EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with the Stars of “The Office”
January 17, 2006 by Kath Skerry
Today is a big day for Give Me My Remote. Today marks what we hope to be the first of many exclusive interviews with the stars of your favorite TV shows. What makes this event extra special for me personally is that these actors happen to be from one of my favorite TV shows, The Office.
First off, if you aren’t watching The Office, then you are missing out of one of the smartest and funniest shows on TV today. This ensemble cast, lead by Golden Globe Winner Steve Carrell (The 40 year old Virgin), brings us a unique and hilarious glimpse into the world of the often mundane corporate America.
Two of the standout characters on The Office are Pam Beesely, the warm hearted office receptionist, and Jim Halpert, the young sales rep with an unrequited crush on his co-worker Pam. Fans of The Office have really responded to the office flirtation and obvious unspoken connection between Pam and Jim; a relationship which brings depth and warmth to this hysterical sitcom.
Jenna Fischer, who portrays Pam, and John Krasinski, who plays Jim, were kind enough to grant Give Me My Remote an exclusive interview. Jenna and John give us a behind the scenes look at one of today’s hit shows, as well a little insight into their characters. And we also get to know a little more about Jenna and John, off-camera.
On a personal note, I wanted to take a moment to thank Jenna and John for taking the time to answer our questions. It’s not often you find actors so accessible to their fans. And as a true fan of the show, it’s been a special experience connecting directly with the actors I watch on TV every week. Enjoy!
Give Me My Remote (GMMR): We all know that Pam and Jim are based on the characters Dawn and Tim from the BBC version of The Office. What characteristics of Dawn and Tim, if any, did you consciously bring to your characters?
JENNA: I love the British version of the show and I think that Lucy Davis is just brilliant as Dawn. I love how honest she is in her performance. That was an inspiration. I’ve tried very hard to make Pam her own woman. There are similarities, sure, because the premise of our show is based on the British version. I’m excited because I feel like the writers have done a great job of writing these characters for the American actors and giving us unique qualities that are different from the British version.
JOHN: Well, after taking a very deep breath to calm my nerves, I tried to understand Jim’s situation first and foremost. Martin Freeman did a perfect job, there’s no other way to say it. So I tried to focus less on the things he did that made me laugh and pay more attention to what would someone do if faced with the situation that Jim is in. Unrequited love can be incredibly painful and the office jokester is lots of fun. So I had plenty to start with.
GMMR: Not sure if you’ve heard, but Pam and Jim fans have created a new moniker for the couple, a la Bennifer and Brangelina. Your characters are affectionately known as “Jam”. So tell us, are the writers responding to the buzz that Jam is getting? Are the storylines shifting to focus more on this relationship?
JOHN: I think the relationship in the office has been an interesting story to follow from the beginning. I can’t give the writers enough credit for how incredibly realistic they have been with this storyline. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to balance and they have dealt with it with such care and subtlety it’s been amazing. And I think the reason for seeing more and more of the relationship on screen is that the documentary film crew in the show are now aware of the love interest and therefore paying more attention with the cameras.
JENNA: We try to keep it interesting. Not too much Jam, not too little. I’m rooting for them to get together just like everyone else. But I try to be patient. I want it to be realistic which means I think it will take awhile.
GMMR: We know that the “ah’s” and “um’s” are scripted, but what about all the little side glances at the camera when you are in the background of a scene. Or when your characters are caught in those “damn I forgot the camera was there” moments. Jim seems to have quite a few of these.
JENNA: Many of those are scripted as well. As we rehearse, we find little moments that we think are authentic to our characters and we pitch the idea to the director. For example, if Dwight is being an ass, it is pretty certain that Jim and Pam will share a look about it. As far as the “damn I forgot about the camera” moments. Many of the scenes are scripted as“Spy Shots”. That means that the characters don’t know they are being filmed. We all act differently when we know we are being filmed or when we don’t. If they want us to realize we’ve been caught on camera in a sensitive moment, they will put that in the script too.
JOHN: Yup, the writers strike again. Most of those looks are written into the script. But it is a lot of fun to play around with them. They somehow still feel as though we, the characters, organically found the moment. And when there is that opportunity to throw an impromptu look to the camera and it works, it’s exciting. I’m lucky to have a few of them in every episode.
GMMR: What has been your favorite on-screen and off-screen moments so far?
JENNA: My favorite on-screen moment has to be when John and I filmed our dinner scene on the roof during The Client. There was a very small crew up on the roof and they had the cameras really far away. There was a warm breeze and Rainn and Brian were off in the distance setting off really lame fireworks. The whole thing just felt magical. I also love anytime I get to do a party planning scene. Angela, Phyllis and Kate are all so funny. We laugh a lot during those scenes. They are so subtle and passive/aggressive. I love it! My favorite off-screen moment is probably our weekly viewing parties. We have such a great time watching the show together. We cheer for the writer and congratulate cast members for particularly funny bits in the show. Oh, runner-up for best off-screen moment would be how much John made us all laugh when we were filming The Fire. We had to stand outside in the heat for hours but he made us laugh by doing imitations of Angela getting carried away by a giant bug. It was pretty great.
JOHN: Wow. Great question. I’d have to say off the top of my head, my favorite on screen moments both happened in the ‘Booze Cruise’ episode. Shooting those scenes with Jenna and Steve was nothing short of an honor. I had such a blast working on such beautiful scenes with those two.
Off screen, my favorite moments have definitely been just sitting around with the cast on the set. Man, it’s been such a blast to not only work with these people, but to be able to hang out and make up ridiculous bits and jokes? I mean, it’s the best!
JENNA: I have to add that scene from Booze Cruise with John. That was amazing. I agree. And, I watched John and Steve shoot their scene on the Booze Cruise and it made me cry. It was beautiful.
GMMR: Who from The Office is the funniest person in real life, when the cameras stop rolling?
JENNA: That is an interesting question. Steve is the funniest person to do a scene with. He makes me laugh until I cry quite often. I am always ruining takes when I film with Steve. John is the funniest on set. He tells stories and entertains the cast and crew the most I think. Rainn is funniest at a party. He’s really smart and quick-witted. Paul, Mindy and B.J. are also super-funny. Especially if you put them in a group and get them going. I am a good laugher….which is perfect because these guys have me laughing all the time.
JOHN: Well, Steve is like a loaded gun. If he chooses to, he has the capability to knock you on the ground laughing. It’s amazing! But as I was saying before, each cast member brings their own vibe and antics to the set. You’re constantly surrounded by fun loving people who can make you laugh in their own way. For instance, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard playing video games with Brian, who plays Kevin.
JENNA: Oh yeah. Watching John and Brian play video games is the best.
GMMR: We know that BJ Novak is a writer for the show. Do any of the other actors have any influence on the storyline?
JOHN: I think one of the coolest things about the job is the level of trust we have for each other. The actors fully trust that the writers will write amazing episodes, and the writers trust that the actors will follow their instincts with the characters. So we’re often asked our opinions on what we think of a joke or a moment. Is it funny? Is it believable? What do we think should happen? That’s a very rare environment for actors to be in. It’s great!
JENNA: The actors are always pitching little ideas and jokes but I think the writers mostly just smile and nod. They are pretty amazing and don’t need our help. Sometimes they come to us and ask what we think our character would do in a certain situation. I love that. And, Mindy (who plays Kelly) and Paul (who plays Toby) are writers for the show too.
GMMR: Jenna, why do you think Pam stays with Roy? After a three year engagement, many women might have cut their losses and moved on.
JENNA: Pam has been with Roy for over 10 years. They were high school sweethearts. Roy is really the only boyfriend Pam has ever had. He is secure and trustworthy and very, very, predictable. Pam likes these things. That is a lot of history to just throw away. When I try to understand why she doesn’t break up with Roy, I always imagine what her life must be like outside of the office. She is tight with Roy’s family and he is tight with hers. Roy goes to her Dad’s house to help fix things while Pam and her Mom go shopping at the outlet mall. They probably BBQ with the family on the weekends. Roy’s brother has a kid that Pam is really close to and who calls her Aunt Pam. Stuff like that. I just keep waiting for Pam to get the courage to be uncertain about things. I want her to pursue her passion of illustrating and to realize that she deserves more than just reliability from a relationship.
GMMR: John, our readers are dying to know…what did Jim write in the card to Pam, and what’s the significance of the pencil?
JOHN: Wow. That was a cool scene. I don’t think I can tell you exactly what was written on the card. But I will say that when Jim said “X-mas is the time to tell people how you really feel”… I think he meant that! And the pencil… That’s funny. That was a mini golf pencil that Pam threw at Jim (in jest). I guess Pam’s a sore loser.
GMMR: Can you tell us a little something about what it was like to film the scene on the deck in ep “The Booze Cruise”? It was a unique TV experience to have 27 seconds of silence. What kind of direction did you both receive? It was some fantastic acting.
JENNA: Thanks! We talked with the director (Ken Kwapis) and our producer (Greg Daniels) about all of the things you can say to a person without really speaking. That was sort of my motivation behind the scene. I don’t really remember what I said in that scene. The running thought in my mind was, “If you kiss me right now, I’m not going to stop you.” The silence didn’t feel like silence because we were communicating the whole time.
JOHN: That was just awesome. I don’t think either of us knew how that was going to play. And the director didn’t either. I think all understood what it had to mean for both of them and then just let it fly. That 27 seconds was all real. It just took that long for the moment to pass them by. So cool! And, I think, so realistic.
GMMR: Jenna, we’ve heard a little bit about your movie LolliLove. What can you tell us about it, and when can we expect to see it?
JENNA: LolliLove is a movie that I wrote and directed a few years ago and it stars me and my real-life husband. It is a mockumentary about a wealthy Los Angeles couple who start a charity to help the homeless. It is a satire about those “charity” types who are really all about getting attention for themselves. I based it on some personal experiences I had while doing charity work when I first moved to Los Angeles. In the movie, me and my husband play “ourselves” and use our real names. We also used our real home movies, wedding video and photographs to create a very realistic documentary style for the film. The movie was made for a VERY low budget but it was a lot of fun. It comes out on DVD in March 2006. It is being released by Troma Films and hopefully it will be available on Netflix and Amazon. We have tons of behind-the scenes extras on the DVD which are actually pretty cool.
GMMR: OK Jenna, how do I ask this one? Ok, we’ve all seen pics of you on the red carpet and in magazines, and you are obviously beautiful. Do you ever think Pam will glam it up a bit?
JENNA: I think it’s the hair. I mean, it’s not like they put makeup on me to look bad, they just don’t put much on. My “red carpet” look is me after 90 minutes of professional hair and makeup. The way I look on The Office is what I look like most of my life when grocery shopping or going to the movies – minus the hair. I do think my hair looks better in real life. We talk about Pam’s “look” a lot. You might see her wear her hair in a headband in an upcoming episode. We discussed that for a few weeks before deciding it was okay. It’s funny…headband was okay but no ponytails. They thought I looked too good in a ponytail.
GMMR: John, rumor has it that you are writing the screenplay for the film version of David Foster Wallace’s “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men”. How’s that coming along? Is there a part for you in the film?
JOHN: Wow! It’s going great. Thanks for asking! It’s been a really fun process and I’m sure I have plenty left to learn, but I’m really proud of it. It’s a bit nerve wracking adapting an author that you admire so much. If you haven’t read any of his stuff, I highly suggest it. He’s incredible. I hope I do him even the slightest bit of justice with this movie.
GMMR: I have to ask you John…how much sh*t did you catch from your friends in Boston about being named one of People’s Most Sexiest Men?
JOHN: HAHAHA!!! How did you know? It was the most amazing transformation in my friends. At first, they were just plain happy for me. I have the most unbelievably supportive group of friends. Then, once the cat was out of the bag, the hits started coming. And in the most hilarious ways too. Always subtle. (Playing basketball) “Ok, next point wins. You need a touch up on your makeup before we play?” (At a bar, when there is a huge crowd waiting for a drink) “Wow, I thought the bartender would have seen you’re sexiness and come over by now. Looks like you have a ways to go.”
GMMR: Jenna, you’ve really connected with your fans through your MySpace account. It’s rare for fans to have such access to actors from their favorite shows. Tell us about how and why you got involved with MySpace? And do you really update your MySpace account while on set?
JENNA: B.J. Novak (who plays Ryan the Temp) got me started. I decided to start a page as Pam and blog about the show. It has been fun to put up behind-the-scenes photos and give fans inside trivia. A bunch of us are doing it now. Angela, Kevin, Toby and Meredith all have pages. One of our production assistants has a page and our writing assistant has one too. It’s fun. We are all total geeks about our own show. We love it as much as the fans do. It’s a very special place to work. And, yes, I really do update my account while on set. We have working computers with internet at our desks. When we have to be in the background of a scene it gives me something to do. I used to write people back if they sent me a message but that has been too hard to keep up so I started writing Frequently Asked Questions as part of my blog.
GMMR: Ok, I can not finish this interview John without asking….I live in Brookline and work in Newton (John’s hometown) – so next time you are home, I think I have to buy you a beer. I mean, it’s only fair. You took your time to answer my questions. You up for it? (ed. I will stop at nothing to meet this boy, or at least get him to call me)
JOHN: I’ll meet you at the Cask and Flagon fah shoa, dude.
Well that’s it!! Thanks again to Jenna and John….you both are so fantastic!!
Want to chat about the interview? The Office? Or any of your favorite shows? Head over to the GMMR forums and meet your fellow TV addicts.
This interview would not be possible without the help and support of FS at Fatback and Collards (www.fatbackandcollards.com). If you haven’t checked out his site, be prepared to laugh. Also, thanks to all of those who submitted questions via email and the GMMR forums, especially tvdiva, sarcasmo,onxypurr, gregm, kog and tvgirl13.