Ricky Gervais Once Turned Down a Chance to Play the Lead Role in the US Version of ‘The Office’

As many know, the original version of The Office starred Ricky Gervais as the owner of a paper company based in England. The series was later re-packaged for American audiences, with Steve Carrell as the lead character.

But Gervais once had the opportunity to reprise his own starring role in the American version of his show full time.

Ricky Gervais felt he never worked hard before ‘The Office’

Ricky Gervais
Ricky Gervais | David M. Benett/Getty Images

Comedian Gervais originally conceived the idea of The Office with his co-creator and writer Stephen Merchant. According to The Guardian, the series came about when Merchant submitted a short film titled Seedy Boss as part of Merchant’s BBC producer-training course. The short film was eventually seen by producer Ash Atalla, who would then submit it to the BBC network president at the time.

Afterward, a series based on Seedy Boss was picked up, with Gervais and Merchant penning the scripts. The series would later be called The Office, with Gervais continuing to star in the series as David Brent. In another interview with The Guardian, Gervais looked back at his time on the series fondly.

“I enjoyed the result and I enjoyed the pride. I also realised in retrospect that I didn’t enjoy all those things because of how good I thought it had turned out. I enjoyed it because of how hard it was,” Gervais said.

The hard work involved in the making of The Office was especially important to Gervais. The Golden Globe host quipped he barely tried hard at anything before then.

“I was born smart on a very working-class estate. A couple of people I knew went to university apart from me, but all the way through I was the smartest kid in the school,” he added. “That’s luck, but I was proud of it. And I was also proud of doing well without trying. As you get older, and it took me a long time to realise it, that’s a disgusting attitude, revolting. It’s ignorant and it’s a tragic waste, and I realised that the work itself is the reward.”

Ricky Gervais had the opportunity to star in the US version of ‘The Office’

Gervais was once offered the chance reprise his role as David Brent in the US version of The Office. Although he did make a cameo in the hit mockumentary, he politely declined the opportunity to do The Office full time. This was partially due to the nature of both his Office and the US version.

“’They said ‘Do you want to play the main role?’ But what’s the point of that? We made The Office, that was a document of what it was like to be in an English office and it was made by English people for English people, and this should be made by Americans for Americans,” Gervais once said according to Belfast Telegraph.

What Ricky Gervais originally thought about a US version of ‘The Office’

When it was announced that Gervais’ Office was going to be remade into a US show, some fans grew concerned. But Gervais welcomed the idea, and urged his fans to give the program a chance.

“You’re bound to be disappointed if you keep comparing it. I don’t think they should be the same. And for as many nightmare stories of remakes, you have one that [worked].I’m sure Americans didn’t know that All in the Family [was based on the British comedy] Til Death Do Us Part,” Gervais once said in an interview with TV Guide. “People say, ‘The Office is so English, it would never transfer to America,’ ‘Oh, the Americans will ruin it,’ ‘The Americans don’t understand irony.’ All of those things are fundamentally misguided. Americans do irony as well — if not better — than us.”

There were only two wishes that Gervais had when it came to remaking his series.

“I want Americans to watch it and say, ‘I know David Brent. That’s like my office.’ And it must not be filmed in front of a live studio audience with a laugh track. Those are my only two huge wishes,” he said.

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