‘The Office’: Dwight Schrute Is Based on a Real Paper Salesman

Dwight Schrute is everyone’s favorite annoying co-worker from The Office. Actor Rainn Wilson heavily inspired his role on the show, but there’s more to the character than fans might think. The Office costume designer Carey Bennett says the fictional Dwight Schrute is inspired by a real paper salesman. 

Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute leaning against the freezer door in the break room on the set of 'The Office'
Rainn WIlson | Justin Lubin/NBCNBCU Photo Bank

Dwight Schrute is based on a real paper salesman 

During a conversation with Brian Baumgartner on The Office Deep Dive, Bennett talked about her research while developing looks for each character on The Office. Part of her process was a visit to a local paper company.

There, Bennett interacted with the employees and even took photos of them. Bennett would reference the photos from her trip for even the most minor details. “I had that little touchstone that I could go back to,” she explained.

One person at the paper company stood out to Bennett in particular. “When I first went, it was their casual Friday and the guy there [became] my Dwight inspiration,” Bennett added.

“He was wearing a t-shirt with a wolf on it. I was like, ‘Oh, I see you.’ That stemmed from my fear of not getting it right, so I was like, ‘I gotta get some concrete visuals.'”

Rainn Wilson also inspired Dwight Schrute from ‘The Office’ 

While Bennett’s costuming choice indeed lent itself to playing Dwight, Wilson also brought a unique perspective to the role. “[When] people ask me about playing Dwight, I always say that I think my goal was to make Dwight very specific,” Wilson explained in another episode of The Office Deep Dive.

From Dwight’s posture to the way he drove down to the way he sat in his chair, Wilson strived to “have certain attitudes about certain things that are very specified” while playing the part. Wilson also wanted to make Dwight as “outrageously and as grounded and realistic as possible.”

John Krasinski visited Penn Paper in Scranton to research for his role 

Like Bennett, The Office star John Krasinski also visited a paper company to research for the series. Living in New York at the time, Krasinski traveled to Scranton, Pennsylvania, to visit the Penn Paper company. He filmed most of his trip, which fans have seen in the opening credits of The Office  a drive Krasinski says was born out of “pure nerdom.” 

“[I was] so excited to have this part,” Krasinski told Baumgartner in yet another episode of The Office Deep Dive. Krasinski remembers being 23-years-old and very excitable, “like a puppy.” 

After filming the “Welcome to Scranton” sign, which was later moved from the highway to a local mall to prevent fans from stopping traffic, Krasinski visited Scranton’s paper mill. There, he interviewed a few employees, including the manager.

“The boss found out that [The Office] was based on the English one and [knew] the boss is the boob,” Krasinski elaborated. After contemplating how the public might view his image, the boss of the paper mill asked Krasinski not to use the footage.

Watch every episode of The Office on Peacock. 

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