‘The Office’: How the Jim-Dwight Rivalry Impacted the Actors’ Off-Screen Relationship
Fans of The Office loved seeing Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) romance Dunder Mifflin receptionist Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer). While the couple brought in a big audience, another duo on the show was also a major draw.
The running rivalry between Jim and Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) helped make The Office must see TV. With the two characters playing complete opposites, Krasinski and Wilson perfected their on-screen personas, which also had an effect on how they interacted off camera.
Producers originally wanted John Krasinski as Dwight
When producers on The Office began casting calls, Krasinski was originally invited to play Dwight Schrute. Immediately the actor knew it wouldn’t be a good fit.
“When they asked me to audition for this, they actually sent the sides for Dwight, and there was something very weird,” Krasinski told NPR in 2016. “There was something in me that just said if I go in, I want to go with my best foot forward. I don’t feel like I’m Dwight. I feel like I’m more Jim.”
Apparently Krasinski’s choice didn’t sit well with producers, who saw the 13 Hours star as the office nerd Dwight. At first they rescinded their offer but fortunately came around to give the actor a chance.
“My manager at the time called and said, you know, he doesn’t want to go in for Dwight. He wants to go in for Jim, and they said, great, then he won’t come in at all,” Krasinski recalled. “There was about three weeks there where I thought the role was gone, the opportunity was gone. And then they called and they said, OK, he can come in and read for Jim, which was pretty amazing.”
Rainn Wilson shaped Dwight Schrute, but he’s not his character
Wilson created an iconic character in his portrayal of Dwight. Playing the offbeat salesman with a penchant for Battlestar Galactica, pingpong, survivalism, and karate, Wilson tired of being seen as only the odd beet farmer rather than a versatile actor.
“I am not Dwight Schrute, okay?” Wilson said in a humorous rant on Crooked Media’s Lovett or Leave It podcast. “I played a character for 200 episodes, and it was an awesome character, and he was a beet farmer. That doesn’t mean you should hand me beets and make beet jokes every time I go into Starbucks and ask if they have like a beet latte or something like that.”
Often approached by fans, The Office alum prefers not to be barraged with a plethora of Dwight-isms.
“Don’t hand me reams of paper, and don’t say ‘fact’ to me, and don’t ask me which bear is best,” he requested. “… And thank you for watching the Emmy-winning show The Office.”
Jim Halpert and Dwight Schrute are like ‘brothers’
Jim frequently played tricks on Dwight, and Dwight would respond by hurling insults at Jim. Krasinski revealed their on-screen sparring gave them a sort of familial relationship.
“I think the rivalry made us become kind of like brothers,” Krasinski said in his NPR interview. “There’s that rivalry between brothers, obviously. And it’s not necessarily competitive. It’s just this free spirited thing. I think that we really did become a family on that show.”
As brothers often have their share of roughhousing, the script sometimes required Jim and Dwight to tussle, which often resulted in an injury for Krasinski.
“Another thing that was funny about Rainn and my relationship was like a brother, one of the things that I got nervous about was play fighting with him because he’s a very good actor,” Krasinski explained. “But I, for some reason, would always end up injured when we did any play fighting. … So the producers picked up on this and said, you know, Rainn, really just be fake on this. You know, just try to preserve John’s health.”
The brotherly sparring paid off because the Jim-Dwight rivalry remains one of the most beloved in television history.