Steve Carell’s Cult-Favorite ‘The Office’ Character Was First Turned Down By a Surprising Actor

There are certain roles, that after seeing them played by the actor portraying them, you just can’t imagine being done by anyone else. Molly Ringwald instead of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman? John Travolta as Forrest Gump over Tom Hanks? You know you can’t see it either. And Bruce Willis only got the role in Die Hard after eight other actors turned it down, but he was definitely made for the part.

If an actor does their job and convinces you that they are the character they’re playing, you’ll never be able to see another actor in that role. For fans of The Office, you might be surprised to know that some of your most beloved characters were played by actors who weren’t the network’s first choice. 

Michael Scott is ‘The Office’ boss

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The iconic boss from The Office was one of the best characters of all time. Michael Scott, the boss of Dunder Mifflin, Inc., gave us quotes that will always be remembered.

With his jokes and one-liners, he brought odd humor to the seven seasons his character was part of the show. He mixed up words, completely misunderstood mostly everything, was caring and aloof at the same time, and had viewers loving to hate him but ultimately falling in love with him all at the same time. 

While we can’t imagine anyone else, the actor that portrayed Michael Scott wasn’t the network’s first choice. NBC programmer Tracy McLaughlin wanted Paul Giamatti, who had just had success with the film Sideways.

NBC’s boss at the time, Kevin Reilly, was also keen on Giamatti. But neither of them would get their first choice, because Giamatti turned down the role, reportedly because he didn’t want to transition to television. It was Stacey Snider, the chairwoman of Universal Pictures, who would be the deciding factor on who the role would ultimately go to, as she encouraged NBC to cast Steve Carell in the role.

Steve Carell saw his career soar after ‘The Office’

Steve Carell attends The 22nd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Steve Carell | Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Turner

The Office certainly wouldn’t have been the same without Carell’s version of Michael. His humor was perfectly timed, and he had fantastic chemistry with the cast, especially Jenna Fischer. He also reportedly scored the role because he wasn’t familiar with the U.K. version of the show and could bring his own unique touches to the character, even creating a sympathetic side to Michael. 

The role brought him critical acclaim, global recognition, and a new level in his career. He left the show at the end of season seven, but he had no reason to stay and probably doesn’t regret his choice.

Playing the lead role on the hit TV show led to many more opportunities, including The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which actually helped revive the at-first-not-so-good-show that was The Office. Carell went on to star in Evan Almighty, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy, Little Miss Sunshine, Minions, The Big Short, and The Morning Show. 

It’s hard to say whether The Office made him or if he made The Office, but he certainly nailed the role.

Other ‘The Office’ characters who almost weren’t

Michael Scott could have been Giamatti, but he’s not the only ‘could have been.’ Rainn Wilson, who played Dwight, posted a copy of the sign-in log for his audition after The Office wrapped and gave the world a look at who else could have played the iconic characters of the show.

Adam Scott and Hamish Linklater could have been Jim. Imagine Wilson, Ben Falcone, or Alan Tudyk playing Michael. Or Ever Carradine, Mary Lynn Rajskub, or Anne Dudek as Pam. So many possibilities, but the outcome ended up being perfect.

Fischer shared that producers would try out several candidates for the four main characters, mixing and matching them until they got the perfect chemistry.

You probably can’t imagine the show without Carell and the other cast playing their respective roles. Jim and Pam just had so much chemistry, and that goodbye scene between Pam and Michael was perfect. Do you think you would’ve still watched the show if the actors were different? Or would it have been just as good?