‘The Office’: 1 Hilarious Cold Open Scene Was Surprisingly Inspired by a Real-Life Moment

The idea for one of The Office’s cold open scenes came from one of the writer’s personal experiences. At the beginning of The Office Season 5 episode “The Duel” some of the employees are having a healthy competition with a radar speed sign — and the idea was inspired by real life.

'The Office' stars in character on set. Phyllis Smith as Phyllis Lapin, John Krasinski as Jim Halpert, Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute, and Steve Carell as Michael Scott.
‘The Office’ stars John Krasinski, Rainn Wilson, and Steve Carell | Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank

‘The Office’ cold open scene had the employees racing for the top speed

During the Aug. 18 episode of the Office Ladies podcast, hosts Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey discussed the season 5 episode “The Duel,” which kicked off with a hilarious cold open scene. “This episode opens with an amazing cold open,” Fischer said. “It was so much fun to shoot.”

Pam answers the phone at the reception desk and says that boss Michael Scott isn’t in yet to take the call. He’s heard yelling outside and the camera reveals that he’s running, shouting, “12 miles an hour. Eat that, Carl Lewis!”

Pam explains what is happening in a talking head interview. “Angela made several 911 calls about cars going too fast in front of the building, so the police put up a radar gun,” she shared. “It’s actually caused a bit of a traffic hazard.”

Dwight is seen clocking 13 miles per hour, which Michael disputes because of wind and demands a do-over. Michael runs by the speed radar again just as a car drives by and the sign clocks 31, which makes him elated. “31 is humanly impossible,” Oscar points out, but Michael claims that’s the number to beat.

The moment was inspired by a real-life moment, Kinsey and Fischer revealed.

‘The Office’ cold open came from a writer’s real experience

Fans wondered how the scene was pulled off and Fischer noted that the radar actually worked so no editing or special techniques were required. “[Producer] Randy [Cordray] shared with us that the machine just worked,” she explained. “It was actually clocking people’s real running speeds and the real car speed.”

She continued, “But then he shared with us the reason we did this cold open was inspired by one of our writer’s real-life experience.”

Kinsey interjected, saying that Aaron Shure had actually participated in one of these radar running competitions. She said she spoke to him and he told her, “I guess my real life is just weird enough that it translates into a great cold open.”

Before working on The Office, Shure worked on The New Adventures of Old Christine, which filmed on the Warner Brothers lot, where there was a radar sign. After returning from lunch, he noticed that the sign registered ‘0.’ “So he set his lunch down, backed up, and he ran as fast as he could by it,” Kinsey shared. “Surprisingly, it clocked 20 miles per hour. That’s his memory.”

That prompted the other writers to give it a try as well. “He said it was a very sweaty writers room that afternoon.”

When he shared the story with The Office writers, they knew it was perfect for the show.

There were some challenges with shooting the scene

While the speed sign worked perfectly, Fischer shared that there were some challenges with filming the scene. “I guess though this was a really hard scene to shoot,” she explained. “Dean [Holland, the episode’s director] told me that we had to shoot this in two different places. So anything that you see out the window of Michael running, we had to shoot that from Paul Lieberstein’s office because that was the window that looked outside onto our parking lot and onto our street.”

She added, “Everything else that was indoors we had to shoot inside Dunder Mifflin.” Fischer went on to explain how the footage was then edited together to seamlessly appear like it was all happening in one location.

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