played with Macy Gray or I just was like in there sitting down, just trying to survive, just trying to do a good job, you know? But I do think that now we know that you have to be a multi-hyphenate. We’re artists, which means that we are absorbing things from everywhere. We’re taking inspiration from everything and we are all multifaceted. And I’m glad it’s being celebrated now. I’m glad.
Jenna [00:08:32] Well, you know, you brought something up that reminds me of what my best acting coach ever told me about making it in Hollywood or in an artistic career. And what that is, is that you need to cultivate a consistent body of work where every time you show up to do a job, you are consistent, you are good, you do your thing. And that is what is going to propel you forward. It’s not meeting someone at a party or schmoozing someone in a meeting. Your work is what speaks for you.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:09:03] Yeah
Jenna [00:09:03] it sounds like that’s what you’re talking about. Every time in this world, it was just like people showing up, creating a consistent body of work and everybody just being their best artist self.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:09:14] We had to be, you know, Jenna? It was like it was one of those things, like I was saying, like people weren’t encouraging me to get into the arts. The arts called me and I recognized that now from my forties that I literally was just doing it. I was one of those kids. So that’s what we did. I knew that I would have to make art. I knew it, you know? And when I met you guys, when we were doing The Office, I was already in film school. I had already made this decision that I was going to go make less money directing live entertainment because that’s where my heart was, was in live entertainment and just really viscerally connecting to the audiences, you know? And I was training from a young age that you make art. You make art. You make art. And so that was what we did. And so those were the people that I gravitated to. And so those like minded people, yeah, we connected. And I think there were a lot of those people on The Office, like on the show.
Angela [00:10:04] Oh yeah. The majority of our cast had been just for years trying to find their artistic avenue.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:10:11] Mm hmm.
Angela [00:10:12] You know, for me, I was doing improv for like, eight years. I was on stage every chance I got. And everyone was doing things like that. And there weren’t any overnight successes. I mean, we had some young writers, you know? But they had been doing their thing in college. But when I look at our cast, we had all been there for years just doing our art and waiting for our moment and being ready.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:10:35] That’s right. I’m in the same bucket. Like people ask me, you know, what did you think of The Office or whatever? That’s one of the main things that I say is that Alison Jones, that casting director, she was looking in the cut for us. All those performers like us, who were the lifers who maybe we didn’t look a certain way or whatever, like whatever those boxes are, we didn’t check them. We checked the box of this is what I must do because this is who I am. And I’m going to do it. And I’m going to get a part because I have to because I am a working actor. You know, we’re just going to be in that category. Maybe we will get uber famous, maybe we won’t. But I’m gonna tell you right now, you’re going to know because we’re in the cast. And Alison was looking for us. And it took us years because, again, we weren’t doing it the same way. We weren’t going to be this flash in the pan. And I’m forever grateful to that. And I walked in there and I felt that energy. I could feel you guys. I was like, Oh, okay. Now granted, y’all were seven years ahead of me in terms of down the line. You know? But I was like, These people are real up in here. These are the actors right here. Alison, she’s done this. She’s curated this cast. And I’m grateful. I’m grateful to that because it took me a long time. Like I said, I’m alternative. You know, I look a certain way that maybe betrays the way I speak and my background or whatever it is. And it took Hollywood and the world, frankly, a long time to try and figure out what I am and who I am and where I’m coming from. But Alison was like, I got you.
Angela [00:12:03] She’s so great.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:12:05] Yeah, I got you.
Jenna [00:12:06] When you auditioned, did you know that this was going to be a multi-episode arc? And did you know that it was going to be a love story?
Ameenah Kaplan [00:12:15] No. So I knew about the potential, but they tested me out. Like they screen tested me in my first couple of episodes. But I had an inkling that it would go well if I did a good job, but I needed to do a good job in order for it to happen, you know? And I was happy to be in that spot because I felt so strongly that the writers were working with me, that they wanted me to succeed. That Paul and everybody wanted me to succeed. So it just felt in the pocket. Like I felt that support. I felt support from John Krasinski. When I first got there, I just felt people going, Come on in, Ameenah. You know, we want you to succeed. And so it was great.
Angela [00:12:55] Well, you know, we’re just watching Christmas Wishes, and that’s when your character comes up to the bullpen, right? The popsicles. Comes and joins the popsicles. And I remember that was really the first time we all got to work with you. I know you had all these scenes in the warehouse, but now you’re up in the bullpen, you’re up in the Dunder Mifflin office. You looked so fantastic.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:13:17] Thank you.
Angela [00:13:17] You looked so beautiful.
Jenna [00:13:19] You really do, Ameenah. And now, you know, I was disappointed that I did not get to be there in person for your big bullpen scenes, But I wasn’t in Christmas Wishes. I missed a lot of your episodes because I was new mom.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:13:33] That’s right. You were definitely. That was what was on at that time. Yeah. You were a new mom. Yeah. It’s all such a whirlwind for me. Like, I think maybe Jenna, you and I really started working together in the final season.
Jenna [00:13:44] Season nine. That’s right.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:13:45] Season nine. That’s right. Yeah.
Angela [00:13:46] Well, Jenna, we missed having you on set. And I missed, like, what was Pam’s outfit for this year? That’s a whole other thing. But, Ameenah, I remember just how excited we were to have you up there. The cast, you know, we had seen your storyline because we would watch the episodes.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:14:03] Yeah.
Angela [00:14:03] And now we got to be with you. And do you have any memories of what it was like when you walked into the bullpen?
Ameenah Kaplan [00:14:09] Yes, it was terrifying. It was nerve wracking, but it was also really, really exciting. I was a big fan of you guys. You know, I’m not a big TV watcher in general. I just don’t tend to be. I don’t know why I didn’t pick up that habit. I just don’t have it. I tend to be more of a comic book reader or frankly, a podcast listener. And like, you know, I just tend to enjoy a book or something. And I was making my living on TV, so I knew the shows, but I was a fan of, again, that cast of what we call theatre actors. I don’t know if y’all knew that that was y’all’s reputation, you know. But like the theatre actors. And so I was like, Great, this is great. Like, you know, Allison could not have found a better spot for me. I’m very nervous about it. But then Phyllis was so sweet, and we had, like, you know, a pretty funny moment. I think there’s like, a gif or a meme or something running around right now of her, like saying some super awkward racial racial stuff to Val. And, you know, I was a class clown, so I knew I was new there, but I was like, I’m sorry, this is hilarious. So we just cracked up and that broke the ice for me, made me feel comfortable and helped me to be what I needed to be, which was funny for the show. And so yeah, it was an auspicious day for me. Yeah, I don’t remember which episode it was, but we were all sitting in a room one time and I was like, First of all, A) all of these actors are extras on their own show, which I thought was awesome.
Angela [00:15:32] We talk about it all the time. Like one of the gifts I think of being on the show was humility. Here Jenna and I would have a scene and Steve Carell would be in the background while we’re trying to get our scene done. We were all each other’s background. It was really a team effort.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:15:47] I loved that aspect of the show. I just thought I was like, Oh, I see what they’re doing in here. And it was really cool. Like that to me was one of the coolest parts of it, was that like literally stars were extras for other stars, which was great. We were sitting in this room all together and John was like, Ameenah, so you’re a choreographer? And I guess we had a mutual friend or something like that, and he just kind of reached across the water and, you know, threw me a life raft and was like, come into this conversation. And I was like, That’s super dope. I am with the theatre people. And he just gave me an in into the conversation. And I was like, All right, this could be pretty cool. Like, everyone here is vibey and everyone’s being chill and, you know, let’s go. Let’s do it. Let’s have some fun. So it was good. It was a good first couple of episodes.
Angela [00:16:31] I found a picture of us. We were in one of those vans that was moving us to location. I’m not sure which episode it was, but it’s me and you and John. I think I tried to do a selfie before- like, I don’t know what I used if I used a digital camera or what, you know? But I sort of took a picture of us and we’re just all smiling and beaming, just happy to be at work. And I just love that picture. I’m gonna send it to you.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:16:55] I would love to have that picture. That’s awesome, because I was so in my head, you know? Like I was in film school at the time, like I said, and I was doing a lot of my classes remotely. And so I would be- that van would drop me off and I would go right to my trailer and like, work on something. Like whatever it was. So I was like learning something or another or whatever it was. And so it was a very sort of surreal time for me because I knew where I was headed. And this awesome thing with the show was happening. And I was like, Thanks, Universe. Like, I’ve been in this town for ten years. What’s going on right now? You know? So it was totally surreal. So I would love to have that picture to add it to my memory bank. That would be awesome.
Angela [00:17:32] Yeah. Yeah.
Jenna [00:17:33] Well, let me ask you this question. In Christmas Wishes, you wear a gorgeous gown. We spoke about it. How was that? Because-
Ameenah Kaplan [00:17:39] Awesome.
Jenna [00:17:42] It was?
Ameenah Kaplan [00:17:42] Mmhmm. So I’m a tomboy. Like, you know, like I absolutely have always just been like a jeans and t shirt kind of girl. But I love the feminine side as well. Like, I love to dress up. I just don’t always like to dress myself up. But so if someone is going to do that, I’m game. Like you can doll me up. You can girlie me up, like I love it. I just need help with it. And so when you’re in, you know how they are, they, the wardrobe people love us and they take care of us. And like it is a full blown self-esteem confidence booster when you are hanging out with those departments because they are taking care of our emotions, you know? And they they want us to look good. It’s like your hairstylist or whatever, that person that gets into your insecurities and goes, I got you. And I’m gonna make you look good. I got I got you, you know? And that’s what they did. They literally gave me the confidence to go onto this massive TV show with all of you amazing actors and, you know, who had totally done this remarkable thing in your careers. And here comes this new girl, and she’s going to play a love interest to a super popular character on the show. And those wardrobe people were like, I got you. I got you. And they found a great color and a great fitting dress. You know, it hid my pooch.
Angela [00:18:59] Oh, stop. You looked phenominal. You looked phenomenal.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:19:02] I appreciate it.
Angela [00:19:03] I loved the scene, though, where Val and Darryl are sort of having the sidebar. And Val goes, You said dress up. And he goes, Yeah, I was thinking like a sweater. And Val goes, A sweater? What am I, your grandson? She was like- she was so pissed. But you did such a great job portraying like so many- There’s so many layers of emotion happening right there. And I thought that was a great scene.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:19:26] Yeah, me too. I remember that one. Yeah. And it just what a cute and clever little storyline too, because, Val, you know, she really is that everywoman, you know? She’s like working in the warehouse and but I love that character because she was smart. And she maybe didn’t have opportunities, like, whatever, like she didn’t graduate from Harvard or Yale or something like this. But that didn’t mean she wasn’t smart. Because she had risen to the top of her profession. And she came in and she was very serious. And I loved that juxtaposition. I loved playing the straight man to all of the silliness that was in there. Frankly, I could not have competed with the silliness that was in there. Those guys are all, oh, my goodness. Like, those guys were just they’re funny guys, you know? They’re all- and so if I tried to dip into that arena, I was like, Yeah, no, I think I’m going to go this way, you know? And it just seemed like the best thing to do is to keep her as the straight man and as sort of like, she’s a everywoman. And I really enjoyed that. My mentor, one of them, Charlayne Woodard, she’s on Pose and everything else. The original Broadway cast of Ain’t Misbehavin. Like, she’s ridiculous. She’s amazing. And I call her up every now and again, and I go, Help me, please. And she goes, Ameenah, we play regular people. And she said that to me one day and I went, Okay. Okay. I totally get that. And I’m here for that. We play regular people and I’m down for that. I’m down to be the everywoman for the people. And that’s who I think Val was. And so I was stoked on that character and stoked that she got to dress up like that because I think that everybody, the everyman can relate to that.
Angela [00:21:04] Yeah.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:21:05] I think that’s why people like that character. She endures. Val is a good character. Well-written.
Angela [00:21:11] Yeah. And performed.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:21:13] Thank you. I appreciate that. Thank you. Those writers were killers, weren’t they?
Angela [00:21:18] So, I mean, I know you talked a little bit about this earlier, but was there a moment where you broke? Because we would all crack up in the scenes, and I don’t know if there is if you have a strong memory of like a scene where you broke.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:21:29] Yeah, that was the moment I was saying where Phyllis and I were talking and she was saying some really silly racial (BLEEP) to me, which is not her at all. And she could barely get those lines out. And she just broke me because like I said, I’m a class clown. I was voted- I literally was voted class clown. Like I am a, you know, funny. That’s- I love to just hang in comedy. And she just cracked me up. Watching- I’m just gonna say it, I’m just gonna speak very plainly- watching a middle aged, very sweet white woman and watching her have to deliver those lines that the writers had written for her, the whole scene was cracking me up. Phyllis, the actress, the character of Phyllis saying it to Val the character, the whole thing cracked me up. And we died laughing. And I think somebody made it into a meme that’s going around.
Angela [00:22:13] Well, I found them in the bloopers, and you guys could not get through it. It was just ridiculous. But that’s one of my favorite things, is finding all these moments in the bloopers and just seeing how much joy and laughter we had every day.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:22:26] Yeah, it was. It was really fun.
Jenna [00:22:29] Do people recognize you as Val and come up to you?
Ameenah Kaplan [00:22:32] They do. The show is that popular. You guys killed it. The show is that popular that even I get recognized a lot. I’m super grateful. You know, I believe artists are public servants, and so, you know, you just want to honor them. And because they’re honoring you and and know that that fan base is the reason why you get paid and is the reason why you eat, have clothes on your back, all of it. And so I’m super grateful for it. I’ve cut my hair. I know no one can see it, but I’ve totally cut off all my hair. And yes, the recognition did go down from there. But I’ve been kind of doing these sort of, you know, public hits lately that have been putting me out there with short hair. So it’s kind of ticked up again, the people recognizing me. But more what I get is, You look awfully familiar. Where do I know you from? Like, of course, that kind of thing. Nowadays, I just go, I used to be a TV actor. And I keep it moving, you know? And let them, you know, because I don’t want to be coy. I don’t want to- but I also don’t want to be like, Oh, okay, let me give you my resume, you know, or anything like that. You know? But yeah, I’m grateful for it.
Angela [00:23:39] Oh, we get, You look like an older version of that lady on The Office. And we both say, We are the older version.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:23:49] That’s awesome! That’s awesome. Seriously, that’s like, that’s a holiday treat. That’s a gift.
Angela [00:23:56] Yeah. We’re forever frozen in time, you know? But time marches on.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:24:00] It sure does.
Jenna [00:24:01] Well, this was just an absolute delight. I love that we got to reconnect with you, Ameenah. I mean, this was so awesome.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:24:08] Thank you, Jenna and Angela. I really appreciate you both. And like, it’s lovely to reconnect with you both. It’s awesome. I appreciate this very much.
Jenna [00:24:15] Now, I know you can’t share about your secret project that you’re doing right now, but is there anything that you can share about for our listeners?
Ameenah Kaplan [00:24:23] Yeah. You know, everybody, you know, since leaving The Office and kind of leaving Hollywood, I’ve been really focused on being a director. That’s kind of what I think my ultimate passion has always been. And so I’m uniting those skills in, you know, music, dance, acting. So my shows, I’m sort of a spectacle director with a real strong sense of storytelling. So I just opened a show at Seattle Rep. It’s called Lydia and the Troll, and I’m very excited about it because it’s about a performer who is- who doesn’t look right and doesn’t do all the things right. And she’s always standing in the back, but she deserves to be in the front. And she’s- she doesn’t believe in herself. And this troll comes along and is like, I’ll steal that body. I’ll take that body from you if you don’t want it. So she has to just get this confidence. It really does have like world, you know, big potential. And so I’m really stoked because it gets to use all of my skills- dance, music, acting altogether. And I’m a full time director for Disney. I did a project called Disney Dreamers Academy, which was we take 100 high school kids and bring them into Disney and we mentor them.
Angela [00:25:25] Amazing.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:25:27] And that is by far the best program that I’ve done at Disney is connecting them with Imagineers, connecting them with animal science people and getting them over to, you know, wherever. I got them over to the Starcruiser, the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser, which was my main project and, you know, got the kids into outer space essentially. And that has been the most fulfilling thing that I’ve done at Disney so far. But if people are wondering where I disappeared to, I didn’t. I am a lifer, like we said.
Angela [00:25:54] That’s right
Ameenah Kaplan [00:25:54] I’m a lifer. Yeah. And so I’m a director now and I’m just doing my thing. Just living, just being an artist, just out here in these streets just doing it.
Jenna [00:26:00] Love it.
Angela [00:26:01] Awesome. Awesome. Ameenah, we want to have you back. We’re going to hit you up because we’re going to have questions for some of your other episodes.
Ameenah Kaplan [00:26:08] Okay. I’d love it because this has been a real treat. And thank you. I’m grateful that you’ve had me here. I appreciate it very much.
Jenna [00:26:13] Thank you so much.
Angela [00:26:14] Thank you so much. Mwah!
Ameenah Kaplan [00:26:15] Awesome.
Angela [00:26:27] How much do you love Ameenah? She’s the coolest person.
Jenna [00:26:29] She’s super cool and very, I thought, very inspiring. I love the way she talks about being an artist and our role in the world.
Angela [00:26:36] And I can’t wait to hit her up for some future episodes because there’s going to be a few I want to talk to her about. Hello, Pool Party.
Jenna [00:26:43] Mmhmm.
Angela [00:26:44] Well, let’s get into this episode. It’s going to start with a close up shot of a bunch of dolls. They’re like Christmas carolers. And Andy is singing off camera in falsetto. We reveal to see him dressed as Santa. And he’s going to declare that he is the first Santa to make holiday wishes come true.
Jenna [00:27:03] Well, Angela, we got some fan mail about those singing dolls. They are, in fact, carolers. And Jeremy V from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, said, Those are Byers Choice figurines. They are Christmas carol figurines made in Pennsylvania. And Jeremy said, I really want to shout them out because The Office did a fantastic job adding a little bit of local Pennsylvania flavor to the Christmas Wishes episode this season. Well, I looked into these, Angela. These dolls were created by Joyce Byers, which also happens to be the name of the character that Winona Ryder plays in Stranger Things.
Angela [00:27:39] Oh.
Jenna [00:27:40] But this Joyce Byers started making handmade carolers decorations just for her own home, just for Christmas. And people would come over for Christmas parties and they loved them. And they started asking her for some that they could give away as gifts. They eventually became so popular she started selling them in local shops. And I mean, now it’s a whole business. The whole family is in on it. Her husband, her sons, they produce over 500,000 carolers each year. And the company donates a large portion of their profits to local, national and international charities.
Angela [00:28:18] I love this. She was so crafty and now she has a whole business. Well, I have a fun little tidbit about this cold open. Speaking of caroling, how’s that for a transition, Jenna?
Jenna [00:28:29] I love a good transition, Ange.
Angela [00:28:30] I know you do. There was a candy bag alt for this cold open that would have started like this. I’m just going to read you the first few lines, okay?
Jenna [00:28:39] Okay.
Angela [00:28:40] It was a rapid fire series of talking heads. Dwight kicks it off. Dwight: I knew this day would come. Jim: I think I blocked it from my mind. Angela: It actually makes me like Christmas less. Me! Christmas! Andy talking head. Andy is super excited. He has a reindeer antler hat on. Andy says, I’m the boss now. We’re Christmas caroling, bitches!
Jenna [00:29:09] So this was like a Christmas caroling alternate cold open where we’re all Christmas caroling?
Angela [00:29:14] Yes. And there’s rehearsals and the whole group is in the warehouse and Andy is working on different songs and getting really, like, bossy about it. It was hilarious. But that was the alt. And then it would go into the Holiday Wishes conference room scene. But instead, I think there was just so much in that conference room scene, they split it up and made part of it a cold open.
Jenna [00:29:36] Yes.
Angela [00:29:37] And this brings us to how the cold open starts, right? Andy is in the conference room. He is trying unsuccessfully to get everyone excited about these holiday wishes. And that is a trigger for Stanley.
Jenna [00:29:50] Yes. Stanley goes on a very big rant about how he is sick and tired of themed Christmas parties, and he lists all the parties and all the themes that he has had to endure at Dunder Mifflin.
Angela [00:30:05] When he says Honolulu Christmas then it pans to me and I roll my eyes, that was improvised, guys. I just knew.
Jenna [00:30:12] I looked in the script, Angela! I wanted to see.
Angela [00:30:15] Yeah, I just figured my character would be kind of commiserating with Stanley, right? She just wants Christmas as Christmas.
Jenna [00:30:23] I love that. Well, you know, Jim has a talking head where he says he got Stanley tickets to see Lewis Black for his birthday.
Angela [00:30:30] Yeah
Jenna [00:30:31] We have a fan catch from Rachel L in Anaheim, California.
Angela [00:30:34] What do you got, Rachel?
Jenna [00:30:36] Rachel noticed that in season nine, episode eight, when Jim tries to convince Stanley and Phyllis to cover for him while he’s in Philadelphia, Jim and Stanley say they don’t even know each other’s birthdays because, as Stanley claims, they’re not friends.
Angela [00:30:53] Hmmmm.
Jenna [00:30:54] Mmhm. So here Jim knew his birthday, but in season nine, apparently Jim doesn’t.
Angela [00:30:58] Well, the episode is going to open with the gang still in the conference room. Andy is going over everyone’s wish lists, saying whose wishes got fulfilled. There’s a whole bunch. There’s also more in deleted scenes, and I thought I could break them down for you.
Jenna [00:31:12] Oh! This is great, because we got fan mail from Jaden P in Phenix, Arizona, who said, I’ve always wondered if there were more wishes. I would particularly like to know what Creed asked for.
Angela [00:31:24] Okay, Jaden, I got you. Here’s how it breaks down. First, I’ll do everything that made the episode, and then I’ll tell you what’s in deleted scenes. Meredith gets a car ride home at the end of the night. Dwight wants to know, what about his wish, where they don’t have to attend meetings that degrade their sense of adulthood? Andy said, No can do. But I did get you an acre of land on the moon. Dwight is so happy about this. It’s on the light side. It’s by the Sea of Tranquility. This is a big win.
Jenna [00:31:52] Yeah.
Angela [00:31:53] Andy’s biggest wish is that everyone would be nice to his girlfriend, Jessica. And from deleted scenes, Kevin hands Andy a Cheesecake Factory menu with little Post-it note tabs specifically on different items.
Jenna [00:32:07] Mm hmm.
Angela [00:32:08] Creed hands Andy a piece of paper. Andy reads it and then hands Creed $20.
Jenna [00:32:13] Okay.
Angela [00:32:14] Kelly hands Andy multiple pages, fully typed, of her wishes. There’s like three or four pages. And then Ryan has a wish, and Andy is going to try to grant it. Jenna, this is such a dad moment. Here’s what it said in the script: Andy says, Ryan, for your holiday wish you wanted ten sick days. Ryan said, Yeah, but, you know, I’d be satisfied with eight. And Andy says, Well, I’ll do you one better. Ryan’s like, Nine? Andy says, I got you health insurance. And Ryan goes, Oh. Neat. And Andy goes, Yeah, right? But with great perks come great responsibility, so I’m going to be expecting a lot more from you. No more zoning out in your office. And Ryan’s like, Oh, great. And B.J. plays it so great. The look of disappointment on Ryan’s face when he finds out he gets health insurance, which is a good thing. It was very funny.
Jenna [00:33:09] Well, I have a really fun fan catch for this conference room scene. It came in from Walker M in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. This is a catch from Walker’s two year old son, Roman.
Angela [00:33:21] Two year old?! Did you say two year old?
Jenna [00:33:23] Yes! Two years old. This is Roman’s catch: you can see Kelly in the background in a sparkly outfit. And Roman pointed at her and said, Look, Dad, a princess! And Walker said he was so proud that he had spotted a real princess in the background of the show.
Angela [00:33:40] Aww
Jenna [00:33:41] Is that the sweetest thing?
Angela [00:33:42] That is so sweet. We have to share that with Mindy.
Jenna [00:33:45] Well, I know she would love that.
Angela [00:33:47] Well, guess what? This is my favorite Kelly outfit for any holiday. The red skirt with the silk like tank top and the shimmery, sparkly jacket. I love this holiday outfit.
Jenna [00:33:59] I almost always would wear what Kelly is wearing in a holiday episode. Outside of Pam’s vintage sweater, which is my number one. Then it just everything Kelly ever wore. I just love it for a holiday party. She does the best job, I think.
Angela [00:34:13] I agree. You love to dress up for a holiday party. Don’t get me started. We wrote about it in our book. But no one goes on theme more than you do. Of anyone I know.
Jenna [00:34:22] That’s true.
Angela [00:34:22] So after the conference room scene, there is a talking head where we’re going to learn a little bit uh I don’t know, about where Erin is at with Jessica. Right?
Jenna [00:34:32] Mm hmm.
Angela [00:34:32] She says she hasn’t met her yet, but she loves Jessica. They don’t even need to meet. She should stay home.
Jenna [00:34:38] Yes.
Angela [00:34:39] Oh, no.
Jenna [00:34:40] And then Kelly’s going to come up to reception and say, Listen, I’ll be mean to Jessica if you want me to, because I was actually planning on it anyway. Which is amazing.
Angela [00:34:48] Kelly is one of those friends where they’re like, Do we like them? And if you’re like, No, they’re like, Got it. You’re like, Wait, you don’t even know them.
Jenna [00:34:57] All right. I have a possibly amazing, possibly super lame background catch of reception desk.
Angela [00:35:04] Way to sell me!
Jenna [00:35:05] Well, there is a great shot of the message sorter on Erin’s desk, and I notice that everyone in the office shares a slot with another person except for two people.
Angela [00:35:18] Tell me all the slots.
Jenna [00:35:21] All right. So, Andy, he has his own slot. Makes sense. He’s the manager, right?
Angela [00:35:27] Yeah, he’s the boss.
Jenna [00:35:29] So then Pam, Jim, and Dwight share a lot. Makes sense. Same desk clump, I guess. Then Phyllis, Stanley, Creed share a slot. Angela, Oscar, Kevin. Kelly, Ryan, Toby. Meredith has a slot all to herself. How many messages is she getting?
Angela [00:35:48] I mean, so few.
Jenna [00:35:49] So many?
Angela [00:35:50] So few.
Jenna [00:35:52] But she, I mean, I’m thinking like there are so many quality control issues that Meredith just needed her own slot for messages. And I will also say, no slot for Darryl.
Angela [00:36:03] Oh?
Jenna [00:36:03] I don’t know how he gets his messages, but he is not slotted.
Angela [00:36:07] I love these kind of background details. You know I obsess about them.
Jenna [00:36:10] Okay. So amazing or lame?
Angela [00:36:12] I say amazing.
Jenna [00:36:14] Thank you.
Angela [00:36:15] Well, Robert California is going to arrive. And Jenna, I just have a question for you.
Jenna [00:36:21] Yeah?
Angela [00:36:22] What time do you think the party starts at Dunder Mifflin?
Jenna [00:36:25] Well, I sure hope it’s a daytime party because there are a series of episodes now where Jim is constantly doing things outside of work after hours with his wife and, like, new baby and toddler at home. They’re just a string of episodes with these extracurriculars. So I’m really hoping that this is an afternoon party. I know it’s going to end at night because we’re going to see night later, but this is my hope. Why do you ask?
Angela [00:36:56] Well, you won’t be disappointed, I’ll tell you that. But just more specifically, let’s really dial it in here. What time do you think the bar opens at your holiday Christmas party?
Jenna [00:37:07] Three?
Angela [00:37:09] There was more to the scene. And Robert California, he’s going to let us know when he thinks the party should start. I’m going to read you what it said in the script.
Jenna [00:37:17] Okay?
Angela [00:37:17] Robert says, Where can I get a drink? And Andy goes, Oh, well, we thought we wouldn’t put the alcohol out till 11 a.m.. It’s just common decency. And Robert goes, Par for the course. Par for the frickin course. I’ll be in the party room having a cookie until 11.
Jenna [00:37:38] 11!
Angela [00:37:39] 11 a.m. they set the booze out. Are you crazy?!
Jenna [00:37:43] They’re waiting till 11. They’re like, We’re going to wait till 11.
Angela [00:37:46] 11. That’s when the party starts. I could not believe that.
Jenna [00:37:51] Wow. This explains why people get so trashed.
Angela [00:37:54] Exactly.
Jenna [00:37:55] They’ve been drinking since 11.
Angela [00:37:57] Robert is going to get a giant bear hug from Kevin. He says he feels like a kitten being cradled by a gorilla. That hug was hilarious to me. Brian just scooped him up. Robert says he’s actually looking forward to the Dunder Mifflin party because the corporate party was awful. I guess he’s really not a fan of the Black Eyed Peas. And Ryan, I think, felt seen in this moment.
Jenna [00:38:20] Yes.
Angela [00:38:21] We’re going to notice that Robert is in I thought it was like pajamas, honestly. I guess Andy goes on to say it’s the tracksuit. But he’s looking a little disheveled. And there was a talking head that was deleted where Robert describes the mood he is in. I have to read this to you. It just made me laugh. Now, Jenna, it was written with lots of dot dot dots. It was written with parentheses that say, give a long pause here, laughs awkwardly.
Jenna [00:38:50] Okay
Angela [00:38:51] so get ready for some big pauses and some awkwardness.
Jenna [00:38:55] I’m ready.
Angela [00:38:56] Here was Robert’s deleted talking head about the state of mind he’s in.
Jenna [00:39:00] Okay.
Angela [00:39:02] Not destroyed. No. Not destructive. Quite… Off kilter? Sure. But… That’s too vague. Erratic. Darkly erratic. That’s my mood. Yeah. And then he just looks at the camera for a long time. I was like, Oh, crap, Robert. Robert is going to be spiraling.
Jenna [00:39:34] Well, if I know James Spader, he has a document for Robert California in the same way that I had my Pam document. And I think this darkly erratic went in the document, and we’re going to see that play out over the next few episodes as he unravels from his divorce. Well, next up, Andy is going to call Jim and Dwight into his office.
Angela [00:39:57] Yes. And you might have been wondering, where did Robert go? He was standing right there. He was just talking to all of them. It is because the deleted scene where he goes in the conference room to eat a cookie until the bar opens.
Jenna [00:40:10] Aha! Well, Andy is going to take off his Santa hat and put on his hardass hat.
Angela [00:40:16] Yes
Jenna [00:40:16] Because there are some serious issues to discuss.
Angela [00:40:19] The hat is literally a pair of buttocks with the words “hardass” on them.
Jenna [00:40:24] Would you like to know what standards and practices had to say about the hat?
Angela [00:40:28] I would love to.
Jenna [00:40:30] Okay. Well, Steve Burgess shared with me how this hardass hat went down. It began with an email from Standards and Practices which said, Please email me a photo of the, quote, plastic butt baseball cap for my review. So Steve Burgess sent over two photos. There were two different options. And he said, Here are two versions of the hat. They’re similar, but different sizes. So there was one with larger buttocks and one was smaller. Our Standards and practices rep was named Andrew, and Andrew had to run this all the way up to his boss. He had to take two photos of an asshat up to his boss who said either hat was fine, but wanted to know if it would be seen throughout the entire episode or just in this scene in Andy’s office. We said it’s just in this one scene. And so the message we received was that it’s okay, either hat, provided it is just the one scene. Now, I don’t know why if it’s approved for one scene, why can’t we just see it a lot? I guess just too much.
Angela [00:41:37] Because over time we’ll just only see asses.
Jenna [00:41:41] I guess so.
Angela [00:41:43] I don’t know. That’s so silly. But they approved it for the scene, so I guess it all ended well.
Jenna [00:41:49] No pixelating!
Angela [00:41:51] No pixelating.
Jenna [00:41:52] And we could have the word ass. We’ve talked about that. For some reason that’s an approved word.
Angela [00:41:58] What I would have loved to have seen is them say like, you can have the hat, but you must pixelate the crack.
Jenna [00:42:06] Well, we know they didn’t want to see any crack in the tattoo
Angela [00:42:10] Right. No crack.
Jenna [00:42:11] There was a drawing of a tattoo and they said no crack. Well, there you have it. Standards and practices.
Angela [00:42:20] This is where Andy is going to share with Dwight and Jim that there is someone who would like to be removed from their desk clump. They both immediately think it’s each other. And he’s like, No, no, no. Then they know it’s Cathy. And they both whip to turn to look at her and he’s like, Don’t look at her. But your incessant pranking and one upsmanship is making her crazy and she would like to move. They can’t believe this. And he goes, Listen, respect the hat. Take me seriously, or I’m going to give one of you your Christmas bonuses, and you have these sizable Christmas bonuses. That gets their attention.
Jenna [00:42:55] Mm hmm. Now they know, no more pranking. Well, Andy’s going to remove his hard ass hat now, because he was only allowed to wear it in that one scene, but also because Jessica is arriving. Her first stop is Erin, who gives her a big hug.
Angela [00:43:13] Yeah, And Andy’s like, M’ex is meeting M’sex.
Jenna [00:43:17] Mmhmm.
Angela [00:43:19] This scene is so awkward. I thought it can’t get more awkward than this. I was wrong.
Jenna [00:43:25] You were wrong because it’s going to get more awkward. Well, Jessica was played by Eleanor Siegler, who appears in four episodes of The Office as Andy’s girlfriend, Jessica. And she is just lovely. The character of Jessica is just normal and brings out this very normal, calm, grounded energy in Andy.
Angela [00:43:49] Yeah, I really like Jessica for Andy. I’m rooting for them.
Jenna [00:43:54] Me too.
Angela [00:43:55] Down in the warehouse, Darryl is chatting up Val and tries to casually invite her to the Christmas party. I was cracking up because the whole time Nate thinks he’s invited as well, and he’s just saying the most ridiculous things, that he can’t wait to dress up really nice for Darryl. I would have loved to have seen more Nate upstairs at the party.
Jenna [00:44:18] Me, too. Because it sounds like this might be his first Christmas party
Angela [00:44:22] Ever.
Jenna [00:44:23] Yes. We had a fan question from Elizabeth D in Virginia who said, I’ve been waiting to ask you this for years. My favorite line in The Office is in this episode when Nate says, You had me at clookies. I can’t wait to find out what they are. Elizabeth said, It’s one of me and my brother’s running bits and we quote it to each other in different ways. Please tell me how this joke came about. Well, that joke was scripted. They did it just as it was in the script. But my favorite part about this joke is actually the way Val grabs Nate’s arm after he says- it’s like when you, like, reach over to, like, your husband and you want him to, like, stop talking at a dinner party or something. You’re like, It’s okay, babe.
Angela [00:45:07] Yeah. You can stop now.
Jenna [00:45:09] That was a great bit that Ameenah added to that.
Angela [00:45:11] Yeah, it was a great button.
Jenna [00:45:13] We also got a fan question from Neil S in London, UK, who said, This scene opens with Darryl teaching Val how to use the baler. And the training seems to consist of telling her that it’s capable of taking her arm or head off, so exercise caution. My question is, was this all the training that is required? This is the training that Michael didn’t have in order to operate the dangerous machinery? Neil, I think yes. I think that Darryl really didn’t want Michael to use the baler. And so he invented this idea that there was some elaborate training to use the baler, but really it was just these couple of sentences. That’s what I want to believe.
Angela [00:45:57] This Dwight and Jim runner is about to kick off because Dwight really sets up his whole desk area in hopes that Jim will prank him. He has an open email. He has his car keys out. So many things to entice Jim, and Jim realizes really quickly, wow, Dwight really wants my bonus and he’s trying to entrap me. That means he can’t drink at this party now because when he drinks, he gets real pranky.
Jenna [00:46:23] I thought that was a really funny line.
Angela [00:46:24] I know. I thought John as Jim was so cute saying it. Andy calling out their pranking only escalated it because now they’re going to try to prank each other to get the other’s bonus.
Jenna [00:46:34] It’s true. He’s kind of made it worse. Well, you know who is drinking? It’s Erin.
Angela [00:46:39] Yes.
Jenna [00:46:40] She’s going to go up to Robert California at the bar. And first she’s going to ask for a Cola, Kirkland brand. And he says, Don’t you think maybe you want something stronger? You could get that soda from the kitchen.
Angela [00:46:52] Yeah.
Jenna [00:46:53] I think you came here because you want a real drink. So he pours a bunch of shots for Phyllis Ryan, Oscar and Kevin, and he pours one for Erin. And, Oh, boy. Jiminy Christmas!
Angela [00:47:05] Jiminy Christmas, indeed! Back in the Jim and Dwight pranking storyline, Jim thinks he’s got Dwight. He’s carefully reading his credit card number. Dwight’s jotting it down. Well, as it turns out, Dwight buys Pam a $200 bouquet of flowers.
Jenna [00:47:22] Yes
Angela [00:47:22] $200. That’s going to be a big ass bouquet!
Jenna [00:47:27] Yeah. I think she deserves it because like I said, Jim is going to be doing a lot of out of office extracurriculars.
Angela [00:47:33] I thought you would say that. Val is now going to arrive to the party. She looks stunning. She is in a beautiful gown, like a floor length purple off shoulder gown.
Jenna [00:47:45] Yes. We talked with Ameenah about this. This is all because Darryl said people dress up for the Christmas party and she took it quite literally. I have a catch in this scene and it’s about how someone is dressed. And it’s not Val, but it’s in this scene. Look at what I wrote down. What is Cathy’s skirt?
Angela [00:48:04] Oh, no. What is her skirt?
Jenna [00:48:06] It looks like something that like a kid made in, like, a sewing class.
Angela [00:48:11] Okay, I know what you’re talking about.
Jenna [00:48:13] Or like a theater production. And it has this giant, crazy, like, elastic band.
Angela [00:48:20] As you said it, I knew exactly what you meant immediately. It looks like when my sister took a sewing class.
Jenna [00:48:27] Yes. It’s like the first skirt you learn to make. There’s no zipper on it because zippers are intermediate sewing.
Angela [00:48:34] Yeah.
Jenna [00:48:35] Yeah, it’s a it’s a stinker. I’m going to say it. I’m sorry. Maybe when we get to interview Lindsay, we’ll ask her about this skirt, because wowzer.
Angela [00:48:47] In the conference room, Erin is really holding court now. She is buzzed and doing impressions.
Jenna [00:48:53] Mm hmm. She’s doing a pretty darn good impression of Stanley, to his delight.
Angela [00:48:58] Yeah, he’s very tickled by it.
Jenna [00:49:00] But all of this is going to end when Dwight starts screaming. He’s screaming that he’s been attacked.
Angela [00:49:06] And we find a porcupine in his drawer that he says clearly Jim has put there.
Jenna [00:49:13] Yes. Dwight is going to claim that his hand is lacerated, that he has been quilled, and he’s going to tell Andy that Jim is to blame for this porcupine.
Angela [00:49:23] But Jim is going to very clearly state, Um, I’m sorry, but of this whole group of people, who do you think would have access to a porcupine? It’s clearly Dwight.
Jenna [00:49:35] Yes. And Dwight ends up revealing that the porcupine’s name is Henrietta. We got a lot of fan mail about this porcupine. Jess C from Sydney, Australia said, Where did you guys get Henrietta from? How much does it cost to rent a porcupine? And are there any special considerations or safety meetings for working with a porcupine? Well, Jess, as with most animals we used on The Office, our porcupine came through Bob Dunn’s Animal Services. The porcupine cost $1500 for one day of work. That included the cost of the animal and two trainers and the animal’s transportation to and from the set. And Steve Burgess says, We always have safety meetings when we’re working with animals. It didn’t matter what animal, even if it was a dog. And the rules to keep animals and crew safe are really strict. And Steve Burgess told me that the trainers worked with Rainn before the scene to instruct him on how exactly to handle the porcupine without hurting himself or the animal. Now, I was not there, but Angela, you emailed me pictures of the porcupine.
Angela [00:50:39] I did. Okay, so here’s the thing. I have such a clear memory of this day. Next to Rainn, I’m the person standing closest to the porcupine. So I was very aware that I wanted to keep my movements very minimal. And I found in my digital email clutter an email I sent to Ed and Rainn. I took a picture of Rainn holding the porcupine. And Ed is standing right behind him. It’s a great picture. And Rainn is wearing in the photo these massive, long, thick leather gloves. They were specially given to him to hold her and he was shown how to hold her. And her name in my email, I say, here’s a photo of you guys with Penelope.
Jenna [00:51:28] Oh! Henrietta’s real name is Penelope!
Angela [00:51:31] Yes!
Jenna [00:51:32] These are the cutest names by the way.
Angela [00:51:33] And also the other memory I have of her is that she loved a snack. And they would give her stuff to snack on in that drawer. So she had a carrot. I think she had a corn on the cob, but she loved her snacks and they kept her very calm and happy.
Jenna [00:51:51] Well, you know, if you do get stung by a porcupine quill, because, you know, people think that they shoot their quills at you, but they don’t. It’s more like a bee sting where they’ll whip their tail and they’ll like, thwap you and-
Angela [00:52:04] Did you do some Googling, Jenna?
Jenna [00:52:06] No. I just know a lot about porcupines.
Angela [00:52:08] You are full of it.
Jenna [00:52:09] Of course I did some Googling! Of course.
Angela [00:52:13] So what happens if you get wrapped with the porcupine tail and you get quilled? What do you do?
Jenna [00:52:18] A quill becomes more anchored in the skin the longer they’re there.
Angela [00:52:22] Oooh
Jenna [00:52:23] they have these little barbs. Like it’s very common, actually, for dogs to get quilled by a porcupine because they’ll kind of stick their nose down and then they’ll get quilled. The body heat of whoever has been quilled, a human or a dog, it causes them to expand.
Angela [00:52:40] Oh, no.
Jenna [00:52:40] And also, burrow into your skin and they can even migrate, like all the way to your organs.
Angela [00:52:46] Stop it.
Jenna [00:52:47] And you can die. It’s very dangerous. And so you need to go to a doctor or take your dog to a vet to be de-quilled because you don’t want to leave any of the barb in there at all. Sometimes they even have to do like a CT scan to make sure that no quill edges broke off.
Angela [00:53:06] That is fascinating.
Jenna [00:53:08] Yeah. You don’t want to get quilled. And porcupines have up to 30,000 quills.
Angela [00:53:12] Wow.
Jenna [00:53:13] 30,000.
Angela [00:53:14] Wow. I can tell you, Penelope was really chill, and she had the sweetest little face, and she just would hang out and gnaw on her carrot, for the most part.
Jenna [00:53:22] They’re very sweet animals.
Angela [00:53:24] We should also mention a storyline that’s happening in the background of the scene is that Toby says that a lot of this reminds him of a plot of his latest Chad Flenderman novel, A Murder for Framing. All of it. All of Toby’s writing cracks me up. I could have seen, like a whole episode dedicated to his, like, one of his novels.
Jenna [00:53:46] Erin has moved from impressions to dancing.
Angela [00:53:49] What is this dancing? What is this backward scooch with her elbow going up up up up up up. I was like, Ellie, what are you doing? I laughed so hard. I forgot this dance.
Jenna [00:54:00] We got a fan question from Razel L in me and Ellie’s hometown of Saint Louis, Missouri, who said, I’ve always loved Ellie’s dance moves in this episode. Were there specific descriptions of the dance moves in the script, or was this all Ellie? This was all Ellie. I looked in the script to see the scene description because, you know, sometimes they did give us very specific actions. But this is what it said. It said, Dwight, Ryan, Kelly, Cathy and Phyllis are in a dance circle. Erin is in the center. She is dancing up a storm. Her hair is down. Face is a little sweaty, but the dancing was, guys, that was all Ellie.
Angela [00:54:39] Elllie, you get some applause for those dance moves.
Jenna [00:54:42] For sure.
Angela [00:54:42] That backwards elbow thing, I will never forget. And I kind of want to recreate it with you.
Jenna [00:54:48] I have to say, I really loved the detail that Erin’s hair starts up kind of looking nice. And then throughout the episode, it comes down and it gets frizzier and more frazzled. And she gets sweatier as she gets drunker. Angela, do you remember our friend that we have in common- and I won’t say who it is because I won’t embarrass her- but we were all at a party together, and then, like throughout the party, she got drunker and her hair kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger. And I have pictures from the night.
Angela [00:55:17] Yes. Yes, I do. And you know what? If she’s listening, she knows exactly who she is.
Jenna [00:55:22] She knows who she is.
Angela [00:55:23] Oh, my gosh. I love that. Well, I was actually in the scene with Jessica and Andy, you know, Angela standing there with them when Erin does this back scooch dance move and then says by the end of the night, she hopes to see them kiss. And then she squeezes their heads together. I was standing right there. It was so awkward. Oh, my gosh. And it was just as awkward to rewatch it. And when she leaves, that’s when Jessica goes, That’s who you dated? That’s the girl you dated? And Andy’s like, Yeah. I mean, she’s normally not like this. But I thought Eleanor delivered so many great moments in this episode, and that’s one of them.
Jenna [00:56:08] Well, why don’t we take a break? Because next up, Erin is going to tell Andy her Christmas wish. And it’s a doozy.
Angela [00:56:13] It’s so horrible. How do you come back from that?
Jenna [00:56:17] I don’t know.
Angela [00:56:28] We’re back. And Andy goes in the conference room basically to check on Erin. He’s like, Hey, I think you should eat something. And she tells him her holiday wish. And it’s for Jessica to be dead. Like in the ground. With worms coming out of her. And Andy gets really angry and says, You know what? Take it back. That’s my girlfriend. Take it back. And Erin’s like, No. You promised. So what are you, a liar or a murderer? And everyone is witness to this moment, to this argument. And I’m thinking, if you’re Jessica standing right outside the partition there, that glass, you’re watching this. You can probably hear it. How are you not like, you know what? (BLEEP) this. I’m out of here. Like, she wants me dead? I’m not going to stay and hang out at this party.
Jenna [00:57:16] I don’t know. I kind of believe that maybe the music makes it hard to hear around the door and out into the bullpen.
Angela [00:57:23] That’s what you have to believe, right?
Jenna [00:57:26] Yes. But I’m going to tell you what my favorite part of the scene was. It’s the people dancing in the background. Because their dancing starts to kind of slowly disintegrate as the argument escalates. It is so fun. I watched it both with and without sound. I don’t know. I was so tickled by it. Everyone’s just like dancing their heart out. And then slowly, ever so slowly, by the end, they’re just standing there staring. And it’s chef’s kiss.
Angela [00:58:02] Okay, I’ll look for it. Well, now, Phyllis is going to tell Val that she thinks she looks like a princess and says, Don’t listen to what everyone else is saying. It’s one of those backhanded compliments, right?
Jenna [00:58:14] Yes. Yes.
Angela [00:58:15] And this is the scene Ameenah was talking about in our interview, because they gave Phyllis a whole bunch of alts, like in the moment. Right? These one liners to go up to Val and say. And there are a bunch in the bloopers. But what is going to happen is Darryl is going to clock this, right?
Jenna [00:58:33] Mm hmm.
Angela [00:58:34] He’s got to step up to the plate here for her.
Jenna [00:58:37] And he’s going to do the cutest thing. But we’ll get to it.
Angela [00:58:39] Yeah. Jim is now going to approach Andy and Oscar and Jessica and Phyllis, and he’s going to show them a vandalized photo of Cece. He’s trying to set Dwight up. I went to the shooting draft because I was curious to see how it was described. It says, Jim shows them a photo of Cece. It has been defaced with a Sharpie. She has a handlebar mustache, a goatee and devil’s horns. Oscar is incensed. And let me tell you, if you go to the bloopers for this, there is one take where Oscar has a reaction that is so hilarious. Everyone breaks. It reminded me of when he did un-be-liev-a-ble. But I want to put it in our stories because he does this thing, like it won’t play here, but he goes like, Ugh! He had this huge reaction and everyone’s like, What was that?
Jenna [00:59:34] Well, Jim is going to do this really weird thing where, you know, Andy says, If Dwight did this, I’m going to fire him. Like, this is bigger than just Christmas bonuses, to which now Jim has to backpedal and sort of maybe say maybe he did it. He can’t remember. It’s coming back to him. Maybe he was the one who did it. Everyone’s so confused.
Angela [00:59:53] So awkward. Dwight is now going to burst in the conference room in true Dwight fashion. He is going to throw someone’s iPod into the trash. He is done with that Christmas music. He’s going to put his boombox on the table and knock over all the cups and everything. I mean, why couldn’t he just place it on the table? But no, he makes this big statement and hits play. And I loved this scene.
Jenna [01:00:17] This is so great. This is going to set off a big montage of gift giving and there’s going to be a lot of rocking out in the conference room to this song.
Angela [01:00:24] Yeah, a lot of air guitar, very aggressive air guitar.
Jenna [01:00:29] We had a fan question from Matty S in Russellville, Arkansas, who asked, How much did it cost to play Trans-Siberian Orchestra for this episode? I love TSO and loved Dwight jamming out to this song, but the nerdy side of me has to wonder how much it costs to use one of their most popular, well-known songs for this episode. Well, Matty, as you know, this song was Carol of The Bells by Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and it cost us $40,000 to use this song on the show. This song was scripted from the very beginning. It was the only song we wanted. Steve Burgess shared with me, though, that NBC had a deal with The Office where The Office only had to pay 12% of the song, so we technically got this for only $4800.
Angela [01:01:17] Okay.
Jenna [01:01:18] But here’s a fun fact about TSO, which I thought was kind of cool. They were the first major rock band to go straight to performing in theaters and arenas. They never played it like any clubs. They were never anyone’s opening act. They just were like a big deal from the get go.
Angela [01:01:34] Wow.
Jenna [01:01:36] Headliner all the way.
Angela [01:01:37] Very cool. Well, now we’re going to have a montage of all the gifts. Oscar is going to give Kevin a cookie jar. It’s a woman, dark, cascading hair, a sort of strapless gown.
Jenna [01:01:51] Yes. We had a fan question from Jessica in Rochester, New York, who says, Who is that supposed to be? Well, I went to the script, Jessica. It was scripted as Sofia Vergara.
Angela [01:02:03] Yeah, I saw that, too.
Jenna [01:02:05] That is who that is. So I don’t know if we made that or what.
Angela [01:02:09] I think it kind of looks like I’ve seen this cookie jar that is Marilyn Monroe.
Jenna [01:02:15] That’s what it look like to me, too.
Angela [01:02:16] And maybe they painted the hair?
Jenna [01:02:18] Yes.
Angela [01:02:19] Yeah. Meredith is going to give Jim a brochure for vasectomies. Ryan and Kelly give Angela a T-shirt that says, Ask Then Touch. She’s so delighted by this. Meanwhile, the air guitar is getting really heated. It is Nate, Dwight and Creed. Then Gabe joins in. When Creed joins in, it’s so perfect. It’s my favorite thing.
Jenna [01:02:44] So good. So much fun. I could have watched this montage for a longer period of time. I must say.
Angela [01:02:48] Me too. During this montage, there is a fantastic scene, it’s in the deleted scenes, where Meredith makes a play for Robert. It’s so good. He’s just kind of gazing at the Christmas tree, lost in thought. She saddles up next to him and says, I see you’re a little down. And he says, I am. I’m a mess. And Meredith says, How about I fix you some warm milk with some bourbon? And Robert says, Oh, that sounds nice. And then Meredith says, Maybe watch a movie under a blanket? Robert goes, Lovely. Then he kind of comes to and he says, Wait, where is this taking place? And Meredith says, The Murphy bed in my basement. And then Robert is snapped back to reality. He’s like, What is happening to me? He rejects her advances and he says, I sincerely hope you find a sexual partner tonight.
Jenna [01:03:49] And you know what, Robert California only says what he really means. So he really does sincerely hope.
Angela [01:03:54] It’s not going to be him, but he wishes her well.
Jenna [01:03:58] There’s a scene in the annex that is one of my faves. Mindy Kaling just crushes it. Ryan and Kelly are on Kelly’s computer. She has a lot of viruses. You don’t really know what the scene is about. Erin walks in and says, Game on. And oh my gosh. Mindy’s shift as Kelly, where she’s just like, on it.
Angela [01:04:18] Yeah.
Jenna [01:04:19] And what that means is that Kelly is going to take down Jessica. So we’ve got Phyllis, Angela and Oscar.
Angela [01:04:26] She did the thing where you walk up laughing.
Jenna [01:04:29] That’s what I was going to say! And you know what? It was scripted. It says that Kelly approaches, joins in on the laughter, and then says her line, Jessica, did you fart?
Angela [01:04:41] It is like the record scratch. Everyone’s like, Uh? Jenna, we could not get through this. And I thought there’d be some on the bloopers. I know they’re out there somewhere. We kept getting so tickled. But anyway, she’s like, Jessica, did you fart? And then it cuts immediately to a Kelly talking head. And she goes, And that is how it’s done.
Jenna [01:05:03] And I loved that talking head. There was an alt Kelly talking head here where she has a little bit more to say about her strategy of taking someone down. And it goes like this: You don’t want to get too clever with a takedown. When I was younger I would overthink a mean comment, get precious with it. But over time, I’ve learned you just want your insult to be simple, direct, relatable, and then you want to move on.
Angela [01:05:30] She’s not wrong.
Jenna [01:05:32] That’s her full philosophy.
Angela [01:05:34] Well, you know, there’s been a few times you and I have talked about where we’re like, Huh? Jim hasn’t brought up Pam. We haven’t heard anything about Pam and the kids. Where’s Pam and the kids? There was a scene, it’s in deleted scenes, where Jim receives a package. Erin very loudly and drunkly says, Hey, you got a package. Do you want me to put it on your desk? And he says, Sure. Erin throws it across the room and hits Cathy with it. And then it cuts to Jim opening the package. And the package is from Pam. There’s a card that says, Season Greetings on the outside and when you open it on the inside Pam wrote, Cece heard there was a tree at work. Love, Pam. And it is a very cute homemade ornament. This is how the ornament was described: A homemade ornament made out of colored construction paper. It’s a star with dried macaroni and beans and glitter on it. Jim smiles and hangs it on the tree.
Jenna [01:06:33] Well, that would have gone to their tradition of exchanging homemade holiday gifts at the Dunder Mifflin party.
Angela [01:06:41] I know.
Jenna [01:06:41] That’s their little tradition.
Angela [01:06:43] I thought- I missed this scene. We talk about sometimes in deleted scenes, oh, maybe it should have been in, maybe it shouldn’t. I liked it.
Jenna [01:06:50] Erin approaches the bar for more alcohol. But Robert thinks maybe she needs to take a walk. He suggests Oscar take over as bartender, but oh, my gosh. I mean, he he hasn’t tended bar in years. He’s going to need- he needs mortar and pestle, a muddler, some chocolate shavings.
Angela [01:07:06] I know.
Jenna [01:07:06] You know, as a mixologist.
Angela [01:07:09] Oh, I love this moment. I looked in the shooting draft and it said, Oscar looks around excitedly to no one. And then he would have had a talking head where he shared that for a little bit of time, he bartended in the East Village in 1983.
Jenna [01:07:24] Oh, my gosh! Oh, that’s fun back story. Well, Robert and Erin go outside and they’re sort of commiserating over their mutual broken hearts. And Andy is watching this from the conference room window. He’s going to start to get a little jealous. A little worried that maybe something’s happening.
Angela [01:07:44] Yeah. And once again, Mark, who plays Nate, just has the most subtle but awesome comedy bomb that he drops. He just looks at Jessica and asks her how she does her makeup. How long does it take her? These moments with him crack me up so much.
Jenna [01:08:03] And that was not scripted.
Angela [01:08:04] Oh, no way.
Jenna [01:08:05] That was just Nate. Yeah, because in the script, the only note is that Andy is looking out the window.
Angela [01:08:11] So Mark improvised that?
Jenna [01:08:13] Yes, they had to just improvise some chit chat.
Angela [01:08:15] That is amazing. And Eleanor’s response as Jessica was perfect.
Jenna [01:08:20] I know.
Angela [01:08:21] Well, in the bullpen, Toby is really boring Val by talking about Chad Flenderman. I was curious if there was more to this moment right before Darryl walks in. So I went to the script and it says, Toby is by Val, who looks really bored. Toby says, Chad Flenderman’s kryptonite, if you will, is avocado, which is bad news if you’re a private dick in Southern California.
Jenna [01:08:47] Oh, boy.
Angela [01:08:47] But all that made it in was Flenderman’s kryptonite. But that’s actually the full dialogue.
Jenna [01:08:53] His kryptonite is avocado.
Angela [01:08:55] Yes. Very tough if you live in Southern California and you’re a private detective.
Jenna [01:08:59] I’ll tell you what’s hard living in Southern California is if you have a cilantro allergy.
Angela [01:09:05] Oh, it’s in everything.
Jenna [01:09:06] Because California cuisine, they love cilantro. And I’m one of those people where it tastes like soap. It tastes like you just squeezed dish soap all over my food.
Angela [01:09:15] Yeah.
Jenna [01:09:16] And I’m constantly confused, like, why does everyone in California like this flavor? Turns out, you know, not everyone tastes it that way, but yeah.
Angela [01:09:24] It tastes like raw fish to me.
Jenna [01:09:27] Is that what cilantro tastes like?
Angela [01:09:28] To me it does. And I don’t. I don’t care for it. It’s not a type of raw fish I’m enjoying.
Jenna [01:09:33] Lady, maybe you have the allergy.
Angela [01:09:36] Maybe I do and I just didn’t know. I just don’t like the taste of it.
Jenna [01:09:39] I think it tastes like dish soap, but.
Angela [01:09:41] There you go.
Jenna [01:09:42] Anyway.
Angela [01:09:43] Well, Darryl has made a very dashing gesture here. He has now arrived in a full tuxedo.
Jenna [01:09:51] This is a very Jim move. Jim would do this. Right?
Angela [01:09:55] OG Jim?
Jenna [01:09:56] That’s right. Romance.
Angela [01:09:58] Well, Val is pleased. She’s like, she’s feeling it. The party is wrapping up. Let’s all remember, it’s been going on since 11 a.m.. It is done. Meredith is on the floor. Jessica’s like, I’m going to go home. Andy’s got to pile Meredith into the van, and Robert is giving Erin a ride home.
Jenna [01:10:17] Well, when Andy goes to put his bike in the back of the van, a ton of stuff falls out. Now, I just want to remind you, this is the same van that was struck by lightning the week before and had caught on fire
Angela [01:10:29] With all this stuff in it.
Jenna [01:10:31] They managed to repair it quickly enough that it was usable for this episode. Here is how the back of the van was described in the script: Andy pushes his bike in, knocking out a sack of topsoil, a baby bassinet filled with dirty beanie babies, the top rack of a dishwasher, a big tank of helium, and a picket sign that says Justice for Caylee. These are the things that were scripted to be in the back of Meredith’s van that she is saying are her treasures. Her treasures!
Angela [01:11:02] Kate Flannery is so off the charts amazing in these scenes. I just loved her when she was like, My stuff! She’s, like, so pissed off.
Jenna [01:11:12] It’s true. We had a fan question from Dara P in Grand Haven, Michigan, who wanted to know if Meredith’s tantrum was scripted because she thought it was just perfect. I will say it was a combination of scripted and improvised.
Angela [01:11:26] Yep. We should say the Jim and Dwight storyline is wrapping up with the fact that Andy tells Jim he’s calling off the whole prank thing and one of them getting each other’s Christmas bonus. And Andy’s like, I’ll tell Dwight. And Jim’s like, No, no, no, I’ll. I’ll tell him. I’ll tell him. And of course, he never does. So Dwight continues to try to set up Jim by pranking himself. He’s written Idiot on his forehead.
Jenna [01:11:51] And now he’s spray painting Jim is awesome onto his own car.
Angela [01:11:55] That’s right. And Jim has his drunk pranky moment where he’s like, Oh, yeah, I was supposed to tell Dwight something. Hmm. After the scene, there was one more Dwight trying to set up Jim prank. It’s in deleted scenes. Dwight explains that he got this bucket, and he put all kinds of disgusting stuff in the bucket. Expired food, raw eggs, just gross stuff. He balances the bucket on the door coming out of the kitchen into the bullpen, waiting for Jim to walk under it and get doused. But instead of Jim, it’s Cathy! Cathy walks under it!
Jenna [01:12:31] Oh no!
Angela [01:12:33] And we filmed it. And this bucket of goo falls onto Lindsay and it got cut! Can you imagine? She did this gross bucket stunt and then it got cut from the episode.
Jenna [01:12:47] She could commiserate with Kate because Kate would do a lot of that kind of crazy physical comedy stuff, and then it wouldn’t get in the episode.
Angela [01:12:56] Yeah. In this episode, Cathy got hit with a package and she got a bucket of goo dumped on her. But Jenna, now that I’m thinking of it, maybe that explains the skirt. Maybe that character doesn’t get really nice wardrobe if they’re going to get a bucket of goo dumped on them.
Jenna [01:13:11] Maybe you’re right. This episode ends with Andy following Robert and Erin home.
Angela [01:13:17] Yeah.
Jenna [01:13:18] And kind of spying on them. And Meredith is like, Ohhh. Uh huhh.
Angela [01:13:21] And he’s like, Shut your drunk hole, Meredith.
Jenna [01:13:25] Mm hmm. But as it turns out, Robert is truly just giving Erin a ride home. He’s actually kind of taking a bit of a fatherly approach with her in the same way that Michael did.
Angela [01:13:36] Yeah, He’s like, Take some aspirin, drink a lot of water. You’re going to be okay.
Jenna [01:13:41] Yeah. But I think what’s really revealed here is that maybe Andy still has a little interest there.
Angela [01:13:48] Yeah.
Jenna [01:13:49] And that’s going to come out in a future episode.
Angela [01:13:52] Oh, yeah.
Jenna [01:13:53] Well, guys, there you go. That’s Christmas Wishes!
Angela [01:13:56] Christmas Wishes. What’s your Christmas wish this year, Jenna?
Jenna [01:14:00] To have a functional shoulder.
Angela [01:14:01] Oh, lady! You will. You will. You’re doing all the things. It’s going to heal. It is.
Jenna [01:14:09] I know. I would just love to put my hair in a ponytail right on top of my head again. That’s when I know I’m at 100%. But listen, a big thank you to Steve Burgess for all his insider info and just a ginormous thank you and hug and gratitude to Ameenah Kaplan for joining us for an interview on this one.
Angela [01:14:29] Absolutely. Ameenah, you made our day. And we hope you guys all have a great day and a great rest of the week. And we’ll see you next week!
Jenna [01:14:37] See you then! Thank you for listening to Office Ladies. Office Ladies is produced by Earwolf, Jenna Fischer, and Angela Kinsey. Our senior producer is Cassi Jerkins. Our in-studio engineer is Sam Kieffer. Our editing and mixing engineer is Jordan Duffy. And our associate producer is Aynsley Bubbico.
Angela [01:14:58] 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”.