‘The Office’: The ‘Mistake’ Steve Carell Made When Preparing To Play Michael Scott

Actor Steve Carell has become a massive success for portraying one of the most beloved sitcom characters of the past 15 years. His The Office character, Michael Scott, both frustrated and delighted audiences for many years. However, Carell says he made one mistake when preparing to take on the role.

Steve Carell starred as Michael Scott in ‘The Office’

Steve Carell as Michael Scott in 'The Office'
Steve Carell as Michael Scott in ‘The Office’ | Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Carell broke out as an actor in the mid-’00s. The release of his hit Judd Apatow-led comedies Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and The 40-Year-Old Virgin coincided with his major scripted TV debut in The Office. In the series, Carell stars as Michael Scott, regional manager at a Pennsylvania paper company.

The Office quickly became a hit for NBC. The series ran for nine seasons. However, Carell left toward the end of season 7. In the show, Michael goes with his fiancee to Colorado. Off-screen, NBC did not renew Carell’s contract, and he decided to focus on his film career, veering into more dramatic roles.

The U.S. series was a spinoff of a U.K. one starring Ricky Gervais

RELATED: Only One Episode of ‘The Office’ Was Based on the British Version of the Show

The TV show title The Office has generally become synonymous with the American version. However, early in the NBC sitcom’s run, it was necessary to specify which The Office one was referring to — the U.S. spinoff or the U.K. original. The Office U.K. ran on BBC Two for two seasons from 2001-2003.

Though The Office U.K was canceled due to low ratings, producer Greg Daniels saw potential in creating an American adaptation. With creator and star Ricky Gervais and co-creator Stephen Merchant as executive producers, the U.S. series began with a pilot nearly word-for-word taken from the British one, before becoming its own show.

Carell was worried after reading comments on the internet

In the British version, Gervais portrays David Brent, the manager at a paper company. He thinks very highly of himself but is completely unaware of how poorly he treats and is received by others. Though David thinks he’s funny, much of the show’s humor comes from how disillusioned he is.

“It’s hard following somebody like Ricky Gervais doing a character like that,” Carell said in behind-the-scenes footage. “You make the mistake, you go on the internet, and you start reading things.” He explains that after reading negative comments from fans of the original, he thought, “This is gonna be bad. They’re gonna hate me.”

What made the U.S. ‘The Office’ unique

The Michael Scott of The Office Season 1 was similar to David Brent, though Carell didn’t seek to imitate Gervais. Additionally, other U.S. characters mirror their U.K. counterparts, such as John Krasinski’s Jim Halpert with Martin Freeman’s Tim Canterbury. But their differences become more apparent as the series progressed.

“I think the key is to just try not to duplicate what they’re doing,” Carell explained in that behind-the-scenes footage, which was filmed while they taped the pilot. “Because it was so good and so definitive. There’s no way it’s going to be better than that, so it just has to be different.”