Jenna Fischer of THE OFFICE: Before They Were Tivo'd : Give Me My Remote

Before They Were Tivo’d: THE OFFICE’s Jenna Fischer

July 30, 2009 by  

Welcome to the first installment of ‘Before They Were Tivo’d’ – a new feature on in which we look back at the roles of some of our favorite TV stars…before they were our favorite TV stars. Today, we’re going to check out what Jenna Fischer was doing before she was wooing Jim Halpert (and us) as Pam Beesly on “The Office”.

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When I discovered GMMR in 2006, it was because of The Office. Like so many who discovered the Dunder Mifflin team while filling their video iPods to capacity, I was insatiable in my thirst for information about the cast and crew of this addictive new show. By searching out other fans online, I felt like we were all in on a giant secret, one that we could not wait to share with our friends, neighbors, and coworkers.

Much like the infatuation that we feel toward a new crush, viewers can become very territorial about their favorite characters, and the people who bring them to life. Outside of Steve Carell, it was easy to pretend that the talented men and women who inhabited this unique workplace were “overnight successes.” In truth, most of Hollywood’s most recognizable faces have passed through our HDTVs in far less prominent roles.

In the weeks ahead, I will be traveling down memory lane to the parts that helped pave the way to stardom for some of GMMR’s favorites. In addition to providing a nostalgic jolt to their fans, I am curious to see how each actor’s onscreen presence has evolved. Are there similarities between their early work and the higher paying gigs they landed in subsequent years? Did our favorite comedic actors fare well in dramatic roles, and vice versa? I have a few candidates in mind, but I would love to hear your feedback about who to tackle in the coming weeks.

Jenna Fischer is a gifted comedic actress, who made me fall in love with Pam Beesly the moment she fell from a Chili’s bar stool in “The Dundies.” As one half of America’s favorite TV love story, and with a host of film roles to choose from, Fischer’s star in Hollywood is ascending rapidly. With a whirlwind of buzz around her, this St. Louis native is keenly aware of the hard work that led to her newfound fame.

In 2001, just as Ricky Gervais was opening “The Office” for business, Jenna appeared in two episodes of Judd Apatow’s “Undeclared”. Like its predecessor, the ratings-challenged cult favorite “Freaks & Geeks”, “Undeclared” was filled with members of Apatow’s troupe of talented young actors, such as Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, and Jay Baruchel. In this all too brief scene from the series’ pilot, Baruchel’s character asks Fischer (officially billed as “Sorority Girl” in the credits) to attend a dorm party:

While there was no inkling of Pam Beesly in that exchange, I think Jenna would have been a great addition to the cast of Mean Girls or Clueless!

Thankfully, Judd Apatow saw the star potential in Ms. Fischer after that 16 second scene, and brought her back for the first 43 seconds of episode 5. Her character was even given a first name to honor the occasion. Say hello to Betty, the latest conquest of Australian playboy Lloyd Haythe:

This might be a stretch, but I see glimmers of the naivety and innocence that Fischer brought to her role as Darlene Madison in Apatow’s 2007 film “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.” In a short scene, the audience was asked to be empathetic towards Betty, just after an illicit one night stand. If Betty is unlikable or forgettable, the remainder of the episode is rendered pointless. Thankfully, Judd Apatow is a good judge of talent.

Are we to thank him for bringing us Jenna Fischer? Well, I think Jenna had a little say into the hard work she put in to make it to where she is today.

If you are curious about how volatile life can be for a young actor in Los Angeles, track down Jenna’s interviews with NPR’s Fresh Air from June 2008 and The Sound of Young America from March 2009. In addition to some memorable stories, Fischer speaks candidly about the resolve it took for her to pursue her dreams. They’re well worth the listen. And to learn even more about Jenna’s path to success be sure to read “The Acting Advice Blog” which Jenna wrote as an entry on her MySpace blog.

Next time on “Before They Were Tivo’d”: Rainn Wilson meets the Fisher family, when Arthur Martin joins the unforgettable cast of HBO’s “”Six Feet Under”.

Please leave your suggestions for future installments in the comments section. Let me know who you want to see before they were TiVo’d!

Erik’s summer is being wasted with marathons of “The Next Food Network Star” and MTV’s “16 & Pregnant”. After weeks of evaluating risotto recipes and dishonest baby daddies, he is eager to get back to writing about “House” and “Parks & Recreation” for GMMR. Faced with the daunting task of growing his Twitter empire (@FreelanceErik), Erik has vowed to name a new goldfish after his 100th follower. He’ll even feed it!


8 Responses to “Before They Were Tivo’d: THE OFFICE’s Jenna Fischer”

  1. Jenn on July 30th, 2009 4:25 pm

    mmm LOVE this, thanks so much for giving us a bit of insight into the lovely miss fischer’s early life.. You may think about mentioning her name change as well 😉

    Are we going to see a little John Krasinski action as well?

  2. Erik on July 31st, 2009 1:12 am

    Jenn: Thanks for your feedback. The other half of JAM has a few clips of his own floating around the web, and you’ll be seeing another side of Mr. Krasinski in the weeks to come. After the Rainn Wilson feature, I have a few thoughts about another one of Kath’s TV boyfriends. You might find yourself thinking about him while visiting your local Subway…

  3. Give Me My Remote on July 31st, 2009 1:18 am

    Hmm…Subway boy is exactly who I was thinking of too.

  4. Erik on July 31st, 2009 1:32 am

    I don’t think anyone ever TiVo’d Sara Rue, so I had to look to her supporting cast!

  5. Jen on July 31st, 2009 1:33 am

    Yes, Erik is back! After Subway boy, how about a long history of the lovely Mr. Laurie?

  6. JennyL on July 31st, 2009 8:40 am

    Very fun! Love that you included clips. Can’t wait for more!

  7. Erik on September 16th, 2009 10:07 pm

    Write a piece about Zachary Levi? Check.
    Get lost looking for YouTube clips of Rainn Wilson? Check.

    Can Hugh Laurie be far behind? Stay tuned…

  8. Nick D on October 16th, 2009 2:59 pm

    Hey I was looking at your website and it looks like your into Jenna Fischer, were featuring her in our new edition of Shape Magazine if you want check it out: