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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Interview with Rainn Wilson and Greg Daniels of The Office

by Jennifer Squires Biller

The Office returns with the first of six new episodes on April 10 (YAY!), and to celebrate I recently had the chance to chat with Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute) and executive producer Greg Daniels.

The two were kind enough to do a conference call with reporters from across the country. The interview was EXTREMELY long, as reporters from TV Guide, E!Online and Access Hollywood and a plethora of other media outlets took turns asking every question an Office fan could possibly conjure. I’ve posted some of the most interesting tidbits.

The result is an interesting read with plenty of scoop. For example, did you know that Wilson used to work in an office? Funny coincidence, no?

I got Daniels to spill on a possible return for Karen. The two also gave their thoughts on the Office fan convention earlier this year and some future storyline tidbits that are coming up. For those of you who don’t like spoilers, proceed cautiously. There are a few light ones peppered throughout the interview.

Here are the highlights:

Jennifer Biller: Hi guys - love the show.

Greg Daniels: Thanks!

Jennifer Biller: I guess this question is for Greg, unless Rainn, you know some inside scoop. My readers love Karen. Will she be making any upcoming appearances in the next six episodes or beyond that?

Rainn Wilson: Well I think that she’s - yes, she’s coming back as Dwight’s love interest for the finale, right? Yeah.

Jennifer Biller: I love it.

Rainn Wilson: Please write that in. Thank you.

Greg Daniels: I think she’s fantastic, too. And we’ll see what happens. We had a nice deal with the people that did the show that she’s currently on to use her in the beginning of this season. And I think we have one more ability to use her as part of this arrangement that they made.

Question: I’ve been looking forward to this dinner party (episode on April 10.) It’s been about four months now when I think I first heard about it. Can you give us clues to anything in the episode?

Greg Daniels: Well, that’s a very kind of a charged situation where Michael has been asking Pam and Jim to come have dinner with him and Jan over and over, and over again. And he finally manages this, through this kind of scam, to destroy all their excuses. And it just happens to be after the previous episode, which is when he went to New York to try and help Jan with her deposition, and he kind of blew her wrongful termination lawsuit. So there’s a lot of tension between them in that episode. And coming up we have some episodes that follow off on that. Some of them involve the character of Ryan, whose website initiative started the season off and is kind of crumbling underneath him and has gotten, for some reason, infested with sexual predators. And we have episodes coming up where Dwight and Michael are going to have joined Ryan in some of his club-hopping New York partying and try to get involved in his life a little bit more. But there’s some cool, weird things happening that I can’t talk about and, you’ll just have to see it to truly enjoy all the twists and turns.

Q: Have you ever worked in an office when the acting work got thin? And if so, what kind of office worker were you? Were you a Dwight or a Jim, or a Ryan, or what?

Rainn Wilson: I’ve worked in many offices before, in my New York days of being a starving actor. I worked in a major New York charity as Assistant Office Manager and Special Events Coordinator. And I was also…

Greg Daniels: Assistant to the Officer Manager and Special Events Coordinator or Assistant Office Manager?

Rainn Wilson: Thanks, Greg. That was a good setup. And then I was also a receptionist from the Pam Beesly mold at Kirshenbaum, Bond & Partners, an advertising agency in New York.

Q: So you were the office Pam?

Rainn Wilson: I was Pam… I guess I was most like a Jim because my heart really wasn’t into it. But I was also very capable which is a lot like Jim, too. But I guess I’m proud of the fact that in my past I was actually a really good waiter. I was an excellent waiter. Like I could have really gone somewhere as a waiter. And I was pretty decent in my office work, too. I was not very good at Marine Supply delivery, which I did for about eight months at (Ballard Marine Supply & Hardware). I got in a couple car accidents and kept losing stuff.

Q: Is there going to be any love interest for Dwight that will be introduced right now because right now Angela has kind of moved on, or she’s trying to move on, and it looks like it’s just breaking Dwight’s heart. Do you think that he’ll have a love interest come in and try to make Angela jealous?

Greg Daniels:
(To Rainn) Well, do you remember in your audition when you improv’d some of his ex-girlfriends? Because we’ve always had that on the board and that, it's part of his character that he has some exes out there.

Rainn Wilson: Yes, I improvised in the audition for the pilot. We had an improvisation of me and Jenna, and I told her that I had an ex-girlfriend who was stationed in Kuwait City, you know, as a reservist. So I don’t know if that is coming into play, but ex-girlfriends - yeah. I think we’ll be seeing a lot more sides - a lot more facets of Dwight when it comes to dating and women. I want to say that this is something that I love about this show is that, every season, - even every couple of episodes - there’s always some new aspect of Dwight that Greg and the writers want to explore. And that’s such a rare thing, you know. So many shows have their comic sidekick character and they do XY and Z. But I get emotional stories and comedic stories, and family stories, and lots of different textures. And I really appreciate getting to do that as an actor.

Q: (Are there) any plans or at least any intention to have the characters see the documentary that’s been filming in their office for the last three years, and what kind of reactions do you think that would have?

Greg Daniels: I think it’s great. We have talked about it. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I definitely love it as a big kind of game-changing story move. But, hopefully when we do press that nuclear button, it’ll be prepared for and people will think it’s worth it. Well, there’s certain things that we have, like in our back pockets, and I feel like if we ever got to a place where we were discussing storylines and we just had nothing, then we would say all right.

Rainn Wilson: I think it’s hard. I’m just speculating here because I know nothing about those conversations. But I think once they see the documentary and you kind of deal with the fallout of that, I don’t know how much longer you can then continue storylines, you know, with all the characters kind of being in the public eye and stuff like that.

Q: I’ve been lucky enough to sit through the Scranton convention, and I was curious. A lot of the actors have said that they had this great adrenaline rush and the writers coming back from that convention and were really kind of gung-ho. And then all of a sudden the strike hit at the exact same time. So, were you able to kind of recapture that at all when you guys got back? Is there anything from the convention, from being in Scranton that you’re going to add?

Greg Daniels: Sure. The convention was very fun, and it was a real wonderful experience to see how many thousands of fans came from all over the world and there were people from Ireland and Oregon. People came from a really great distance. And this was my first time in Scranton, although we’ve done so much research on the Internet. And I was really struck by how beautiful Scranton is, which is not what we really have been portraying, and there’s a lot of weird kind of Scranton-specific things that we saw, that will I’m sure come into different episodes. And the entire writing staff was there, and they all had different experiences driving around and going to Scranton bars and meeting the policewomen. So I think it was very good for the creativity of everybody here.

Rainn Wilson: Really it’s a lovely town. Like there are big old buildings, 100 years old, all over the downtown, big brick buildings that have a really cool industrial look and a lot of iron work. And stuff like that. And there are beautiful hills all around Scranton. It’s like down in this little valley, and there’s lovely trees and hills all over the place. A very green city.

Q: Greg, do you have a favorite Office character that you like to write stories for? And I know it’s kind of awkward with Rainn right here, but you can be candid. Is there anybody that you really enjoy writing stories for?

Greg Daniels: Well I do love the Dwight character, I have to say - and especially writing the Talking Heads, you know, the interview segments with Dwight… There is something of that character that I really respond to. There was this special on the Discovery Channel, a couple of weeks ago, which I spent an hour taking notes on and being really fascinated by, which was the ten greatest threats to the world, from robots that come alive to the mega volcano, to new diseases and everything. And it was so great. And eventually this will filter its way into Dwight’s brain, I think.

Q: Those talking heads segments, are those mostly scripted or is it kind of half scripted, half improvised?

Greg Daniels: There’s usually a script to start from. And then the directors ask questions. And some of the actors, like Rainn, for example, will sometimes write stuff on his own and come in with them.

Rainn Wilson: Mostly, it’s just a wealth of riches, and the writing is so good and so funny. There’s so many times I go in, and I can’t imagine even changing a word. It’s just, you know, perfect…

Greg Daniels: And yet you do.

Rainn Wilson: Recently, I’ve just been taking to saying them because they’re just so spot on and you can’t really improve on it. I think the writers would like to write for Creed a lot more. I think - my sense is that, you know, Creed works best in some little doses here and there. But I think the writers really get off on how crazy that man’s brain is.

Q: Is that a fine line for you to walk because if you make Dwight too ridiculous, then the comedy kind of falls apart? We have to believe that he is employable, too.

Rainn Wilson: Yeah, just the other day I was shooting a scene with Steve. All I had to do was run into Steve’s office, and then I ran into Steve’s office - into Michael Scott’s office as Dwight. And I turned to Steve, and I was like wow, I just ran into your office like I was a cartoon character. And I was like why am I doing that? This is a documentary about a guy who works in an office.

Greg Daniels: I’ll tell you one thing, though…I was in the other room listening with all the writers, and I don’t know exactly at which run, but (Jen Salata) said, "Oh my god, Rainn just did the funniest run." And she was saying that was her favorite part of the whole scene.

Rainn Wilson: And that’s probably the one you’ll use. But, yeah, we always do that. We kind of check in with each other, and we’ll go oh right, we’re not doing a comedy. Like let’s tone down the broadness here and make it more real. And of course, the editors always use the broadest takes that we ever do.

Greg Daniels: Well the thing is, when you look at a real office, once you get to know the people who are in the office, you realize how bizarre they can be. I think that it certainly has been my experience. I remember finding out about these women that used to work with my mom who were also bikers. And you just couldn’t write some of the stuff that they were doing because it would just seem too implausible.

Q: Greg, you made a couple of interesting tweaks for this season - one, putting Jim and Pam back together. Did you know that that was what you were going to do all along when you broke them up? And the other one is bringing in Ryan as a new irritant. Were those also looking to the long haul?

Greg Daniels: Well I don’t really see much more than about a half a season ahead. That’s how far the headlights go on this bus. Jim and Pam never were together before. This is the first time that they’ve gotten together. They were almost together. And, certainly we didn’t have it planned in Season One, what was going to happen to them. I know what’s going to happen to them for the next maybe ten episodes. But that’s about as far as I can see. (As for Ryan) I thought of that some time in Season Three. He seems like a funny statement about corporate America, just how the guy with a business school degree manages to rise.

Q: Is there any hope for Dwight and Angela? Could there be reconciliation?

Greg Daniels: Where there’s life, there’s hope.

Q: A Star Trek actor once told me that the best part of having his own action figure is that he could play with himself in public. What do you think of having your own bobblehead? Is it great, is it surreal, what?

Rainn Wilson: Can I use that line? I walked by the NBC store in New York, and there’s a wall of Dwight bobbleheads in the windows. It’s the number one selling thing in the history of NBC Universal merchandising. And it’s pretty crazy. I feel like Mr. Potato Head, you know. I think in the future I will be known not for the character of Dwight, but just for the bobblehead. And I think, in the far future humanity -- like ten thousand years from now – they’ll uncover Dwight bobbleheads and think that I was a great leader of men.

15 comments:

big tuna said...

Awesome interview. Thanks. I can't wait until the dinner party episode. It sounds so funny.

steph in LA said...

I would love to see a reservist show up as Dwight's ex. That would be hilarious.

obxrulz said...

Great questions. Thanks for sharing.

Emily said...

I love Rainn and Greg. The Office is the best comedy on TV. Yes, Ben Silverman, I'm talking to you. Great interview...

Jenny said...

I agree with what Rainn said about the show trying to keep the comedy real. I think too often that Michael Scott is so over-the-top that no one would ever keep him employed. I wish they'd scale back his ridiculous behavior from time to time. HE's funny and they don't need to make him so ridiculous.

Tube Talk Addict said...

I can't wait to see some Pam Jim date scenes. Even if it is at Michael's dinner party. :)

Thanks for posting all these interviews, Tube Talk Girl. I'm sure it can't be easy. But how cool is it that you're among the "accredited" TV reporters? I know you've worked hard to get there. And I have to say, I checked out those other publications that usually participate in these conference calls and your write ups are always my favorite.

I heart Tube Talk!!!!!!!

Brad said...

I want more Creed! Small doses my ass. LOL.

tube talk girl said...

Is it April 10 yet?

Danny212 said...

I think Angela and Andy are cute. I can't wait to see them drive Dwight insane with jealousy.

Anonymous said...

Rainn worked in an office. Too funny! I can see that, actually.

gina newman said...

Please NBC give us more Andy. I love his musical numbers.

Anonymous said...

I think Stanley would be the funniest guy to write for. His facial expressions crack me up.

Anonymous said...

yay, there is hope for dwight and angela love those two

speedracer said...

I have a bobblehead and it is the coolest thing. People constantly stop by my desk to play with it.

lady justice said...

I agree with the posters who say Creed and Stanley need more to do. Love those two.

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