‘The Office’: How Steve Carell Demonstrated Michael Scott’s Growth When He Left the Show

Michael Scott was one of the most cringe-worthy characters on television. His constant need for praise and attention made The Office hard to watch, but it’s also what made the series so funny.

While he may have been awkward and ignorant at times, Michael was still able to evolve. Steve Carell had the perfect way to wrap up Michael’s time on The Office while showing how much his values had shifted over the years. 

Steve Carell as Michael Scott
Steve Carell | Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Michael Scott loved attention

If you’re a fan of The Office, you know how desperately Michael Scott needed to be liked. 

“Do I need to be liked?” Michael questioned the cameras in one of the hilarious talking heads in the series. “Absolutely not. Do I like to be liked? I enjoy being liked. I have to be liked. But it’s not like this compulsive need to be liked, like my need to be praised.” 

Michael was always on the lookout for his soul mate, but his need to be liked and respected by all of his employees was always of paramount importance. Because he rarely had a significant other, Michael placed a lot of value on how his employees perceived him. 

Eventually, Michael Scott only wanted attention from Holly Flax 

Part of Michael’s character arc was finding love. When Michael found that in Holly Flax (Amy Ryan), he started to change. 

“I think when you find true love, nothing else really matters,” Ryan said to co-star Brian Baumgartner on his podcast, An Oral History of The Office. When Michael met Holly, he began to evolve. Being liked by everyone suddenly didn’t seem so important. Being liked by Holly became his only goal. “Eventually, he finds his true family,” Ryan said, conceding that was her character.

Carell knew he had to do something special to celebrate Michael’s time on the show while also demonstrating how much he had grown as a character. Fortunately, he had just the idea to convey that growth.  

Steve Carell wanted Michael Scott to ditch his own goodbye party

“Michael Scott, at his core, wants to be loved,” Carell explained. “At the very end, his dreams come true that way.” 

Carell had a plan for his farewell episode on The Office, “Goodbye Michael.” He explained his plan to demonstrate Michael’s growth to Greg Daniels six months before shooting “Goodbye Michael.” 

“The idea that I pitched was obviously he and Holly would be together,” Carell explained. “But I said specifically on his last day I thought there should be a party being planned, but that he should basically trick people [to think he was] leaving the next day.”

Carell thought that would be the “most elegant representation of [Michael’s] growth as a human being.” 

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As Carell pointed out, viewers think all Michael wants and cares about is being liked and being the center of attention. Yes, Michael craved pats on the back and wanted people to think he was funny and charming, but saying goodbye wasn’t about that. 

“The fact that he’d walk away from his tribute — his big send-off and be able to, in a very personal way, say goodbye to each character,” Carell said. “That, to me, felt like it would resonate.” 

Filming “Goodbye Michael” was rife with joy, sadness, and nostalgia. Though he called it “emotional torture,” Carell also said “it was really beautiful.”