‘The Office’: Rainn Wilson Reveals the ‘Very Arduous Audition Process’ to Get Cast on the Show

It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute on The Office. But, as some fans know, Wilson actually originally was called in to audition for the part of Michael Scott.

In a 2008 interview with NPR, Wilson said he completely blew the audition.

Rainn Wilson as Dwight in 'The Office'
Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute | Photo by Mitchell Haaseth/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

Rainn Wilson’s first ‘Office’ audition was for Michael Scott

“I was terrible. It was awful. It was never meant to be. It was just one of those things that I just basically did my Ricky Gervais impersonation because I really didn’t know what to do with the character,” he said.

Even as Wilson was auditioning for the part of Michael, he knew he was meant to be Dwight.

“I was hungering for Dwight. And I knew Dwight was the one that was right in my wheelhouse. And I was like, oh, let me at this one. This one is – I’ve got to get this guy,” he said.

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Wilson could clearly imagine himself saying the outlandish things Dwight says.

“I remember there was some monologue I was doing about how I could drink my own urine. And I was like, aw, I want to say that. I want to say that line so bad. So my Dwight audition, needless to say, was a lot better than my Michael Scott audition,” he said.

‘The Office’ audition process

Wilson describes the audition process as “very arduous.” He was actually the first actor to audition for the show.

“I had a good relationship with the casting director. And I came in and did my terrible Michael, and then I really hit a home run with Dwight. And then I kept calling – like, what’s happening? What’s happening? They’re auditioning people. They’re auditioning Michaels and Jims. And they’re having a hard time finding Michaels and Jims,” he said.

Three months went by and Wilson never heard anything. Then, all of a sudden, The Office team announced they were having callbacks.

“Normally when you audition for a television show, they have these – called network tests, where they bring the actors literally into like, a conference room at NBC, or wherever,” Wilson explained. “And they parade them in like show cattle, one after another. And they do their little – three little scenes in front of the executives who either glower at them or laugh hyper-hysterically.”

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The Office callbacks were a little different.

“[The Office executive producer Greg Daniels] secured our location for a weekend, and he brought in all the actors that were called back; and he basically cycled us in and out like a giant revolving door. We had to be prepared to stay there all day long, and he mixed and matched us in various ways. And we improvised with each other, and we did written scenes,” said Wilson.

Wilson said, throughout the long day, the actors would be “thrown new material” to perform. And that there was a lot of waiting around. But, all in all, Wilson thought it was a great way to really begin playing with the character of Dwight.

“It was this kind of wonderful process of kind of digging in and exploring the characters in order for us to – for them to arrive at their final casting decision. And then they brought their favorites to the network, and showed them the tape of what they had shot with them,” he said.

Though The Office casting process does indeed sound arduous, it’s apparent, even seven years after the show went off the air, that the team’s careful casting selections made the show the huge success it still is today.

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