‘The Office’: 1 Actor Was the Biggest Name on Set When the Show Started and It Wasn’t Steve Carell

Most people might think Steve Carell was the biggest star on the set of The Office when the show began. But that’s not the case! Another Office cast member had a lengthy career as a child actor before joining the NBC comedy. Before Melora Hardin became the “big wig boss” from Dunder Mifflin’s corporate offices in New York, she was a child star in the 1970s. 

Actor Melora Hardin as Jan Levinson and actor Steve Carell as Michael Scott in 'The Office'
Melora Hardin & Steve Carell | Justin Lubin/NBCU Photo Bank

‘The Office’ actors have become big stars 

When The Office first debuted, most of the cast were unknowns. Carell had yet to star in breakout roles, as did other actors like John Krasinski, Rainn Wilson, and Jenna Fischer

Today, the cast of The Office has gone on to do major movies and TV shows. Most recently, Carell starred in the Greg Daniels-produced Space Force and Apple TV’s The Morning Show. Meanwhile, other Office stars are experiencing their own success. 

Krasinski has become known for his role in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. He also entered the horror movie genre, producing and starring in the Quiet Place films. 

Meanwhile, Fischer has starred in series like The Mysteries of Laura and Splitting Up Together. She’s also the co-host of the Office Ladies podcast with Angela Kinsey

Regardless of their successes outside of The Office, these actors weren’t household names before starring in the NBC comedy. Hardin was the only actor on set the first day who had a wealth of experience in the entertainment industry. 

Melora Hardin’s young actor career

Office actor Brian Baumgartner describes Hardin as the “most established performer” on the set. Her experience in the industry dates back to before she was born, as both her parents were actors.  

“I think The Office was my 11th pilot that I’ve done,” Hardin explains to Baumgartner on his podcast, The Office Deep Dive. In the past, Hardin has worked on short-lived series, movies, and theater. 

RELATED: ‘The Office’: Brian Baumgartner Reveals Why the Fictional Documentary Crew Came to Film; It’s Not as Dark as You Think

She started acting at a young age. “I did a Saturday morning show for kids when I was 10-years-old about a black stallion that came when I whistled,” she adds. In 1977, Hardin played Cindy Prescott on the TV series Thunder

As a child, Hardin guest-starred on popular shows like The Love BoatDiff’rent Strokes, and Little House on the Prairie. She continued to land acting gigs throughout the 1980s and 90s in various series and TV movies until being cast as Jan. Since The Office ended in 2013, Hardin has gone on to star in other series, including A Million Little Things and The Bold Type. 

‘The Office’ character Melora Hardin plays wants to regain her femininity 

“Jan is cold,” Michael says in “The Client” episode of season 2. “If she was sitting across from you on a train and she wasn’t moving, you might think she was dead.” 

But as Hardin explains to Baumgartner, Jan wasn’t pleased with the “b—-y” aspects of her personality. That’s part of the reason she ends up with Michael Scott. 

“Some part of her was really sad about the loss of her femininity,” Hardin explains. “Michael made her feel like she could be softer with him.” 

His “puppy-like adoration” of Jan allowed her to get in touch with the femininity Jan feels she had to strip herself of working for a corporate master. Hardin’s years of acting experience undoubtedly lent itself to this complex aspect of playing Jan on The Office.