‘The Office’: Why Melora Hardin Says She Felt a ‘Sense of Not Belonging’ on Set
Melora Hardin plays Jan Levinson, Michael Scott’s (Steve Carell) superior and love interest in The Office. While Jan is a recurring character in the show’s earlier seasons, many don’t consider her part of the leading Office cast. Ironically, Hardin also feels like she lacked a “sense of belonging” with the cast behind the scenes.
Jan Levinson is the ‘cold’ corporate boss in ‘The Office’
Jan Levinson appears in several seasons of The Office, including the show’s final season. Throughout her appearance on the show, Jan evolves. She goes from Michael Scott’s no-nonsense boss and Vice President of Northeast Sales at Dunder Mifflin to losing her job and relying on Michael to survive.
Later, after Jan and Michael’s relationship ends, she finds success elsewhere. She takes pride in becoming Astrid’s mom and even works briefly for Scranton White Pages in season 9. The last time we hear from Jan is in the final season episode “Couples Discount.” Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) calls her on the phone about making a sale.
Similarly, Michael Scott evolves after dating Jan in The Office. Still, although Jan plays an integral role in shaping the man Michael Scott becomes, many Office fans hold disdain for Hardin’s role.
Melora Hardin felt like she didn’t belong whenever she was on ‘The Office’ set
Hardin was recently a guest on Brian Baumgartner’s podcast An Oral History of The Office. During their conversation, Hardin admits she felt like an outcast on the set of the show.
“I felt, even as time went on, there was a sense of not belonging there,” Hardin admits to Baumgarner. “Really I don’t think I ever felt like I belonged.”
In Hardin’s opinion, she felt that way because of how showrunners wrote her character. As the cold-hearted corporate woman she is, Jan was rarely around the Dunder Mifflin Scranton crew.
And even when she was around, Jan was dead set on her career and eventually raising her daughter. She rarely had time to let loose and have fun at work.
Fortunately, it was nothing personal between Hardin and the rest of The Office cast. “You guys were in the office every day together and I wasn’t,” Hardin says.
Melora Hardin enjoyed her time playing Jan on ‘The Office’
Almost all of The Office cast is included in every scene of the show. As Baumgartner has said countless times, even if they didn’t have lines, he and his castmates were pretending to do work in the “bullpen” — the Dunder Mifflin office space.
Unlike the rest of the Office cast, Hardin was only ever on set when she needed to be. Still, regardless of feeling like she didn’t belong with the rest of the cast, Hardin looks back at The Office with fondness. “That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy everybody and love everybody,” she tells her co-star.
One of Hardin’s favorite Office memories is a fan-favorite episode — “Dinner Party.” Hardin and Baumgartner talk about the numerous times she and the rest of the cast broke filming that hilariously awkward episode.
“We just couldn’t stop laughing,” she remembers. According to Hardin, Carell had “100 different versions” of his famous vasectomy joke. “It was great and so fun and so collaborative,” she concluded. “Literally it was the only time on the show that I couldn’t stop laughing.”